Sir Alastair Cook has praised India’s “incredible effort” to defeat Australia, but believes Steve Smith’s latest controversial moment may have been “taken out of context”.
Cook, who captained England between 2009 and 2017, is part of BBC Radio Five Live’s Test Match Special coverage of the second Test of Sri Lanka v England, but opened up on India’s stunning win over Australia in recent days.
India, depleted of several key stars including Virat Kohli whose partner gave birth last week, became the first side to topple Australia at the Gabba in Test cricket since 1988.
Speaking exclusively to RadioTimes.com, Cook said: “To win at the Gabba, to be the first side to win at the Gabba since 1988, just shows the achievement of those Indian guys.
“The fact that they had all those injuries and Virat Kohli going home, to achieve that is an incredible effort.
“It shows how to play against Australia. It is a bit of a grind against their bowlers because they are so accurate and so, in their conditions, relentless.
“They don’t give much away, but if you can take them deep and take them into long spells, you get your rewards from it.
“The way Pant played at the end was incredible, but Pujara at the top of the order, I know he only got 56 but 211 balls… they really made Australia work so hard for every wicket.
“Australia is one of the hardest places to come back from once you get behind there – it’s a bit of a steamroller effect there.
“They’re pretty relentless and ruthless. For India to do that with that side, only three of their starting 11 first choice, to win that was absolutely outstanding.
The series has been largely dominated by the antics of the Australia cricket team, including sledging from captain Tim Paine and a controversial incident that saw Smith appears to scuff the pitch and remove guard marks.
Smith was previously banned from cricket for 12 months following his part in the 2018 ball-tampering scandal that engulfed the Australian team, but Cook believes the incident during the Test match against India has been “taken out of context”.
He said: “I think, given what’s happened [with Smith], obviously everything is going to be talked about.
“I think like anything in a series, when you try to put the opposition off, it’s been taken a little bit out of context, I’d imagine, but from what’s gone on in Steve’s career he can obviously expect anything that is seen like that.
“Whether it is intentional or not, only he will know but, yeah, it only makes you more intrigued. I thought Ashwin’s tweet was quite funny!”
Tensions are sure to run high later in the year when England come face to face with Australia, but Cook believes India may have shown the way for Joe Root’s men to succeed.
“With Australia away, England have seriously strong strength in depth to be able to go there and play well.
“You see India have done a job on them in this series and almost showed the way to play against this Australia side.
“It’s not easy, but it’s proper grind cricket. India gave nothing away and eventually wore Australia down and full credit to them.”
England’s tour of Sri Lanka will be live on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Test Match Special until 26th January.
Check out our guide to Sri Lanka v England including a full TV and radio schedule.
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