A cricketing twilight seemed imminent for Alastair Cook, as his runs dwindled over the years. And he proved that premonition right by stating that the Oval Test against India from September 7, would be his last for England.
The opener’s 109 from seven innings in the current series against India, were reflective of a man who found his feet a wee-bit, secured his inner peace briefly before succumbing, be it against R. Ashwin’s guile or the Indian pacers’ probing queries. And yet, thanks to the ‘Daddy hundreds’ etched in his earlier phase, which also kept his mentor Graham Gooch in good humour, the southpaw currently sits atop 12254 runs.
Cook is at the sixth spot in the all-time list where Sachin Tendulkar leads the pantheon with 15921 runs. Besides Tendulkar, the others above the former England captain are: Ricky Ponting, Jacques Kallis, Rahul Dravid and Kumar Sangakkara. When compared to those batsmen of impeccable pedigree with an average above 50, Cook might pale a bit at 44.88 but unlike the gentlemen mentioned earlier, he was an opener and that is the hardest role for a batsman.
Walking in first-up, squaring up on a fresh pitch against fast bowlers itching to draw first blood, is an arduous task and Cook for a large part of his career blunted the speed-merchants, before stomping his way through the middle overs of spin and then raising his bat for a well-deserved hundred. But there was business beyond a mere century and he added much more to those individual milestones.
Unlike the usual assumption of left-handers dishing out poetry on the turf, a trait made resplendent by David Gower in the past, Cook was more of a rugged presence. But he got the runs and he got them big and England’s rise and fall in Ashes jousts were linked to his bat's state, whether it was broad or anaemic.
At 33, Cook could have played a couple of seasons but having represented England in 160 Tests since his debut against India at Nagpur in 2006, he must be tired. But he did find some joy in this present series, grabbing a few catches and exulting like a kid at a candy store unlike his usual phlegmatic veneer.
He seemed a good man and was infinitely patient at press conferences, some of which resemble an inquisition. However, as his legacy is written, there will be some heartburn around his equation with that maverick genius Kevin Pietersen, who was put to pasture prematurely, which was akin to Gooch playing a hand in Gower’s retirement a few decades ago. Cook will be missed.
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