We’re just days away from the start of what, from my point of view, is the most eagerly-awaited event on this year’s sporting calendar, namely the Ashes.
(For overseas readers of this blog and those who are non-followers of the game, the Ashes are the regular series of five cricket matches, known as Tests, between England and Australia – arguably the longest and most seriously-fought sporting contest in history.)
The series begins with continued focus on the England captain, Alastair Cook. His style of captaincy has been criticised by several people, including the two very distinguished ex-cricketers Geoffrey Boycott and Shane Warne.
The thrust of much of the criticism of Cook’s captaincy is that he is often risk-averse, as though he’s terrified of making the wrong decision on the field. I will leave it to senior cricket commentators to deliver the ultimate verdict on this but, as a long-standing observer of the game myself, I have the same impression.
For example, it really frustrates me when Cook brings on a new bowler with the new ball and he has only two slip fielders in place, rather than three or four – hardly an attacking tactic.
However, as far as Cook’s TV interviews are concerned, it’s not what he’s doing with his slips that bothers me; rather, it’s what he’s doing with his lips.
Whether he’s being interviewed just after the toss or at the end of the game, Cook has the habit of pursing his lips at the end of every answer he gives to his interviewer. He has tension written all over his face.
It’s as though he’s saying to himself: “Oh heck, what have I just said? Have I spoken any words that might upset my masters at the England and Wales Cricket Board?”
Either that, or he is in dread of what the next question might be.
Whether these are the thoughts going through his head when being interviewed, only Cook will know. Whether they are or are not, this pursing of the lips suggests an interviewee who is not happy about being questioned – as though he’s nervous and apprehensive about what to say, fearful about the answers he has given and worried about what the next question will be to hit him.
Dropping nervous mannerisms like this and appearing more relaxed are key requisites of doing a successful interview.
If Cook doesn’t come across as relaxed in interviews, his critics will have further reason to ask how at ease he is with himself as captain and what is going through his mind as he sees the ball hurtling towards him at first slip off the edge of an Aussie bat.