4,888 miles away from home of Gloucester, in walked a shy looking 21-year-old to have an affair with numbers. By his baby face features, he hardly seemed to be a day over eighteen. But from the front what mattered the most was his maturity. And interestingly similar to someone being introduced at the peak of his batting career, in the late 20’s. Keeping the Team India bowlers at bay on that scorching afternoon of Nagpur in 2006, England had found a new batting protégée, a gem in the form of Alastair Cook, who walks down all the stairs with ease.
Cook, who is going to bid adieu to the gentleman’s game of cricket after the fifth Test in London. He has thoroughly been an impeccable servant of the game.
Retiring at the age of just 33, Cook already has 160 Test matches to his name and more than anything else; the southpaw is already considered among the greatest batsmen to have graced the game.
Even in the contemporary times, Cook barely resembles someone intimidating and burly, but from the inside, he is an absolute rock, a rock that radiates hope, resilience, patience and determination.
A STAR FROM THE START:
12 years ago, Cook was drafted into the English setup during the side’s moderately successful tour of India in 2006. Commencing his Test career in style, the southpaw played a crucial knock of 60 in the first innings, but it was his vigil in the second innings which reassured a million souls.
Having gained a first innings lead of 70, Cook allowed England to build on the advantage against hosts India as his debut century came while neutralising the threat of Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble.
At home too, Cook didn’t take too long to get to three figures as a subtle nudge off leg-spinner Shahid Afridi got him to the elusive mark at historic Lord’s in mid-2006. A few months later, as England were humbled and humiliated 0-5 by Australia, Cook was among the few positives for England, as his 116 at Perth was a sight to watch.
Conquering Asia while:
For any individual from outside the subcontinent, mastering the dust bowls of Asia remains the ultimate goal. In the game’s history, not many batsmen have achieved the feat even the best were on the mat.
The England maestro by the end of his incredible career has scored the most number of runs in Asia, by a non-Asian batsman. With 2,710 runs at 53.13 saw him smashing nine tons to his name, Cook stands tall and towering on that list. Trailing him is South African great Jacques Kallis, by a huge margin of 652 runs.
Speaking about the humble opener’s performance in Asia, one does not need to look beyond his displays during the 2012 tour of India. Having gone down at Ahmedabad by nine wickets despite a resilient ton from him in the second innings, only further misery awaited England, as India dished out a rank turner at Mumbai.
What happened over the course of the next two Test matches was merely a fairy tale. Cook inspired his team to twin wins in Mumbai and Kolkata respectively, with his scores reading 122, 18*, 190, 1 in the four innings. Not to forget, his 176 at Ahmedabad in the third innings of the Test was the ultimate example of fighting till the last drop of blood.
In due course, Cook went on to lead England to their first series win in India in 28 years. The left-hander ended with 562 runs in five Tests on that tour, with three superlative centuries to his name.
A few years later, another Asian masterpiece was witnessed from the blade of Cook. And 263 at Abu Dhabi against Pakistan in 2015 was the sheer example of what grinding the bowlers truly meant. In an innings lasting 836 minutes, Cook defied the threatening Pakistani bowlers with utmost ease and nearly played a match-winning knock. He ran 7.16 kilometres during that vigil in ones, twos and threes!
Probably Cook’s most excellent series till date has to be the 2010/11 Ashes, as England recorded their first Ashes win in Australia since Mike Gatting’s side recorded victory in 1986/87. Amassing a tally of an unbelievable 766 runs, Cook toyed with the Australian bowling attack while showcasing his flamboyance.
With England staring at an innings defeat, having conceded Australia a first-innings lead over 200. However, Cook stood out for his resilience. In the very first Test of the series, the opener made it clear that England were in for an absolute fight. His unbeaten knock of 235 at Brisbane in the second innings was as chanceless as it can get.
So much so, Cutting, pulling and driving his way is his strength. Cook mentally as well as physically drained the Australians in their den to rule the roost.
Challenging Cook followed it up with a match-winning 148 at Adelaide as England took the lead. In the series finale at Sydney, Cook’s 189 ensured that England created history by winning 3-1. Eventually, he ended the series with an average of 127.66.
The southpaw once again proved his mettle in Australia, this time in the twilight of his career. Being the lone performer for England, Cook cherished his time. His unbeaten 244 in the 2017 Boxing Day Test was a knock for the ages. In an intriguing way, he wound back the clock to the glorious days while carrying his bat.
Statistics fall short of displaying the legend of Cook. With 160 Tests to his name, (159 of which have been successive) Cook has amassed 1,2254 runs at an average of 44.88. Averaging in excess of 50 in four countries, Cook has a total of 18 tons to his name away from home. Jeez, and five of which were scored in India.
The more defining aspect about Cook’s centuries has been that he has scored more tons in the third and fourth innings of a Test, than the first two innings. This goes on to explain that deteriorating conditions have no impact on Cook’s style. He carries on his business of amassing runs for his team.
The cricketing universe shall consider itself lucky to have witnessed the career of Alastair Cook across the years. He remains an absolute legend of the game with his achievements speaking for himself.