When Sachin Tendulkar retired in 2013, he had scaled heights which seemed insurmountable. The highest run scorer in test and one-day internationals, with most centuries in both the forms, most number of test and one day caps and the list of the record continues.
His records seemed untouchable for years, and cricket pundits believed that it was challenging for anyone to reach near him leave alone breaking them. However, when Alastair Cook scored his 11,000th run last year at the age of 32 only, many experts including Indian great Sunil Gavaskar the first man ever to score 10000 runs in test history said that he might be able to break Tendulkar’s record of most test runs as age is on his side.
The most Runs and wickets in test cricket are still considered to be the most prized possession for players despite the unprecedented popularity of T20 cricket. In an era where the number of test matches are decreasing every year, it’s important that a player must play more tests over a longer period and perform consistently during that time.
Many batsmen in modern cricket are capable of breaking Tendulkar’s record but either they don’t play much test cricket, or politics in their boards doesn’t allow much test cricket. In such a circumstances there is only Alastair Cook who seems to tick all the boxes.
When Marcus Trescothick withdrew from India’s tour of 2005-06 famously due to depression, it was a major setback for England and no one thought that this might prove to be a turning point in English cricket. The 21-year-old Alastair Cook joined the English side as replaced and started his career at Nagpur’s Vidarbha Cricket Association ground scoring a big hundred impressing everyone.
Cook’s talent, however, was identified much earlier in the early 2000’s by Kieth Fletcher, who famously told Nasser Hussain that this lad would become great cricketer in days to come. However, Hussain didn’t appear to be impressed by the boy and failed to realise the potential the youngster possessed.
Cook has been brilliant not only in England but also in Australia, India, South Africa and UAE home of top nations of the world. His performances against Australia in 2010-11 and against India and in 2012-13 made easy for England to win series in these countries after two and half decades.
No one can forget his hundred against Warne and McGrath at Perth in 2006 or his crafty hundred in 2007 at Galle against Murli. However, two of his best Innings came in the toughest countries. In 2010-11 Ashes, his brilliant 235 at Gabba was the turning point of the series which helped England end their 24 years drought in Australia.
Two years later in India, he scored two brilliant tons one in Ahmadabad in losing cause while other at Kolkata’s Eden Garden sealed a historic test series for England in India after 28 years. The 190 at Eden which was his 23rd hundred took him surpass Sir Geoff Boycott’s English record of 22 centuries.
The most Impressive aspect of Cook’s game has been his unflappable temperament, the penchant for playing marathon innings, unending patience and hunger for scoring more and more. He is youngest to score 7,000, 8000, 9000 , 10,000 and 11,000th TestRuns. He has been breaking all records of Sachin of late, and the question arises whether he will reach the zenith of batting record, i.e. most runs in Test Cricket.
Cook has already scored 11,629 Runs with an impressive average of 46.33 in 147 tests and is just 32 years of age. In next 3 years till ICC World Cup 2019, England will play another 20 test matches and seeing his fitness level, it can be said Cook will go on to play all these test matches.
With current average, if he plays 40 innings with an average of 45- 50, he will end up making 13000-13500 runs by then which mean he will have great chance to break Sachin’s record.
However, to become highest runs scorer in test cricket history, he will have to play for another three years until the age of 37-38. Apart from ageing, changing nature of the English selector nowadays will be another challenge for Cook to extend his test career until the required time.
The loss in Ashes especially tend to end the career of most famous of all ( Kevin Pietersen, Graeme Swann, Graham Gooch, Mike Gatting etc.) and if he can survive that, chances of him playing long will increase.
To overcome the associated challenges, it would be beneficial for him to play only one format which will enable him to get healthy amounts of breaks from international cricket to remain fresh and hungry for runs.
Whatever happens in coming years remain uncertain, but one thing is sure that it will be difficult for any player than Cook to break Indian Master’s Record. None of Kohli, Smith, Root or Williamson have touched 5000 Test Runs, and they are all 28 years already. It simply means that if Cook achieves this milestone, it might be his for years or maybe decades to come.