It’s hard to write about players who have left a mark on the game in just a few words, but then that’s the challenge to describe a legend in a word. When Alistair Cook decided to bid adieu to the game which he has been playing for last 26 years, the wishes started to pour from all corners of the world but it isn’t hard to describe the value of a player who has held England for a decade and wore three lions with pride like no one else . Abhishek Srivastava pens a special piece on farewell of one of England’s most excellent cricketer, Captain, gentleman and an artist, Alistair Cook.
The Kia Oval once again became the witness of a grand farewell after Andrew Flintoff (2009), Chris Rogers(2015) and Michel Clarke (2015) bid adieu to the game at this historic venue. This time it was none other than Alistair Cook, England’s most capped, highest run-getter and no.1 centurion. While Cook’s career came to an end at only 33 years and 09 months, but he had an impressive 12 and half years at International level and at last as he said he didn’t have anything left in the tank.
Born in Glouster, Alistair Cook’s father was telecom engineer and mother a school teacher. At the age of seven, he fell in love with cricket as he started playing village cricket. Cook’s infatuation with music began when he was only eight, and he was learning the clarinet and joined St Paul’s Cathedral School in London. He gives a lot of credit to music for his power of concentration.
During summer holidays in Essex, he used to play cricket for nearby Maldon Cricket Club, and by the age of 11, he was already playing in the adult Third XI. He played for Maldon for over seven years and is now an honorary life member of the club.
Cook’s musical flair led to him joining Bedford School in the age of 13 where he also boarded. While being educated in Bedford, he learned to play piano and saxophone. However, music was soon eclipsed when the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) came to play against the Bedford School XI. The visiting side was a man short and drafted the 14-year-old Cook to play against his school.
Over the next four years, he hit 17 centuries and two double-hundreds to amass 4,396 runs at an average of 87.90, captaining the cricket team in his final year under coach Jeremy ‘Boris’ Farrell, as well as being President of the Music Society. He also gained three A’s and nine GCSEs In his final year at Bedford in 2003. He scored 1,287 runs for the school including two unbeaten double-hundreds, averaging 160.87 to take the school record.
In March 2006, 21 year Old Cook made his debut against India at Nagpur when Marcus Trescothick withdrew from the tour due to illness; it was here that England got a new start. Cook hit a brilliant hundred that defined a successful trip for England. He, later on, had a great summer in 2006 when he hit two hundred against Pakistan. Three months later, he made a brave century on Ashes tour of 2006-07 at WACA against the likes of Glen McGrath and Shane Warne. By the end of 2006, he had four centuries in his first year of International Cricket, and there was no second thought that England had found someone special who would serve them for a long time.
After having a decent summer in 2007 against India and West Indies at home, he was at his full flow on the tour of Sri Lanka showing that his hundred at Nagpur was no fluke. He made a brilliant 118 at Galle with subtle timing and superb footwork against Muttiah Muralitharan, and it could be ranked among his top 10 innings of all time. While other seniors looked at sea against spin, Cook relished playing quality spin.
This was an era when English cricket was going up all the time with players like Cook, Anderson, Pietersen, Flintoff, Vaughan, and others being part of a strong England line up and in Strauss and Cook, they found reliable openers. His mental strength was something which stood out. In 2008-09, the tour of West Indies had all sorts of trouble for the Englishmen. The team was divided after Moors and Pietersen saga, and humiliation for getting shot out only for 51 at Antigua was still hanging. At that moment, Cook played a masterclass of 139* at Bridgetown, England couldn’t win the series though, but it showed he had probably the best concentration power in whole English line up. Later that year after having modest Ashes, he played one the most valuable innings of his career scoring 118 at Kingsmead.
The year 2010 was special for Cook, on tour to Bangladesh he not only hit two centuries but captained England for the first time in the absence of Andrew Strauss. It was, however, the Ashes of 2010-11, one of his two most special series, where he was at his best. At Brisbane with almost 11 sessions to go, Cook played one of the greatest innings of all time. During his 235*, he batted for 625 minutes facing 428 balls and defying Australia a sure shot victory. The draw which was almost like a win for England laid the foundation for a historical England victory down under after 24 years. His 148 at Adelaide was the start of rare English domination of Australia in Australia. Later his 82 at Melbourne took England to Ashes win. He then capped the tour with another daddy hundred at Sydney. His 189 demolished the Australians as England romped to 3-1 series win. Later that year against India he played his best innings in terms of runs. His massive 294 was significant in the series when England whitewashed India 4-0, to rise to no.1 in Test rankings.
In 2012, after Andrew Strauss retired from the game, Cook was handed the captaincy, and he immediately took England to another vital series win, this time in India after 28 years. Cook was a central figure in this win; he brought Kevin Pietersen back after the batsman had lost the confidence of English administrators due to SMS controversy and himself played his best cricket after the Ashes of 2010-11. In spite of his courageous 176 England lost at Ahmedabad. However, with Pietersen, he negated Indian bowlers at Mumbai, and both of them led England to a great win. His 190 at Kolkata can be termed as one of his top 3 greatest innings of all time an innings that buried the ghost of playing Indian spinners and unlocked the secret of a series win in India. England, later on, drew the Nagpur test and registered one of the most memorable victories in modern times. Their first win on Indian soil in 28 years (since 1984-85)
While England won the Ashes of 2013 but next few months was the start of a most challenging era of Cook’s career, England had a disastrous Ashes getting blanked by 5-0. This was also the end of careers of some of the fantastic cricketers. Graeme Swann retired mid-series, Jonathan Trott took a break due to stress illness, Matt Prior looked pale shadow and above all the Kevin Pietersen saga blew all over England for rest of 2014. England lost to Sri Lanka at home and looked that India would also win, but tables were turned at Southampton, and Cook led it, his 95 and 70* were instrumental in it. England won the 5 match test series 3-1. Later that year he lost his ODI Captaincy and so as the place in the team.
