Exactly four years ago, on 11 September, 2018, Kennington Oval Cricket Ground dazzled in adulation to pay final homage—to one of the stalwarts of the gentleman’s game—cricket – and here we are rewinding it for you. The spectators, precisely die-hard fans of Alastair Cook, witnessed the proceedings of the last day of the fifth and final Test match of the Specsavers Test series with bated breath. The coveted trophy is more known as Pataudi Trophy.
The die-hard fans thronged the stadium to give a befitting farewell to former captain and stylish southpaw, Cook. India was chasing down the humongous target of 464 runs in the fourth innings which also witnessed dramatic resistance from Team India batters.
It subsequently kept Cook’s fans for a few more hours. After initial hiccups in the chase, K L Rahul and Rishabh Pant rose to the occasion. To defy England, both kept their calm and stitched together a partnership of 204 runs for the sixth wicket.
Meanwhile, both batsmen racked up their centuries respectively. Pant’s was audacious in approach as rampant Rahul played a gritty knock.
Post-tea, a ripper from Adil Rashid landed on the rough outside leg, it turned viciously and dislodged the off stump of Rahul, who was left in a state of shock. Rahul’s wicket also opened the floodgates, and two overs later, Pant returned to the dugout after smashing his maiden ton.
Cook’s fans heaved a sigh of relief. Emotions and excitement rent the air. It didn’t take much to bundle out the tail of India. James Anderson completed the formality by dismissing Mohammad Shami to surpass Glen McGrath and became the most successful bowler with 464 scalps.
But Cook was the centre of attraction. He started on a high note in 2006 and finished off in style on similar lines by notching a fifty and then walking off amid a standing ovation after registering a terrific ton.
From Nagpur to The Oval it was a fairytale to become the doyens of the contemporary English cricket
True to his moniker, ‘Chef’, Cook registered too many coveted records and entertained his fans during his prolific career spanned more than 12 years.
The calm and composed figure like Cook donned English colours in 92 One-day International to amass 3,204 runs at an average of 36.50. He registered five centuries and 19 half-fifties under his belt.
Moreover, Cook made only four appearances in the Twenty20 Internationals to aggregate 61 runs bereft of fifty. However, he put down curtains on the white-ball cricket very early but went on to progress in the most extended format by leaps and bounds.
As an opener, he defiantly faced the seam and swing be it at home or away from home. As a captain, he backed and banked on his players to fair well while being a nonchalant character against the spin attack.
As a slip fielder, Cook took sensational catches though dropped a few sitters. He scripted too many roles for himself and materialised them with a surgeon’s precision.
Meanwhile, he never let arrogance to get better of him. The heartwarming responses from cricketing world vouch for that in one way or another. The down-to-earth Cook was too young to call it quits, but as he says, “The timing is right.” and fans did oblige.
Cook has added many feathers to his cap. He played most Tests (161 Tests) for his country and amassed 12,472 runs. The highest run-getter of all time for England took over his mentor Graham Gooch (8,900 runs) in terms of most runs by any English players in the Test fold.
The elegant leader of his time, Cook led England in 59 Tests, the most ever in England’s Test cricket history. He is the youngest English player and sixth overall to complete 12,000 runs in the longest format of the game.
So much so, that he is the fifth player overall to start his career with a bang and ended up on a high note. He also became the first opener to reach 12,000-plus runs in Test history.
As slip fielder for England in the Test circuit, Cook latched upon 175 catches.
World cricket’s response to his retirement:
No sooner than he announced to draw curtains on his decade-long career, Cricketers, cricket commentators and fans took to Twitter to pay homage to this gentleman of the game.
Former Team India cricketer, Mohammad Kaif wrote on his(Cook) swansong, “Congratulations Alastair cook on a glorious career. You can be very proud of the way you played. Best wishes for the future.”
“No player has given more to the England cricket shirt…No player has got more out of their ability… No player has shown more mental strength than Alastair Cook. More than that he is the nicest cricketer we have ever had. Thanks for all the memories cookie…,” Michael Vaughan, former England skipper said about Cook.
His teammate in his last match Jonny Barstow terms him as a backbone of English cricket.
“A true legend who set the benchmark on and off the pitch. It has been an honour playing alongside you. Congratulating on a stellar @englandcricketcareer, Cooky,” Bairstow commented about Cook. Many others from the cricketing world showed praise for Cook in last Test match.
Awards: Testament and recognition for his excellence in the field:
Acknowledging his services rendered in the field of cricket, England and ICC feted him with many awards over a decade. He was appointed a member of the order of the British Empire [MBE] in 2011 and commander of the order of the British Empire [CBE] in 2016.
Also, Cook is the recipient of the NBC Denis Compton Award in 2004 for being the manifestation of the prodigal knack in cricket. He received the Professional Cricketers Association (PCA) award while being the Young Cricketer of the Year in 2005. World cricket governing body International Cricket Council (ICC) named him the ICC Test Player in 2011, and he became Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 2012. He was elevated as the ICC World Test XI captain in 2013 and 2015 respectively.
Who will fill the void in the English team which Cook has left?
As left-hander Cook bids adieu to put an end to his illustrious career, too many questions are being posed at the then head coach Trevor Bayliss, Joe Root Root and his men.
Keaton Jennings as an opener hasn’t much on offer to showcase his talent. He floundered on most of the occasions in the recently-concluded Test series against India. Root can’t open the innings as he expressed his wish to bat at number four.
Scarp that, a team like Three Lions always needs someone in the middle order who can weather the storm in alien conditions. Bairstow has opened for England in ODIs but the Test cricket is altogether a different ball game.
If it is not the case for Moeen Ali, Jos Butler and Jonny Bairstow to open in Tests, then it would be someone who is sweating it out in the county cricket.
One thing is for sure it won’t be that easy to fill Cook’s shoes while donning the whites for England. Whosoever will open for England will have to take a leaf out of Cook’s magic book and do what he did as an opener for England.
Complacency: At the end of the day
Now, during downtime with his family amidst the clanking of beer bottles and smiles, Cook would look back at his remarkable career. His inner self would quip with elation, “I wouldn’t have asked for a better…”.
Besides, Cook was cut above the rest. I bid this best Chef of the cricket — the best of luck in his future endeavours and loads of love.
There was more about chime when the English media feted Cook. So much so, he was handed over 33 bottles of beer (to celebrate his 33 Test tons) during the press conference. There is nothing to surprise, and this is how Cook put an end to his career by delighting one and all.
Tanveer Magrey is a freelance journalist from India (Kashmir), having masters in Convergent Journalism from the Central University of Kashmir.