It’s time for Alastair Cook to shine……
Cricket is a funny game! England’s most prolific Test batsman, Alastair Cook, who has over 12,000 Test runs, is now playing for his survival in the line-up, such is the irony. Cook may have impressive numbers to his name, but his parched runs column in the recent times has only raised questions. Earlier, England’s predicament was to find a firing opener to accompany Cook at the top, but the latter’s vulnerable form has only added to their trouble.
Cook struggled to get going in Australia. Although he scored a double-ton in MCG, but nothing of substance apart from that. Ageing players do have a reputation for struggling in Australia and Cook was expected to have a tough time. His poor form continued in New Zealand as well, where he reached doubled figures just once in four outings.
There is no doubt behind the fact that opening batting in Test cricket is indubitably one of the toughest jobs, but Cook’s run has rather been slack. His struggle in New Zealand was quite evident, but selectors have invested in his abilities once again for the home series against Pakistan and it’s time Cook repays it with some useful runs at the top.
Throughout his record-breaking career, Cook has risen to almost every challenge posed to him. And the upcoming series is certainly one of the biggest challenges in his career, as he now fights for survival. He has never been dropped throughout his scintillating career, but one wouldn’t be wrong in saying that the axe is looming over the southpaw and needs his willow to fire.
In the ongoing calendar year, Cook averages just 12 in six innings. He has scored 78 runs in six innings with the highest being 39 in Sydney. Mohammad Amir would pose the biggest challenge for the southpaw in the upcoming series as he knows the art of moving the new ball both ways. The fact that Cook was dismissed by Trent Boult in all four innings in New Zealand, makes Amir’s presence intimidating for Cook.
“Amir will be the one to test everybody. He’s a world-class bowler and possibly the best in terms of pure skills that I’ve ever kept to. He can swing the ball both ways at pace so it doesn’t matter who you are, it’s going to be hard work at Lord’s. It’s an interesting challenge for Cooky but that’s what he’s always thrived on. He always rises to it. It’s just up to him how long he wants to keep going for because it does get harder when you get older. I just know he’s still very focused and driven about cricket. Only time will tell when he says, ‘I’m done’, but everything about him suggests that is some way off yet. He seems to be in a very good space.” James Foster was quoted in a report from dailymail.co.uk.
Cook is on the verge of equalling Allan Border’s record for playing the most Tests (153) in a row for 24 years. That itself speaks about the kind of fitness and form Cook has maintained since his debut back in 2006. He is a legend, and known to fight his way out, but will he able to do it in the twilight of his career, remains an open debate.
David Lloyd showed concerns regarding Cook’s lean patch. When asked if he was worried about Cook’s form, Lloyd told the Daily Mail, “Yes, I am. He’s looked quite innocuous of late, so this summer is a huge one for him. It’s no good just quoting his statistics and saying he will come good: It’s time he scored some runs.”
Former English skipper Nasser Hussain was also worried about the southpaw’s form and said, “Cook might be slightly worried about himself, more importantly. As an opener, he has to get away from feast or famine, particularly with the chopping and changing at the other end. You can only go to the well so many times but I will say it until the last day he plays cricket – you are a fool to write off Alastair Cook.”
Cook boasts of an average of just over 45 in Test cricket. Since 2017, he has a decent average of 38.84 in 26 innings, but if one takes the two double ton out of equation, which he scored against West Indies and Australia, there will be a drastic fall in his overall average in the said period. Apart from those two double tons, Cook has scored just 484 runs in 24 innings. In 26 innings, he has been dismissed 17 times for a score of under 20.
Pakistan will certainly be a tough nut to crack for, England can only underestimate them at their own peril. Pakistan have a balanced bowling attack, which is a pre-requisite to winning a Test match. Batting, on both the sides, looks a little unsteady, which makes the bowling department pivotal. For Cook, he has a mountain to climb against the formidable bowling attack of Pakistan, but the home advantage might just work in his favour? Will his lean patch end or will it continue? Will he still be in contention for the next series? Too many questions, to fewer answers. For now, let’s just hope that Cook rediscovers his mojo.