In 2015, he returned to take England to other Ashes win, fourth of his career. Three months later he guided England to another historic series win in South Africa by 2-1. In between of these two England have lost a test series against Pakistan in UAE by 2-0 but were unlucky not to win the first test where Cook made a magnificent 263 batting for near to 14 hours in sapping heat of Emirates showing his range of excellent temperament and concentration. However, it was the summer of 2016 that started the mother of all problems. First England failed to win the home series against Pakistan and later on lost a test match against Bangladesh, their first ever loss against the minnows. However, a disastrous 4-0 loss in 5 match test series against India in India forced Cook to quit the captaincy. He ended up captaining in 59 tests, most by an English man with 24 wins and 22 losses.
In 2017 he returned as a player, but this was the end of the beginning of his playing career. While he was young but he seemed to have lost the concentration power which helped him scores big. From July 2017 to April 2018, Cook had only two notable scores, both of them were double one hundred one was against West Indies at home and another against Australia at home. However, the major problem was that he had lost his consistency, there were a number of low scores among those big innings.
England’s top order was having numerous problems and one of the reasons was Cook’s lean patch. The series against India was his last chance as the talks of the retirement had already started a long back however Cook was still waiting to reignite the fair, but by the end of the fourth test, he had realized that he had run out of the gas and it was time to bid farewell. The day after England had won sealed the series against India 3-1, Cook announced that he would be retiring after the Oval test.
However, his exit from International Cricket was as memorable as the entry. In March 2006, he hit a brave century at Vidarbha Cricket Association and now at Kia Oval, he hit another brilliant hundred in his 291st and final innings. The applause at the moment was almost unending as one of England’s finest had achieved the glory in his final hurrah.
Some of Alistair Cook’s Record
- Youngest Englishman to score 2,000, 3,000, 4,000, 5,000 Test Runs
- Youngest player ever all over the world to score 6,000, 7,000, 8,000, 9,000, 10,000, 11,000 and 12,000 runs in Test cricket.
- Only Second opener (after Indian opener Sunil Gavaskar) to reach over 10,000 Test runs
- The only opener to reach over 11,000 and 12,000 Test runs.
- Most Test Matches for England
- Most Test Runs for England
- Most Test Match Centuries for England
- March 2006: Debuts against India at VCA becomes 16th Englishman to score a century on his debut, 5th to combine it with a half-century.
- December 2006: Only Englishman to score 4 centuries before his 22nd birthday.
- May 2007: Only Englishman (second worldwide) to score 1,000 runs in a maiden year.
- December 2007: Only Englishman to score 7 centuries before his 23rd birthday.
- February 2009: England’s record opening stand against West Indies (229 with Andrew Strauss)
- November 2010: England’s record partnership in Australia, world record partnership and innings at the Gabba (329 with Jonathan Trott, 235 not out).
- December 2010: England’s record for runs scored and time spent at the crease between dismissals (383 runs in 1,053 minutes)
- January 2011: World record for time spent batting in a five-Test series, second most series runs by an Englishman (2,171 minutes, 766 runs)
- December 2012: Most Test centuries for England (broke the record at 23 centuries).
- December 2012: First captain worldwide to score a century in first five Tests.
- December 2012: England’s highest run scorer in India (866 runs)
- May 2015: Most Test runs for England (broke the record at 8,901 runs)
- August 2015: First England cricketer to be involved in 50 Test wins.
- October 2015: Longest England Test innings (836 minutes) in Dubai against Pakistan during his innings of 263
- October 2015: Became the all-time highest non-Asian run scorer in Asia.
- October 2016: England’s most capped player in Tests, surpassing Alec Stewart’s record of 134.
- November 2016: England’s most capped Test captain, surpassing Mike Atherton’s record of 54.
- November 2016: Most Test centuries by England skipper, surpassing Graham Gooch’s record of 11.
- December 2017: 6th highest run scorer in Test cricket, surpassing Brian Lara’s record of 11,953 runs and reaching 12,000 Test runs.
- June 2018: Most consecutive Test matches of all time, surpassing Allan Border’s record of 153.
- September 2018: 5th highest run scorer in test cricket and became the highest test run scorer among left-handers surpassing Kumar Sangakkara’s record of 12,400 runs. He also became only the fifth batsman to score centuries in his debut as well as farewell test matches
- September 2018- Only batsmen ever to have century and half-century in the first and final game
2003 NBC Denis Compton Award
2004 NBC Denis Compton Award
2005 NBC Denis Compton Award
2005 CWC Young Cricketer of the Year
2005 PCA Young Cricketer of the Year
2006 NBC Denis Compton Award
2006 PCA Young Cricketer of the Year
2011 Freedom of the City of London
2011 Member of the Order of the British Empire
2011 ICC Test Player of The Year
2011 ICC World Test XI opening batsmen
2012 Wisden Cricketer of the Year
2012 ICC World Test XI opening batsman
2012 ICC World ODI XI opening batsman
2013 ICC World Test XI captain
2015 ICC World Test XI captain
2016 Commander of the Order of the British Empire
2016 ICC World Test XI captain