Cook was terribly exposed during the Ashes and now has made an incredible call to get rid of a match-winner, writes Shane Warne
First it has to be acknowledged that Australia played brilliantly this winter and were the better team. Now that felt good. It has been a while since I could say that.
One hammering does not make a team fall apart the way England have over the past couple of months. It has been a gradual decline and started before the team touched down in Australia.
Last summer everyone thought I was an arrogant Aussie when I criticised England while they were winning the Ashes 3-0. That disappointed me.
But I sensed an arrogance and smugness about England highlighted by the incident at the Oval when they urinated on the pitch. It was dismissed as nothing by the management but showed the complacent attitude that had developed towards the game and Australia. Combine that with some horrible captaincy through the summer and off-field issues brewing for a while and you had a recipe for disaster in Australia. England won the Ashes in England only because Australia were not quite good enough, not through their own brilliance.
Now the whitewash in Australia is over I have been very interested to see how England have responded. Team director Andy Flower has gone - a good call as it was time for a change there.
Then England stick with Alastair Cook as captain, deciding he is the man to lead the team forward. It was his decision to sack Kevin Pietersen as he is in charge, with support from the England and Wales Cricket Board. Cook's captaincy was terribly exposed in Australia and now he has dumped the best player in the team. It is an incredible decision - surely as captain you want the best player on your side to help you rebuild.
Respect goes both ways. It has to be earned by actions. The test of a captain is to embrace everyone, especially the mavericks such as KP.
You have to be a salesman and get those guys to buy in to what you are trying to achieve. The best way to do that is make them feel appreciated and important because they are special players capable of winning matches.
A team is made up of 11 different characters and it is about getting the best out of them at all times.
The way to manage KP is to put your arm around him, make him feel special. Involve him in the big decisions, run your thoughts by him and he will respond.
During the Ashes Michael Vaughan suggested making him vice-captain because then he would be accountable. I agree, it could be the way to motivate him. He has a good cricket brain and everyone knows Cook needs help. If I was Cook I would have grabbed KP and said: "It is you and me buddy. We are going to reshape this team."
Cook should ask himself these questions: is KP going to win us games of cricket? Yes. Are we a stronger team with him in the side? Yes.
So find a way to include him. Making him vice-captain would also give Matt Prior a good kick up the backside, and he needs one. He cherishes that role, has been out of form for 12 months and has to earn his spot back.
But instead English cricket has dumped Pietersen and his exit has been handled very badly. There have been leaks, statements and pettiness. It has sounded immature and like a primary school playground.
They are all grown men talking about something important, so get out of the playground and start acting like grown-ups. Just find a way. Make it work.
England have got a good team to captain and Cook should be speaking to guys such as Vaughan, David Gower, Nasser Hussain, Mike Atherton and Ian Botham to just bounce some ideas around. Talk to these guys and I am sure Cook would walk away a better captain.
I just don't understand why a captain would not want a match-winner in the side. All players have issues with captains and at times I carried on like an idiot. But a good captain knows when to give you a kick up the backside and he also knows when to say well done and buy you a beer, too. They appreciate what you can give rather than take it for granted. Every player has negatives and positives and the art of captaincy goes on behind closed doors, bringing all these different personalities together. Gelling a team together is one of the most enjoyable things to do.
A lot of the time when Australia were playing well we did not socialise with each other because we did not all get on. But once in the team environment we were in it together. Personalities do not matter once a match starts. They are irrelevant.
KP is one of the most dynamic players in the world and not having such a talented batsman on the international stage is a shame for all cricket lovers, not just England fans.
In Australia the problems we glimpsed suddenly became major issues as Australia built up momentum. A disease spread through the England camp. Graeme Swann retired and took a parting shot at the players. The problems between Flower and Pietersen flared up again and there were a lot of players talking behind the scenes about Cook's captaincy and Jonathan Trott went home with a stress-related illness he had been battling for a while.
We all wish Trott the best and if the England management were thinking of his best interests as they said they were then why pitch him into the heat of battle in an Ashes series? It does not add up.
Flower did a good job but went stale and lost the players a while ago. Once Flower made it a choice between him and Pietersen he had to go.
A coach cannot give ultimatums. You can replace a coach but it is hard to find match-winners.
England may discover just how hard as they try to replace Pietersen over the next few years.