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Cook looks to go back to the future
On his last tour to Australia, Alastair Cook arrived with a point to prove and doubters to silence.
He did so by scoring 766 runs - more in an Ashes series than any Englishman bar Wally Hammond 82 years earlier.
En route, Cook exceeded by 100 runs an innings his previously paltry average against Australia, and most importantly set England's course for their first series win Down Under since 1986/87.
As omens go, the above will do very nicely for the England captain as he seeks to lead his country to a fourth consecutive Ashes victory - and second in succession Down Under, of course - this winter.
Cook's relative struggles against Australia with the bat this summer present a less obviously encouraging portent.
With context, however, they too point perhaps towards another prolific winter.
By making just 277 runs at 27.77 at the top of the order in England's 3-0 series success, Cook has endured a three-figure regression - almost to the decimal point - back to his pre-2010/11 Ashes record.
Once again therefore, he will embark for Australia needing to up his game.
He has the body of work to demonstrate evident ability to do just that - as England's most prolific Test centurion already and, at the age of just 28, with power to add if not double.
Three years ago, Cook's tour-de-force statement of intent came with a defiant and unbeaten 235 as England unexpectedly but emphatically saved the first Test in Brisbane.
That performance came without the encumbrance of leadership, in a supporting role initially as he and his captaincy predecessor Andrew Strauss put on 188 for the first wicket in the second innings at the Gabba.
Cook's challenge this winter, like Strauss' then, will come on two fronts.
He must look after both his own game, a critical component for England at the top of the order with a still rookie partner in Joe Root, and everyone else's - not to mention the myriad other tactical, pastoral and public requirements of a Test captain on the highest-profile tour of all.
There are benign precedents for Cook here too, though - because he has already proved, on his first tour in charge 12 months ago, that he can lead from the front as his team make history.
That is exactly what happened in India last year, when England won a Test series there for the first time since a newly born Cook was in nappies in 1984/85.
He has since nonetheless acknowledged that the past 12 months have contained the steepest of his learning curves, and captaincy duties can inevitably take their toll.
"You get tested every single day, and you don't quite know where you'll be tested from.
"Eventually that does wear at you.
"It's how you manage that, and how you try to put in place things that can help you."
Cook appeared to have long been identified as Strauss' successor - and if his ascent came a little earlier than many imagined, when his fellow opener retired after a vexed 2012 summer, those who sensed his suitability all along have been vindicated.
As a batsman, he is nothing if not resourceful.
There is often little memorable about a successful Cook innings apart from its longevity, and the indications from afar are that his leadership style is similarly undemonstrative.
In both roles, however, his mid-career CV - albeit on a small sample of evidence as a captain to date - tells us unequivocally that he gets the job done.
Some Australians - Shane Warne characteristically to the fore - have already been in a hurry to point out captain Cook's perceived weaknesses.
He is no instinctive tactician, we were told shortly before Australia folded to defeat in Durham as England went 3-0 with one to play in the Ashes two months ago.
By his own admission, Cook does not fit the charismatic cliche of a 'Captain Fantastic'.
He makes his runs, and his points, carefully and effectively - like Strauss before him, only more so.
"I am certainly not a shouter, not a screamer.
"As a captain, Straussy was an outstanding bloke, and it's been quite hard to follow in his footsteps because of how respected he was."
Cook has his fair share of respect already, if the public pronouncements of his team-mates are a reliable guide.
If his runs help to win the Ashes again this winter, he will deserve even more.cricket