Alastair Cook’ struggle has become a headache for England.
England have now played seven Tests away from home this winter without a win under their belt and have remained winless on two tours. After a disheartening campaign in the Ashes, they had their hopes pinned on New Zealand, but their fortunes didn’t change here as they lost the series 1-0.
England does have a lot of issues to be addressed in their line-up, a misfiring top-order, the vulnerable form of Alastair Cook and many more. They do have some immense firepower in Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow, who have been outstanding, but the team needs to click as a unit.
Cook has been the backbone for years in this line-up, scoring the tough runs at the top. The most prolific English batsman, Cook, has been a force to be reckoned at the top. But the southpaw’s vulnerable form and parched runs column have affected the side massively in the recent times. He has struggled to get going and looked bereft of oomph against the red cherry.
Being out of form and not being able to score runs are two different things. Cook’s recent Test outings suggest that his struggle is for real. Cook is not going forward nor backward; he gets caught in the crease too often and ends up poking the deliveries away from his body. He needs to introspect his game and rectify the flaws in his batting.
Openers play a very important role across formats, especially in Test cricket. They wear out the moving new ball and save the middle-order from being exposed early. But unfortunately for England, their openers were not being able to get the job done.
Earlier, England’s predicament was to find Cook’s co-star at the top, but the southpaw’s poor form has only added to their trouble. Questions relating to his spot in the attack are on the rise, but England doesn’t seem to have any long-term solution for now.
In the Ashes, Cook kept getting out at crucial times. Australia were always going to be a challenge for the ageing Cook. Traditionally, ageing cricketers have not done well Down Under and Cook’s dismal show was no surprise. After a string of low scores, Cook struck form and smashed an unbeaten 244 on the flat track of Melbourne as England saved the only game on the entire tour, but there was nothing substance since then. It looked like Cook’s poor form was coming to an end, but the doubts only increased in the next series.
Coming to New Zealand, English and Cook’s most loyal fans expected him to revive his Test fortunes, but it wasn’t to be. Trent Boult made him his bunny as he got rid of the star English batsman on all the four occasions. He garnered just 23 runs from this series, which is way below than the standards he sets for himself. Since 2017, Cook averages 38.84 in 26 Test innings, but one takes the two double tons out of the equation, the numbers drop drastically.
The left-armer Boult troubled Cook in this series and has done so in the past as well. England are scheduled to play Pakistan and India in their home season. Someone like Mohammad Amir can inflict similar damage while India will have a formidable pace attack. The challenge is huge and a tough one for sure, it will be interesting to see how Cook fights his demons and comes out in conditions more suited to him.
There is no doubt about Cook’s hunger to succeed in Test cricket and the southpaw has silent his harshest critics on numerous occasions in the past. He will undoubtedly be in the scheme of things for the English summer and one can expect him not to be written off just like that. But one thing is for certain, time is running out on him. He needs to get the runs column flowing and the English summer would be the ideal platform for him to rediscover his lost mojo.
With 12028 runs under his belt from 154 Test outings, Cook is by far the leading run-scorer for England. He belongs to a rare breed of impactful cricketers, but his recent dip in form has not helped England’s cause. At times, a player goes through a lean patch, where the runs column run dry. But how the bounce back is what defines their character. Cook has done it in the past and his team will be hoping this just to be a dry patch, which will end soon. Will he bounce back? Will the disappointment continue? Too many questions and too little answers.