If you repeat something often enough it becomes true. Well, it doesn’t actually become true, but it becomes accepted wisdom – something that’s partially true, or in some cases not true at all. Yesterday Stuart Broad reiterated one of the more popular pieces of accepted wisdom in English cricketing folklore: he called Alastair Cook, who has been a good opening test batsman for almost a decade, England’s best ever player. I think you’ll agree this sets the bar rather high. Which is why I’m going to argue something very different – that Alastair Cook is overrated.
I don’t blame Broad for spinning this yarn. His place in the team is currently under the microscope, and his captain is under pressure, so praising Cook kills two birds with one stone: it’s good sabre rattling before an important series and simultaneously endears him to the management. Stuart’s PR skills are obviously in fine rhythm.
Or are they? Good PR ceases to be good PR when it unravels effortlessly under close scrutiny. In this case, a quick trip to cricinfo’s Statsguru was enough to throw the validity of Broad’s assertion into question. If only more cricket pundits spent their time doing the same. If they did so they’d probably end up asking a very different question: is Cook the best England batsman of all time or the most overrated?
At first glance Cook’s test career is impressive: 8432 runs at 46.02. I’d certainly like those statistics next to my name. Historically, 8432 runs is a hell of a lot. Perhaps there’s no need to delve any further? A lot of people certainly think it’s case closed at this point. You can’t argue that Alastair Cook is overrated when he’s scored this many runs.
Well, the purpose of cricket blogs is to delve where many mainstream journalists fear to tread. So that’s exactly what I’m going to do. My intention is not to skewer scared cows – perhaps there’s a few on Alastair’s farm – but I’m not going to accept a cow is holy simply because Stuart Broad tells me it is. I need hard evidence people.
For starters, let’s see how Cook’s average of 46 stacks up against other batsmen from the near and distance past. Yes, it’s difficult to compare batsmen from different eras, but I’m not the person arguing that Cook’s the best England batsman of all time. If you’re going to bring ‘all time’ into this, it’s impossible to ignore players from previous eras.
A quick glance at Statsguru reveals that approximately seventy players in test history have averaged more than Cook. A number of those played on uncovered pitches too.
But what about more recent batsmen? I discovered that thirty odd players from the last ten years (when batting averages have been higher) averaged more than Cook. In fact there are eighteen current players who average more than Cook. One of them is an Englishman, Joe Root, who averages over fifty. Another one is a little known player called Kevin Pietersen – who is generally considered a player of great innings, not a great batsman (let alone England’s best ever). On this evidence it becomes easy to argue that Alastair Cook is overrated.
Obviously averages and aggregates don’t really tell the whole story. Graeme Hick scored over 41,000 first class runs at 52, and Mark Ramprakash scored almost 36,000 at 53. Were Hick and Ramprakash great players? Perhaps they were on some level, against a certain standard of bowling, but they were often found wanting against the very best. Perhaps their best attribute was the ability to cash in against mediocre bowling – a skill that’s not to be sniffed at, but not something that qualifies them as two of England’s greatest.
When observers like Broad, and Cook’s many friends in the media, portray England’s skipper as the best player his country has ever produced, his twenty 25 test tons are usually cited as evidence. And why not? On the surface, a tally of twenty plus tons is mightily impressive. However, enquiring cricketing minds seek to look behind headline statistics. When assessing the value of innings, one surely has to take into account who the runs were scored against?
In the interests of analysing Cook’s career accurately and fairly, I’ve listed every one of his 25 test tons below. After each of them I’ve written down which bowlers these tons were scored against.
As a guide, I’ve put a * against what most observers would consider to be top class test bowling i.e. attacks that included two or more bowlers who averaged less than thirty in test cricket at the time. I’ve added a (*) when an attack was above average but short of top quality; for example, Southee and Boult are now considered good bowlers but were not on the same level in 2012/13 as they are now.
Alastair Cook’s Highest Test Scores
294 v India – Kumar, Sreesanth, Sharma, Mishra
235 v Australia – Hilfenhaus, Siddle, Johnson (2010 version), Watson
190 v India – Zaheer Khan, Sharma, Ashwin, Ojha
189 v Australia – Hilfenhaus, Johnson (2010 version), Siddle, Watson
176 v India – Zaheer Khan, Yadav, Ashwin, Ojha,
173 v Bangladesh – Hossain, Hussain, Shakib, Islam
160 v West Indies – Taylor, Edwards, Baker, Benn
148 v Australia – Harris, Bollinger, Siddle, Watson
139 v West Indies – Edwards, Powell, Taylor, Benn
133 v Sri Lanka – Lakmal, Perera, Herath, Maharoof
130 v New Zealand – Boult, Southee, Wagner, Bracewell (*)
127 v Pakistan – Sami, Gul, Razzaq, Kaneria
122 v India – Zaheer Khan, Ashwin, Ojha, Harbhajan
118 v South Africa – Steyn, Ntini, Morkel, Kallis *
118 v Sri Lanka – Murali, Vaas , Malinga, Welegedara *
116 v Australia – McGrath, Lee, Clark, Warne *
116 v New Zealand – Southee, Boult, Wagner, Martin (*)
115 v South Africa – Steyn, Philander, Morkel, Kallis *
110 v Pakistan – Amir, Asif, Riaz, Ajmal *
109 v Bangladesh – Islam, Razzaq, Shakib, Mahmudullah
106 v West Indies – Edwards, Taylor, Collymore, Bravo
106 v Sri Lanka – Welegedara, Lakmal, Fernando, Maharoof
105 v Pakistan – Sami, Gul, Razzaq, Kaneria
105 v West Indies – Powell, Taylor, Collymore, Bravo
104 v India – Pathan, Sreesanth, Kuble, Harbajhan
The above data reveals that Alastair Cook has scored just five test hundreds against top class bowling. Only four of these have come against quality pace attacks. What is more, if one looks at these innings closely, they mostly come with significant caveats that actually add weight to my argument that Alastair Cook is overrated (rather than the other way around).
