The new Mr.Cricket : Alastair Cook
Finally, England seems to have a real superstar in their batting ranks well and truly, and not just a media created superstar. He seems to be enjoying all the responsibility and he is delivering at a consistent rate that is Bradmanesque. His playing style might not be flamboyant, but he is aggressive yet correct in his methods. He is definitely watchable and he is sure to make headlines in the coming decade like no other player. He is none other than Alastair Cook, England’s new ODI captain and world cricket’s most consistent force, rivaling the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Jacques Kallis.
During Cook’s beginning years, Kevin Pietersen, Andrew Flintoff and before Cook started his career, Graeme Hick were thought of as the players who would be at the forefront of England’s claim to true Test match greatness. Michael Atherton, Alec Stewart, Graeme Thorpe etc. played good supporting roles to the more flamboyant batsmen in the team. But the English teams that these guys were a part of, were never great or even consistent. Just the odd Ashes heroics here and there. There were a lot of reasons for that including lack of a performing captain, lack of a potent attack, lack of variety in the attack, lack of a quality spinner etc. etc.
But, once Strauss (a performing captain) took over and the likes of Swann (genuine world class spinner), Anderson (genuine swing exponent), Broad (a decent all-rounder) etc. etc. started coming into their own, England started becoming consistent. But now with the arrival of 2 solid blokes, Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott, at the top of the order, England has started becoming a great Test team. Their limited overs teams are still a work in progress but, the Test team is in serious pursuit of the no.1 rank and an all-time great status too.And Cook has been at the forefront of this renaissance. He has been smashing records at will and he has not only some national records but world records as well. He is the youngest Englishman to almost all the 1000 milestones till now.
His methods speak of calmness, surety, assurance and a certain iron will. His expertise on the off side and his willingness to be more positive in his run scoring off late, have made him a super batsman indeed.His conversion rate from 50s to 100s again speaks of greatness. 18 hundreds and 26 fifties in just 68 Test matches is something phenomenal. He will be the most prolific scorer of 100s for England in a jiffy I guess. Only the past masters Gooch, Gower, Lamb, Botham and his contemporary Strauss have made anything comparable to Cook in the 100s column.
Initially he was accused of being one paced and quite boring to watch but, he seems to be making good progress on this front too. And his concentration levels will make even the Himalayan sages proud. That explains the fact that he batted for some inhuman stretches of time during the Ashes win down under in 2010-11. For the record, he batted for more than 35 hours in that series, scored his career best 235* in addition to 2 more hundreds 148 & 189 and scored the 2nd most number of runs,766, by an Englishman in a Test series.
At 26, he is becoming a complete cricketer. Dangerous signs for the bowlers all around the world. Recently his progress has also been recognized by the ECB as he has been given charge of the English ODI team. At a time, he was not even first choice in the ODI team. Now he is the man on top and he lead by example in his first series as captain, a 3-2 series triumph against the Lankans at home. He smashed a 70 odd ball 95* when England was staring at a series defeat at home. He orchestrated a 10 wkt win in this game and England rode on this momentum to seal the series. A great debut series as captain indeed.
He has already seen a lull in his career too. This attributes to the maturity attained at this stage of his career itself. In 2008 he couldn’t score a single Test 100. For a career spanning just about 5 yrs and one that has seen 18 hundreds already, one full year without a 100 was a major dip for sure. But he came back like a true English Lion. 6 hundreds in his past 10 matches speak volumes.
The future is his for the taking. Along with Jonathan Trott, he will be at the forefront of England’s challenge to the Indians this summer. What a fascinating series ahead. 2 men who epitomize the spirit of Test cricket in spite of being short on charisma, against the most charismatic Indian team in ages. Let the action begin. Many more records are sure to be cooked