Thank You, Cooky
- A tribute to Alastair Cook, England's retiring great.
For followers of the game, Alastair Nathan Cook, CBE, was not often someone who played dominant innings or marauded bowlers like the Jayasuriyas, Haydens and Gayles of his time. He was never one for the limelight, which had two outcomes. The first, his name never really hit the headlines as he kept accumulating all those runs.
The second, with his retirement, England now find themselves going into the winter with the possibility of having two completely new openers and without their leading Test run-scorer. Cook was, and will continue to do so now for Essex, be a foundation, both figuratively and literally.
Cook was thrown into the deep end as far as Test cricket was concerned, making his debut in the spinning minefield that is India, replacing Marcus Trescothick. He dug deep for 60 in the first innings but the second innings was a true indicator of things to come, as he stroked 104 against the likes of Kumble and Harbhajan.
More than 12000 runs later, you tend to feel he could have left on a bit of a high, as an extended poor run of form played a role in his surprise announcement to leave the game. Nonetheless, as Cook walks out one last time at The Oval on September 7, a country will thank one of its finest servants in unison.
Cook came into an England side replete with talent. Kevin Pietersen, Andrew Strauss, Trescothick and its lynchpin, Andrew Flintoff had beaten the all-conquering Australian team of the naughties in an Ashes series for the first time in 16 years.
But Cook held his own, and tonked run after run as he and Strauss set about making England the dominant side of the early 2010s. In the Ashes series of that winter, he compiled a massive 766 runs in the series, as England made history once again, as they beat Australia in their own den after what must have seemed to Father Time himself as ages.
He ran India ragged in 2011 as he piled on a mammoth 294 in the series that followed, and as he established himself as the best opener in the world, it was an extraordinary amount of will power that came to the fore. For if there was any characteristic that came to mind when you say 'Alastair Cook', it would be that.
As fitness regimes became more monitored, Cook found himself championing the yo-yo test (of Rayudu and Washington Sundar fame). In what has come to be known as the ultimate test of willpower, Cook aced it every time, finishing ahead of younger, quicker and more athletic teammates nearly every single time.
Cook tenure as captain saw turbulence but historic series wins in India and South Africa ensured that he found himself in a league of his own as England's most successful Test captain. The Ashes was won, lost spectacularly, and then won back again in 2015.
And in the most recent Ashes series, though he may have been running on reserve, he displayed an innings of sheer determination as he scored an unbeaten 244 at the MCG. Even in ODIs, while he was stripped of captaincy just before the 2015 World Cup, he set into motion the influx of players that have now made England the team to watch in the white ball format. Bringing in players like Jos Buttler and Moeen Ali proved to be the initial steps to ODI ascension.
As he closes the doors on an illustrious cricketing career and as he prepares to provide his full range of services to Essex where it all began, the world watches, some with sadness, some with bated breath and yet some more wondering where all the time went.
If Virat Kohli is living the fantasy every 15-year-old dreams of, Alastair Cook certainly lived the fantasy every fan of Test cricket dreams of.