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The 'Cook' who made England dream again

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Alastair_Cook_England_cricketAlastair Cook, perhaps one of the most elegant looking English batsman, has finally managed to break a record which few had thought would be broken. He became the youngest batsman in history to score 10,000 runs (31 years 157 days) surpassing the God of Cricket - Sachin Tendulkar (31 years 326 days).

For a man whose strokes look as matured as the words he speaks, this shouldn't surprise regular cricket fans, specially those who follow Test Cricket frequently. I've seen many great players rise in my lifetime, from the likes of Steve Smith, Andrew Strauss, Virat Kohli and others. Players like Virat and Steve matured as they progressed through their careers. You could easily spot them getting frustrated in initial matches when they had kickstarted their professional lives. Virat still has that, maybe that is what defines him.

On the other hand, even when I saw Cook during his playing days in Essex as a young batsman, he looked quite mature. If you compare those innings with the last one he just played against Sri Lanka, you'll hardly notice any difference. He doesn't glamorize, he keeps it simple, he keeps it real.

 

Cook loves to throw his bat at short deliveries. He also has his own weaknesses. What really makes the difference is that you can't tempt him. He won't play a rash shot, he'll wait for you to make a mistake. And then comes a short ball, which flashes straight into the boundary. Test Cricket tests your patience, so does Cook. His pull balances perfectly, bat on top of the ball as they make contact and a slight yet strong wrist movement throws the ball racing.

As an Essex batsman, Cook made two hundreds against Australia. His talent gradually started gathering attention. Graham Gooch was one of the first to notice him. He once said to Mark Nicolas, "This lad Cook would make a mountain of runs in Test match cricket". How true those words were.

Cook made his debut for England against India in India. The year was 2006. And he made a hundred! True to his characters, patience dripped through the shots he played. Impressed by his performance, the selectors recalled him in the test squad for the English summer.

As the days passed, he continued to tumble records. Youngest English to score 1000 runs, youngest English to score 2000 runs, 3000 runs, 4000 runs, 5000 runs! I could go on, but everyone gets the gist. In him, England found a true performer. He wasn't a star, he didn't bring the charizma or flair like a Kevin Peitersen or a Cristiano Ronaldo would bring to the team. He was the silent trooper which every team needed. He performed in silence but his records made the noise.

 

Cook is one of the fittest players in England, even when you bring footballers and rugby players into the picture. According to the National Sports Center in England, his fitness is at par compared to national rugby players. Though it might come as a surprise to many - considering his fielding skills have often been considered lethargic, his long innings have quite often been scored in hot and humid conditions.

One cannot forget the mesmerizing inning he played against Australia in 2010 at the Gabba. 235 not out, followed by another hundred in the next test at the Adelaide Oval. England won the Ashes series 2-1, their first win away from home in decades!

Apart from his batting skills, his captaincy of the national side has been a major boost for England. After being heavily criticized for the 5-0 thrashing in Australia during the Ashes in 2013-14, nobody thought he would make a return as the captain. He himself wasn't sure if he was the right man to do it. Pressure due to under-performance in the Ashes had already forced many players to retire, including the likes of Jonathan Trott. Cook was just another player, or perhaps he wasn't. After some pondering, Cook realised that he loved his job as a captain. Moreover, he was convinced that no other player could hold the team together as he did. Back with a bang, England won the test against India in Southampton. Then again in Old Trafford and then again at the Oval! Cook was back in his vintage form, the past didn't matter. England thrashed India to win the Pataudi Trophy 3-1.

This was only a start of his brilliant run, the next summer brought back joys England never expected. An Ashes victory over arch-rivals Australia! Never before had I seen Cook get so emotional during his speech. Perhaps it was a redemption he thought he was never going to get. English media finally acknowledged Cook, and the world now knew he wasn't ordinary.

Another instinctive feature about Cook is that he never likes to be in limelight. Despite his good looks, he's too shy. He doesn't want to be the story himself, and refuses to linger around personal feats. As he became the youngest batsman to score 10,000 runs, his attitude wasn't any different. He did admit it was a pretty cool achievement, but swiftly turned the attention towards James Anderson's 450th wicket and another brilliant effort by the bowlers against Sri Lanka. That's Cook for you.

As Cook registers another number in history, he still has a long way to go. A man whose greatness was immortalized by Gooch himself a decade ago, Cricket World still has a lot to expect from this humble servant.

 

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