By Adam Theaker
As England wrapped up the Test series over Sri Lanka at Chester-Le-Street the crowd in attendance witnessed one man write his way into cricketing immortality. Alastair Cook became the first Englishman and the youngest man to reach the 10,000 runs milestone and thus the conversation has begun to where Cook’s place in the pantheon of the great batsmen lies. It is often a common theme that current players aren’t fully appreciated until they have long since retired, but lets attempt to analyse if Cook deserves greater appreciation for his efforts.
There are 12 batsman who have gone past 10,000 runs and only 2 of them were retired before the Millennium (Gavaskar and Border). This highlights an important point when it comes to analysing the statistics. It is no surprise that the majority of those to go past the milestone have played in the recent era due to the amount of Test matches that are now played in comparison to the eras of players such as Donald Bradman and Len Hutton who are often regarded as the greatest batsmen of all time. Bradman only played 52 Tests in his 20 year career and his average of 99 will never be beaten. Whilst analysing the statistics of the 10,000 run group, Cook has the lowest average of the group at 46.49
However, Cook’s achievements should not be diminished purely by statistics or the fact that modern players play a lot more matches than their predecessors. Cook has played many memorable innings which have helped to secure his legacy as one of the finest batsman ever produced on this island. His Test career started in an equally memorable fashion in Nagpur 2006. In the second innings of the game, Cook scored a century in the sweltering Indian heat against Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh. The memorable thing about that innings on debut was how comfortable he looked in one of the most testing environments in the Test arena, he simply bided his time and picked off the bad balls, a trait that helped him from run 1 to run 10,000.
The series that Cook made the biggest impression was the 2010 Ashes series in Australia. As Cook walked out at the Gabba facing a first innings deficit of over 200 runs in the first test, it looked almost inevitable that England would fall behind in the series. What happened next simply defied logic. England batting third, managed a remarkable total of 517-1, with Cook scoring an unbeaten 235, which surpassed Don Bradman’s record for the highest test score made on that ground. That innings by Cook perfectly demonstrated his calm resolve in a situation which had England with their backs against the wall.
The innings at the Gabba was not a one-off but merely the start of a remarkable series for England and Cook. He went on to score 148 in the second test and 189 in the fifth test in Sydney. In any team sport, the impact the individual has on the team should be taken into account alongside any individual statistics when determining their place in history. In terms of Cook, the 2010/11 Ashes series highlights his importance and deserved place amongst the elite ever to play the game. He won player of the series scoring an impressive 766 runs – almost 200 hundred runs more than anyone else in the series – which helped England to a 3-1 series win and their first in Australia since 1986-7.
The mark of a truly great sportsman is how they cope when they are under pressure and show the grit and determination to succeed. Cook demonstrated all of the above against Pakistan 5 years apart. In the 2010 series, Cook was struggling and for the first time there was a serious question mark regarding his place within the team due to a string of low scores. However, in the third test he showed the kind of resolve needed to sustain a career in the gruelling Test arena. His 110 in the second innings wasn’t enough to prevent England from falling to defeat but it was enough to secure Cook’s place within the England side. Fast forward 5 years, in Abu Dhabi, Cook passed the ultimate endurance test by scoring 263 in 863 minutes which passed Sir Len Hutton’s vigil of 797 minutes at the crease. This added to his impressive collection of records which meant he achieved the longest Test innings by an Englishman. One statistic that sums up the simplicity of Cook’s game is that in such an enduring innings Cook only scored 18 boundaries.
I believe Cook deserves his place in history as one of the finest batsman ever produced in England. He has scored the most Test centuries, he has the most runs and also batted the longest innings by an Englishman. He has been very impressive away from English conditions with 16 centuries coming on foreign shores and in an era dominated by quick scoring and power hitting, he is comfortable batting the way he always has that has brought him so much success. I look forward watching Cook churn out runs on his way to the next milestone.