Cook set for England captaincy record

Alastair Cook will become the most experienced English Test captain, in terms of matches, when he leads his side for the 55th time in Rajkot on Wednesday against India.

Published : Nov 06, 2016 16:42 IST , Mumbai

Alastair Cook admitted England was the underdog in the five-match Test series.
Alastair Cook admitted England was the underdog in the five-match Test series.

Alastair Cook admitted England was the underdog in the five-match Test series.

Alastair Cook is sui generis among a sizeable group of England captains who have led teams in India starting from the ‘Bodyline’ famous Douglas Jardine in 1933.

So far, 16 players have had the distinction to have led in 55 Test matches. For many decades the teams - from Jardine to Tony Greig (1977) - played under the banner of Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), but since 1981-82, the men from Old Blighty have played truly as an England team under the captaincy of Keith Fletcher who had the unique honour of leading in a six-Test series in 1981-82.

Born in Gloucestershire, the 31-year old Cook, trained by former England captain Graham Gooch at the North-East County of Essex, has returned to India as captain for the second time, a noteworthy happening that has given him a wonderful opportunity to defend the series he had won 2-1 four years ago.

The left-handed opener, who has often given the impression of being stoical and fitting into the role of a bulwark, is also approaching a terrific feat of leading England utmost times; now he shares this particular honour with Michael Atherton at 54 Test matches.

For different reasons, many of his predecessors were high on the popularity chart like M. J. K. Smith, Ted Dexter, Tony Lewis, Tony Greig, Keith Fletcher and David Gower, who was particularly liked because of his natural ability to bring elegance in stroke-making.

And just like Greig, who brought an imitable style to his commentary and appealed to the Indian fans, Gower is treated with warmth and fondness because of his ability to be extremely savvy in the commentary box. Cook has appeared to be aloof; he prefers to focus on his work, which is batting and foiling the Indian spinners in order to achieve glory for his team.

At this point in time, though, England’s stock has skidded downwards following the defeat against Bangladesh in the second Test in Mirpur, especially because it has not been able to find answers to the tyro off-spinner Mehedi Hasan.

But Cook reminded the doubting Thomas among the press corps on Saturday that his team bounced back to shock Mahendra Singh Dhoni's team four years ago, after going down in the first Test at Motera, Ahmedabad.

'Anything is possible'

At the conclusion of England’s first media interaction of the tour, Cook was asked if his team can draw inspiration from the 2012 tour and he said: “I remember saying in a press conference after the first Test match when everyone was talking about how we were going to stop India from winning 4-0. We managed to turn it around and win 2-1. So, anything is possible,” he said.

One thing you can never fault these guys is whatever challenge have been thrown, we have always managed [to do well] in big games. Someone has stood up and played good cricket. That is the challenge we have got here. It is exciting. We are quite heavily the underdogs and that is sometimes a very good platform,” he added.

Cook went out of the way to boost the morale of his team. “No doubt( it’s a) big challenge. Anytime you play a No. 1 side or a No.2 side in their backyard, it is a huge task for us and a huge challenge with these kind of guys who have not played a huge amount of cricket in the sub-continent as a group. This side has exceeded expectations in the last couple of years in big series. We played some very good cricket in big series. Last year we went to South Africa and won away from home when they were No. 1 side in the world. Yes, this are different conditions and we know how hard it could be but being underdogs takes a lot of pressure off us.”

When he goes for the toss at Rajkot on Wednesday (Nov. 9) he would have done so 55 times for England, and Virat Kohli would know that his counterpart would be the first big stumbling block that initially the likes of Mohammad Shami and Umesh Yadav have to remove.

England captains in India

Douglas Jardine (3) – 1933-34

Nigel Howard (4) – 1951-52

Donald Carr (1) – 1951-52

Ted Dexter (5) – 1961-62

M. J. K. Smith (5) - 1964

Tony Lewis (5) -1972-73

Tony Greig (5) – 1976-77

Keith Fletcher (6) -1981-82

David Gower (5) –1984-85

Graham Gooch (2) -- 1993

Mike Brearley (1) -1980

Andrew Flintoff (3) -2006

Nasser Hussian (3) -2001

Kevin Pietersen (2) -2008

Alec Stewart (1) -1993

and Alastair Cook (4) -2012/2016.

Longest captaincy tenure for an Englishman:

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