Between 1990 and 2017, England played 337 Tests, winning 126 and losing 116 – second only to Australia's 179 wins. While the credit largely goes to the likes of Nasser Hussain (17 wins), Andrew Strauss (24) and Michael Vaughan (26), Alastair Cook carried forward their legacy, but without the flamboyance of some of his predecessors.
Cook, who announced his retirement from international cricket on Monday, stepped down last year after a captaining England in a record 59 Tests, winning 40.67 per cent of them.
Ryan Sidebottom , the former English pacer and teammate of Cook’s, says the southpaw “was a really good captain and played with freedom.”
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“I think all captains get criticism however well they do. There are always spells when they are less successful. I don’t think he won as much as Strauss or Hussain, but the best captains express themselves and Cook did. He used his experience and he was always a top player,” Sidebottom, now a leading after-dinner speaker, told Sportstar .
Cook’s 109 from seven innings in the current series against India had already placed a question mark over his place in the side, even though the opener had gone through tough spells in the past and had always come back stronger.
But Sidebottom thinks it is the right time for him to go out. “He probably wants to spend some time with his family, at home too. He’s had an illustrious career and he wasn’t at his best in the last Test. But maybe he feels the time is right for a change,” he said.
“He’s had an amazing international career. He’s been at the top of the game for such a long time. One hundred and sixty Test matches – that is immense,” he adds.
Cook, who is sixth in the all-time list of highest run-scorers in Test cricket, came across as a very grounded, level-headed guy while on the field.
“It has never been about Alastair Cook!” Sidebottom says. “He’s really down to earth, always happy, and he always spoke highly of others. He has this cheeky laugh and Buzz Lightyear jaw. I’m proud to have played with him. He was the best trainer, an iceman. He was a cool character.”
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Remembering a lighter moment, Sidebottom says, “In Australia, we started playing credit card roulette in restaurants to see who picked up the bill. Cook was a bit tight!”
While Cook was one of the best opening batsmen in the history of the game, the England selectors had troubles finding a steady opening partner – Cook’s had 12 opening partners since Strauss – for him. But with Cook gone, who’ll assume charge at the top of the order?
“England are quick to change partners. Two bad games and you’re dropped. Who’s the next one? If they’re in form or not in form, stick with them,” says Sidebottom. “You need to look at the deficiencies in technique and improve them. But there’s too much change, maybe not enough opportunity.”