Alastair Cook notched up a hundred in his final Test and became only the fifth batsman ever to score a hundred on his debut and final Test. He would end his illustrious Test career with his head high, but England will miss him a lot in upcoming days……
The English cricket caravan halted in India after the Pakistan tour. After being nailed by Inzamam and Shoaib Akhtar, England’s journey in India was not expected to be a rosy one. Moreover, the team was an under-strength one – the likes of Michael Vaughan, Simon Jones and Ashley Giles were absent and when an inform opener Marcus Trescothick returned home immediately before the start of first Test, England’s think tank was at bay.
England’s think tank decided to fly a 21-year old youngster named Alastair Cook from West Indies and on the first of March 2006, Cook walked out to bat with Strauss at Nagpur. It was hot, humid and tensed summer. But the 21-year old showed no signs of nerve on such a suffocating weather and on a deck, which was produced to aid the spinners.
Cook responded to the call when his country needed him and this has been the story in the last twelve years. The unknown lad started off with a half-century and a Test ton on his debut. His class was evident within just two sessions of first day – he handled the pace bowlers efficiently and his resolve against Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh earned a lot of accolades.
His outstanding resolve set the tone for the rest of the series. England displayed great character to draw the series in India. That fight back from the 21-year old had instilled the seed of confidence within the team, which paid rich dividends at the end of the day.
The fighting display at Nagpur was to unleash a fascinating career which would last for twelve long years. A career, which scripted more than twelve thousand Test runs and notched up 33 Test hundreds and most importantly, it had been a career of a man, who always responded whenever his Mother England was in trouble.
Ricky Ponting’s Australia were in a killer mood to gun down England during the Ashes 2010-11. England’s self-respect was under threat and in the second innings Cook batted 10 and half hours to remain unbeaten on 235 to save the first Test. He not only broke Sir Don Bradman’s record of highest score at the Gabba, but shrugged off a terrible summer, where he scored just 29 runs from eight consecutive innings. Like Nagpur, his fighting knock set the tone for the rest of the series – England would win the Ashes down under since 1986-87. Cook smashed 766 runs at a staggering average of 127.66!
Mother England’s prestige was saved.
In 2012, England cricket discovered themselves in another crisis. The textgate controversy and step-down of Strauss as the captain after the defeat against South Africa, left English cricket in tatters. Kevin Pietersen was at the centre of all the chaos and focus on the upcoming Test series against India took a back seat.
England appointed Cook as the worthy successor of Strauss. The new captain of England landed on Indian soil with a team, which was still wobbling from the defeat against Proteas and controversies. The team’s poor –self-belief was evident in the first Test, where they were badly beaten and critics forecasted a whitewash.
As usual, Mother England’s prestige was at stake!
Cook displayed one of the best of resolves ever seen in this decade. In the remaining Test matches, Cook would show, how greedy, he becomes for runs when the matter is about the honour of his country. England left the Indian shore by winning the series 2-1 since 1984! In the next one year he would experience an absolute purple-patch as a captain and batsman, but during the Australian summer of 2013-14, the kind of terror Mitchell Johnson unleashed, Cook failed to weather the storm. He could only watch the pride of his beloved country sink in the ocean of despair.
Then, KP was found in the centre of all the problems and many started to point a finger towards Cook and Andy Flower for the chaos. The phase of bad-patch had started and it started to test the character of Cook – another fightback was needed from the lad, who always shines when the going gets tough.
In the summer of 2014, it seemed, the series against India would be his last, but despite being 1-0 down in first two Tests, he inspired his men to bounce back and win the series. England won the Ashes next year under his captaincy and in 2015-16, England would tame South Africa at their own backyard. As a team, England had come a long way since that textgate controversy in 2012 and a terrible tour down under in 2013-14.
Cook will be missed
Despite all the hindrances, Cook instilled resolve and the self-confidence within the team, which were put under threat by various obnoxious agents, but his own form kept on denying his mental strength and patience. The critics were never quiet in the last two years. The bowlers around the world started to breach the defence, which was tough to beat once upon a time and Cook’s back foot started to betray him consistently. But Cook is a fighter and he would make a come back for the sake of his Mother England, that’s’ what I believed as I have always seen him do such.
But, Cook had other ideas. He decided to leave the stage at the age of 33. It’s an age when the careers of likes of Graham Gooch started to flourish and keeping that in mind, I firmly believe, Cook had a lot of cricket left in him, still! But it’s not always easy to move on when your own skills start to betray you and you get little support from everyone.
At the Oval, in his final Test, he showed his critics what they would miss in the upcoming days. They would miss the much-needed resolve in the batting order, a team-man, who had always been there for the betterment of his team and colleagues and a patriotic bloke, who had always been there whenever Mother England needed him!