Rod Marsh tipped Alastair Cook to become England’s captain and boast of a startling average of 50 in his career, few would have nodded in agreement. The youngster, all of 21, had just been pushed into England’s Test side that prompted a quick debut against India with a crackling hundred. He went on to score three more Test tons in the same year. Although he did not have a great first Ashes series, Cook had certainly shown enough potential for a fresher at a tender age.
“Cooky” isn’t the most visually attractive batsman, I agree. Especially when I look at his flamboyant teammate and one of my favourite cricketers, Kevin Pietersen! The former is a technically correct batsman but lacks the style, while the latter displays tremendous flair coupled with good-looking shots, in spite of not possessing the best technique in the game. Right from the start of his career, Cook has been one of those silent performers who’d prefer to stay backstage while the others took away all the limelight. This could well be the reason why, despite being the youngest Englishman to score 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000 and 5000 Test runs, he was still somehow not a part of the elite. But Mr. Chef was destined for bigger and greater things.
The Ashes of 2010-11 brought much relief to the southpaw, who was already under scrutiny for his lack of form earlier in the year as well as losing his place in the ODI setup. 766 runs in seven innings and Cook suddenly looked like a messiah England desperately awaited since 24 long, painful years. That, for me, was the moment to cherish. That, for me, was Alastair Cook! To be honest, I was never so happy with an Australian loss or for that matter, for an English victory, but this feeling was something special. Those were the days when early mornings mattered and every minute of watching him play were worth sacrificing my sleep.
An inspired English Ashes win confirmed Cook’s credibility in the side and that was the beginning of a fruitful, glorious journey. It isn’t a surprise when you look at his figures as they tell you the story of a hard worker who has shown great amount of dedication and determination to stamp his authority as one of the most exemplary modern cricketers in England. What surprises me is the age at which all the success has rapidly knocked on his doors. At 27, he stands just two Test centuries short of equaling Wally Hammond, England’s leading century-maker, one short of rubbing shoulders with his Test captain, Andrew Strauss and on par with the legends of Ken Barrington and Graham Gooch, along with mate Kevin Pietersen.
There is no doubt about the fact that Cook will eventually get past of all these sooner or later and consequently build more records, but what deserves attention is the immense maturity that he has shown at an age where cricketers are just about settling in. Sure, there will be bad patches, injury scares, etc. but I believe every cricketer who fights the toughest of battles emerges only stronger and better. I would love to see Alastair Cook conquer greater heights and come out as an even better cricketer, than he already is. Arguably one of the finest left-handers around, Bedford’s tall and handsome school boy has come a long way in his career and has miles to go. To draw comparisons between him and Sachin Tendulkar would be foolish. Instead, why not let the flower blossom the way it is meant to?