England's most capped Test player and longest-serving captain Alastair Cook has launched a strident defence of his team's culture and work ethic, but admits "the world has changed" for the nation’s cricketers since the Ben Stokes incident last September.
Cook, who on Thursday will become the first England player to reach 150 Test appearances, claims his teammates have been unfairly portrayed as party people following two bar-related incidents in Australia that have compounded England’s winless record after two matches in the Magellan Ashes.
But England’s all-time leading runs scorer acknowledges that the couple of clashes at a bar in Claremont – the first involving wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow and the most recent leading to England Lions' squad member Ben Duckett being suspended and fined – have harmed public perception of the nation's elite cricketers.
And that his teammates need to adapt quickly to the changed landscape of a post-Stokes world lest they risk further diminishing the sport's currency and appeal in the eyes of the British public.
"I’ve seen the words written down 'trivial', 'a misdemeanour at best', 'very low key' but since the Stokesy thing in September the times have changed for the English cricket team," Cook said on Tuesday as England prepared for a Test that he claimed was the biggest in the lives of the current Test team.
"It’s sad in one sense because we’ve always been a bit different from football and been able to go under the radar a bit – enjoy playing cricket for England and also enjoy seeing the country outside of that.
"Obviously, at the moment that has changed.
"Those last incidents have proved that there’s very little margin for error when you’ve had a beer.
"To say we’ve got a drinking culture in this team I think is very unfair, but we’ve just got to smarten up and we’ve got to do it quickly because there’s just too much at stake.
"There's the personal, a bloke’s career, but you also want to leave the side and the (England) cap in a good place after every tour and after every game.
"And people pay a lot of money to come and watch us here in Australia, at home the support we get is fantastic so we’ve got to try and build that trust up."
Cook was captain of England in 2013 when they defeated Australia 3-0 in the UK to retain the Ashes that they had won back on home soil in 2009 and successfully defended in Australia in 2010-11.
But the 32-year-old claimed today that 2013 victory had not been greeted with the sort of acclaim that England fans traditionally exhibited for an Ashes triumph, largely due to the dour style of play the team exhibited under then coach Andy Flower against an Australia outfit the British public believed was markedly inferior.
As a result, Cook claims England's cricketers have had to work hard in the intervening years to win back the engagement and goodwill of many fans in their homeland and anything that tarnishes the team's image will undermine those efforts.
However, despite the headlines that have accompanied Bairstow's unconventional encounter with Australia opener Cameron Bancroft at the start of England's tour and Duckett's beer spilling exploits last week, Cook stood staunchly behind the character of the current touring party.
Having started his Test career in 2006 as part of a team captained by Andrew Flintoff and which included Andrew Strauss (currently director of England Cricket) and Kevin Pietersen, Cook rates this current team as the most diligent and committed he has been involved with.
"The one thing I will say about this England side, and that’s even changed since I was captain, I’ve never see a team work as hard as this side is working," Cook said.
"Whether we win, lose or draw, whether we play well or we play rubbish, the effort from the guys is unbelievable.
"There’s a group of men in there, 16 or 17 of them who are desperately to do well.
"Trevor (Bayliss, England coach) is cancelling practice sessions after three and a half hours, four hours saying 'you’ve got to stop now, you’re wasting energy, you’ve got to save it for the Test match'.
"And that’s just because people are desperate to do well.
"At the moment, I don’t think we’re getting painted fairly in the media, on our culture."
2017-18 International Fixtures
Magellan Ashes Series
Australia Test squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine (wk), Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Jackson Bird.
England Test squad: Joe Root (c), James Anderson (vc), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Gary Ballance, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Mason Crane, Tom Curran, Ben Foakes, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ben Stokes, Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Chris Woakes.
First Test Australia won by 10 wickets. Scorecard
Second Test Australia won by 120 runs (Day-Night). Scorecard
Third Test WACA Ground, December 14-18. Tickets
Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30. Tickets
Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test). Tickets
Gillette ODI Series v England
First ODI MCG, January 14. Tickets
Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Tickets
Third ODI SCG, January 21. Tickets
Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Tickets
Fifth ODI Perth Stadium, January 28. Tickets
Prime Minister's XI
PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Tickets
Gillette T20 trans-Tasman Tri-Series
First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Tickets
Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Tickets
Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Tickets
Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 14
Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16
Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18
Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21