Prolific Cook poised to break record

Alastair Cook, who became the first England batsman to cross 1000 runs on Indian soil in Rajkot, needs 343 more runs to become the most prolific overseas batsman in India.

Alastair Cook's method of scoring runs in India contrasts with the power-hitting ways of West Indies' Clive Lloyd.   -  K. R. Deepak

On Sunday at the Saurashtra Cricket Association (SCA) Stadium, where the first Test of the five-Test series > ended in a tense stalemate for India, the 31-year-old left-hander, Alastair Cook, became the first England batsman and the fourth overseas batsman to cross the 1000 runs on Indian soil.

While Clive Lloyd, the big West Indian, leads the overall aggregate, immediately below are West Indian Gordon Greendige (1042) and Australian Mathew Hayden (1027). Cook, after his 21 and 130 in the Rajkot Test, has reached 1017 runs.

What is remarkable in this exemplary feat is that Cook has scored a record five centuries in nine Test matches, as against Lloyd’s four, Greenidge’s three and Hayden’s two. With four more Tests to be played in the series, the England captain can fancy his chances of breaking the all-time record so far held by Lloyd, one of the most popular West Indian players to have visited India from 1966 to 1983.

Cook’s century in Rajkot was the 201st instance of a century being scored by an overseas batsman on Indian soil.

India has turned out to be a very fertile ground for many cricketers and Cook fits into this particular calculation.

Some ten and half years ago, Cook, all of 21, made his Test debut against India in Nagpur and made a fine impression with scores of 60 and an unconquered 104. He had opened the innings then with Andrew Strauss. The Indian bowling consisted of Irfan Pathan, S. Sreesanth, Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble. Thereafter he has gone on to outwit a variety of Indian bowling, which includes Zaheer Khan, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, and Pragyan Ojha.

Cook has often appeared to be phlegmatic and a sticky opener who sees a definite purpose behind his endeavour of taking on the new ball operators and the spinners. This is unlike Lloyd, who was quite brutal in his execution of shots and played power-packed knocks, like the 242 not out at the Wankhede Stadium in January 1975 and the 163 in Bangalore in November 1974. Alvin Kallicharan and Hayden, too, were aggressive; David Gower did not score a century in India, but charmed the Indian audience with stylish stroke play.

Leading by example

England’s right-handers have contributed 34 centuries out of the 47 in India and leading the right-hand group is the late Ken Barrington with three scored in the 1960s. Tony Grieg became popular in the 1970s and Kevin Pietersen — under pressure after his double failure at Motera in 2012 — turned the second Test match in Mumbai on its head with a spectacular 186 off 233 balls.

The numbers support Cook’s claim to be the best England batsman in India. His fierce resolve to lead by example has earned him all the respect as a quality player. It was Cook who started to challenge the Indian spinners in 2012 with a stoical 176 in nine and a quarter hours in the second innings at Motera. He played another equally dogged knock of 122 that changed the complexion of the Mumbai Test in 2012. Cook continued to be a thorn in the Indian flesh by making 190 in 492 minutes, facing 377 balls at the Eden Gardens.

His fifth century, on what was generally imagined as a pitch that was difficult for stroke-making, spoke about his tremendous tenacity and display of skill to outsmart the Indians.

"Luckily my record here (in India) is OK. You’re always going to be slightly nervous on the first day of a big series. The second innings was quite hard work, [with Ravindra] Jadeja bowling into the rough with a brand new ball, some at 60mph. I have not been in the greatest form. Not had that rhythm in the nets; did not have it in Bangladesh. After drinks, [I] wanted to push on; it freed me up a bit and helped my game. Nice to score runs when you’re not at your best."

From 1933 onwards when Douglas Jardine played a first Test series in India, about 156 England batsmen have played in India and scored 26,001 runs with 47 centuries and 132 half-centuries; and Alastair Cook tops them all with superb numbers: Tests 9, Runs 1017, Average 63.56, 5 x 100s and 3 x 50s.