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Thoughtful Cook thriving on pressure of county captaincy

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: June 08, 2012

  • Planning for the future: Paul Cook (right) is in favour of Lincolnshire's focus on bringing young players through, such as Cleethorpes spinner Harry Clewitt (below left) and Jonny Cheer (below right) of Boston. Both could play in Sunday's Minor Counties Championship opener against Northumberland

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The responsibility of captaincy is a burden too heavy for some cricketers.

The multi-tasking required has scrambled many a brain up and down the game.

But it is a role that seems to fit Paul Cook like a glove.

In his third season as county skipper, he says he is relishing the job more than ever.

"My record shows, since I've been captain, I've performed a lot better with the bat," said Cook ahead of Lincs' Minor Counties Championship opener against Northumberland at Sleaford on Sunday.

"I love the responsibility. I like captaining my county and I enjoy it immensely."

Cook's fiery reputation did not make him a universally popular choice as captain when selected by director of cricket Mark Fell three years ago.

But he admits the captaincy has changed his approach to the game.

A tendency for rashness has been replaced by a more thoughtful attitude.

"I've learnt to think before I do stuff," admitted the hard-hitting right hander.

"In the past, I've done things and thought about it later.

"I've changed in that respect. I've become a bit more level headed, open-minded and been able to see things from a different angle.

"I listen to people, both on and off the field, a lot more. That's made me a better captain."

While Cook may be be young in years, he is an elder statesman in terms of experience, having made his Lincolnshire debut at the age of 18 in 2005.

Blooding young players has been Fell's mantra as both captain and coach, and it will continue this season with the likes of Dan Freeman, Harry Clewitt and Jonny Cheer set to be involved in the team's three-day campaign.

Cook accepts the policy may not pay off immediately as the youngsters adjust to the higher standard.

But the skipper believes the county will reap the rewards in the years to come.

"It's about getting the young players involved and used to that level," added Cook.

"There's Dan Freeman, who is from Horncastle. He's at Notts Academy and they think highly of him.

"There's a lad from Cleethorpes called Harry Clewitt, a spinner. He bowled exceptionally well against Shropshire (in the MCCA Trophy) and he'll be featuring in the three-dayers.

"There's Jonny Cheer, who played a bit last year. He batted well in the one-dayers.

"There's quite a few good young lads coming through.

"They are young, but I don't think age is a barrier. If you're good enough, you play.

"They may not perform in the short term, but in the long run, two or three years down the line, it will be invaluable for them. It's a long-term policy.

"I'm all for playing youngsters, but it's about that getting that mix of youth and experience right.

"I've always played at a reltively high standard from a young age. But, looking back, I always played with experienced guys."

Cook wants to see other young players advance their claims for a county place by performing well in the ECB Premier League.

"There are quite a few young lads playing in the league who aren't involved," he added.

"It's up to them to keep knocking on the door by getting runs and wickets.

"The more competitive we can make the ECB Premier League, the better it is for Lincolnshire cricket."

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