Cook in agony over England axe

Cook turns 30 on Christmas Day but there will be no festive cheer this year after the four-man selection panel decided at the eleventh hour that the opening batsman did not warrant a place in a 15-man party that will now be led by Eoin Morgan.

England officials from coach Peter Moores to managing director Paul Downton had publicly backed their skipper throughout a testing 2014, with both men coming out in support even as the side listed to a 5-2 series defeat in Sri Lanka this month.

But in private the ECB's powerbrokers harboured exactly the same reservations as a litany of distinguished commentators, led by Cook's predecessors Nasser Hussain and Michael Vaughan.

A personal return of 119 runs in six innings in Sri Lanka proved the final straw, with the left-hander appearing crease-bound, tentative and out of step with the modern 50-over game.

After a selection meeting lasting several hours on Friday, followed by a personal meeting at Cook's home, the curtain formally came down on the skipper's tenure on Saturday morning.

He will now be no more than a frustrated spectator as England head Down Under for January's Tri-Series against Australia and India before the Australasian World Cup begins on February 14.

Cook's response was, like too many of his recent innings, brief but well-intentioned.

''I am gutted to be left out of the World Cup squad, and it is likely to take me a while to get over the disappointment," Cook said.

''That said I wish Peter, Eoin and the lads all the best for the World Cup.

''I would also like to thank all the players and fans who have supported me during my time as one-day captain.''

Downton, who does not have an active role in selection but sat in on the meeting, shed further light on Cook's state of mind.

The Essex man will remain Test captain and hopes are high that the likely end of his limited-overs career will see a return to his formidable best in the longer form, but Downton's words made it clear the wounds currently run deep.

"He had a dream to lead England at the World Cup and it's been taken away from him a month away from its fulfilment," Downton said.

"He still believes he's the right man for the job but the selectors had to make a decision in the best interests of English cricket.

"He's very raw and of course it's a blow to have the captaincy taken away from you.

"He's hugely, hugely disappointed. Hopefully in time he will reflect that he wasn't scoring runs, he was putting himself under an awful lot of pressure and that he will now free up his mind and focus on Test cricket which is what he does best anyway.

"I hope he'll come round to thinking this is the best thing for him and the best thing for English cricket."

Whitaker, who acts as national selector alongside Moores, Angus Fraser and Mick Newell, explained the panel's verdict.

"Everything went into the discussion and we gave it our full attention for a number of hours. It was a long meeting," Whitaker said.

"It was felt unanimously that we had to change because Alastair was no longer in the sort of form he is capable of. He wasn't in our best 15."

Morgan was not the only name considered as Cook's replacement, and his form has been in something of a trough as well, but the Dubliner is seen as the most savvy one-day thinker in the England set-up.

"We discussed a couple of different people," said Whitaker.

"Eoin has had captaincy experience and when he has captained England it's generally brought the best out of him.

"We hope he sets a course in one-day cricket that will be very positive. He's got a lot of qualities.

"His form was talked about and reviewed, as everybody's is, but we felt he could be stimulated by this. We feel he's the right man to take us forward."

Morgan added: "It is a huge honour to captain England, and I am delighted to be leading the one-day side.

''I firmly believe that with the players currently involved in the one-day set-up we have the makings of a very good one-day side, a young side that can surprise people at the World Cup.''

Cook's axing shunted the remainder of the squad announcement well down the agenda, but the decision to cut all-rounder Ben Stokes is significant.

Seen as the rising star of English cricket after last winter's Ashes, his game has deteriorated considerably and he has now fallen behind Chris Jordan and Chris Woakes in the pecking order.

Yorkshire's Gary Ballance is the chief beneficiary of Cook's exit, drafted into the group to challenge for a middle-order spot.

  Alastair Cook has been left out of England's 15-man World Cup squad
Alastair Cook has been left out of England's 15-man World Cup squad