What next for Alastair Cook?
Alastair Cook has been a wonderful servant of the game for a long time. His Test career is a testament to how one can not only survive but flourish with very limited strokes in their armoury. His introduction to Test cricket was in alien conditions, but Cook rose to the challenge by scoring a century on debut and in the process, became the youngest Englishman to score a century on debut.
It was never an easy task taking over the reins from Marcus Trescothick or Michael Vaughan but Cook was just getting started.
However, it has not always been plain sailing for the Englishman. For a man with such impressive numbers, he does not get the same recognition as the 9 other top run scorers in Test cricket. Yes, he is a member of the elite league and the only Englishman to have gone past the 10,000 run mark.
It's no mean feat and yet it would appear there is always an albatross hanging around his neck. He has constantly been accused of being too conservative as a captain and lacking imagination in the field but what Cook had, and continues to have, is grit, perseverance and determination to fight back when the chips are down.
Whilst his numbers are flattering, with impressive knocks contributing to victories against formidable opponents like India and Australia in their own backyards, critics are quick to point out the gulf between Cook and the other top run scorers in Test cricket. The southpaw averages 46.35, which is the lowest amongst all Test batsmen to have scored at least 10000 runs.
When it's all said and done, take nothing away from Cook for he is the only Englishman to have scored 10000 runs, the only English skipper to have series wins to his name in South Africa and India and the youngest English cricketer to have scored a century on debut.
The question though remains: what next for Alastair Cook? He is closing in on Kumar Sangakkara's record and it's not a case of if but when he goes past the record and closes in on Rahul Dravid. However, his career graph shows an anomaly for the first time, which may put his pursuit in danger.
The standard deviation has followed the average very closely throughout his career. This is a measure of Cook's consistency at the top of the order playing in tough conditions against the swinging new ball. The last data point though deviates from the norm and very significantly too.
Should this be a worrying sign for Cook and the England selectors? Is this aberration a one-off or the beginning of a new trend? The underlying scores between the last two data points are 3, 69, 3, 42, 88, 7, 46, 10, 243, 11, 23, 10, 17, 2, 7, 37, 16, 7, 14, 283, 10. The scores for the year 2017 also take into account the last Test match of the Ashes series played in January 2018. The standard deviation is a result of a data set that is scattered and you have two humungous scores interspersed with a number of failures and a few marginal performances.
Should Cook call time on his illustrious career or are we likely to see a renaissance in his career? It remains to be seen.