In captaincy and as an opener, Alastair Cook was always ready for the toughest test
A long journey has been a theme in the career of Alastair Cook, one of England’s greatest batsman and former skipper who announced his retirement from international cricket on Monday. A career which started against India will end against them as the left-handed opener will sign off with the fifth Test against India, starting at the Oval on Sept 7.
The 33-year-old, England’s highest Test run-getter, flew half way across the globe after he was summoned from the A squad in the West Indies to Nagpur, scoring a century on debut in March, 2006. Cook’s 60 and 104 not out in the two innings of the drawn game marked a smooth transition as Andrew Strauss’s junior opening partner.
Two days earlier, skipper Michael Vaughan had yanked out a bottle cap and spat out as he stormed off the training ground at the VCA Stadium, frustrated after his dodgy knee gave up one last time. Andrew Flintoff was presented as the new skipper at a Nagpur hotel that evening.
“Although it is a sad day, I can do so with a big smile on my face knowing I have given everything and there is nothing left in the tank,” Cook said in a statement by the England cricket board. He felt “the timing is right” and it would let the next generation of batsmen to step up, although the cupboard appears rather bare.
LOVE FOR INDIA
His 12,254 runs in 160 Tests and 32 centuries are all England records. He has also played 158 consecutive Tests, an all-time record. Six centuries came against India, including the 176, 122 and 190 during the 2-1 win in India in 2012-13 under his captaincy. His highest, 294, also was against India, at Birmingham in 2011.
The timing of announcement is ideal, as England under Joe Root, his successor, have just clinched the home Test series against India. But Cook’s own timing as batsman has gone awry. In this series, Ishant Sharma has exploited his weakness against pace and movement bowling from around the wicket. His best is 29 in seven innings.
Although he hit a double century in the Ashes series early this year, questions have repeatedly come up about his future and voices, be it the English media or former players, has grown as his best is 29 in seven innings.
Before the Edgbaston Test, Cook was asked about his batting form at a media interaction when it was meant to be about his future career. He had just hit 180 against India A to warm-up for the series.
“Now everyone asks when I’m going to retire. I’m glad they haven’t in this press conference,” Cook said with a smile. “It’s just different. I thoroughly enjoyed my time as England captain. It is a very challenging job. It’s a hard job. But it’s also a very rewarding job. You get tested in ways you never thought you would be. And you make decisions every day about things which, before the day starts you don’t know about, and you’re captaining your country, which is the biggest honour a sportsman can know.”
The elder statesman also took over as he defended the selection of leg-spinner Adil Rashid, despite his refusal to play first-class cricket for Yorkshire. There was weariness in Cook’s replies by the end of the 2016 India tour, after England’s batsmen collapsed against Ravindra Jadeja’s spin in the final session of the fifth Test at Chennai to hand India a 4-0 victory. He quit as captain soon after and Root was appointed.
The same questions have now risen about his batting as he has struggled against India’s sharp pace attack, after being bowled in both innings of the first Test by R Ashwin. Unlike Cook’s start, England are likely to find it hard to find a replacement this time.