The 116 Cook made at Perth (a ground tailor made for his style of batting) in 2006 was his only significant contribution of the series. He made a paltry 222 runs at an average of 25 in this (his first) Ashes series and was broadly sent packing by an unimpressed Australian side and sceptical public. The Aussies certainly agreed that Alastair Cook is overrated – at least they did at that point in time.
Cook’s career saving 110 against Pakistan at the Oval in 2010 was very similar to his scratchy 95 at Southampton last year. Cook was all over the place early in his innings and survived a number of agonising close calls before eventually settling down. Plus, once again, it was his only innings of note all series. He made just 167 runs in four tests at a miserable average of 24.
Cook’s 115 at The Oval in 2012 was complied on an uncharacteristically slow Oval surface; the Proteas made 637-2 in their first innings. What’s more Cook’s record in the series was a poor one: just 195 runs at an average of 32.5. It was a big series, and not for the first time, Cook went missing. This doesn’t sound like the best England batsman of all time to me.
If anything, Cook’s overall performances in these series indicate his weakness against top quality fast bowling not the reverse – the centuries were clearly aberrations amongst numerous failures. In fact, one could argue that Cook has only proven himself against top class opposition just twice:
Cook’s best performance came on the 2009 tour of South Africa in which he played what I believe was his best test innings. His 118 at Durban was a mature, composed knock, in which he blunted an extremely good attack.
However, it must be noted that Cook scored less runs on that tour than both Collingwood, who was often depicted as a limited player, and the much maligned Ian Bell too. Cook’s 287 runs at 41 was also notably less than his overall career average.
Just as impressive was Cook’s performance on the tour to Sri Lanka in 2007. His 118 at Galle was a very impressive innings for a young player. It is difficult to find any fault with his performance on this tour (he topped the averages 278 runs at 46) although it must be noted that the pitches were slow and Sri Lanka’s best bowlers were spinners. Cook has always been a very good player of spin. Cook’s ability to deal with Murali is not the issue here. It’s his technique against quality pace bowling that has always been his achilles heel.
When one looks at his other test hundreds, it’s apparent he has made a career of punishing limited attacks – a surefire sign that Alastair Cook is overrated. Ten of his twenty-five centuries have arguably come against worse bowling than you’d expect in the first division of the county championship. The five tons against the West Indies, the two against Bangladesh, and two of his centuries against Sri Lanka were particularly easy runs (his 133 came against a seam attack of Lakmal, Perera and Maharoof, who had a combined test average of over 50).
I’m sure many of Cook’s fans will point to his performances against Australia in 2010/11 as evidence of his prowess. Two of his four highest test scores came on that tour. His supporters might even point out that Mitchell Johnson played in that series. It’s a point worth discussing here.
As all England fans know, Mitchell Johnson bowled to left, the right, the left and back to the right again in that series. His test average at the time was on the wrong side of thirty, and his action was in tatters. Furthermore Cook’s nemesis, Ryan Harris, missed two of the test matches. Cook’s two highest scores of the series (two of his three tons) came in the games Harris missed through injury.
Australia’s 2010/11 attack was led by Ben Hilfenhaus and Peter Siddle – arguably the weakest new ball pairing Australia had fielded for decades. Indeed, Australia’s attack was completely out-gunned by a not so terrific trio of Anderson, Tremlett and Bresnan. My overriding memory of that tour was David Lloyd and Ian Botham celebrating the toothless nature of Australia’s bowlers, and the Aussie commentators lamenting the paucity of resources at Ricky Ponting’s disposal.
Having said all that, however, it seems unfair to present Cook’s record in a negative light without comparing him to other England players. Although Cook clearly isn’t great when assessed against his international contemporaries, perhaps he should be ranked as purely ‘an English great’. In other words, if we lower the bar, then maybe it becomes harder to argue that Alastair Cook is overrated.
Although I’m tempted to compare Cook with the aforementioned Graeme Hick, who was considered a failure at test level, I must admit they’re totally different players. Therefore all I’ll say – and you might find this interesting – is that Hick scored three of his five test hundreds against the following attacks (their averages are in brackets):
Graeme Hick’s Highest Test Scores (3 of 5 hundreds)
178 v India – Kapil Dev (29), Prabhakar (32), Kumble (29) and Raju (31)
141 v South Africa – Donald (22), Pollock (23), Schultz (20) Matthews (29)
118 v West Indies – Walsh (24), Bishop (24), Benjamin (30), Dhanraj (74)
I’d politely suggest that these three test centuries equal (or even surpass) most of Cook’s centuries for England. Hick’s other two test tons came against a Sri Lankan side containing Murali, and a Zimbabwe team that boasted Heath Streak. Not too shabby I’m sure you’ll agree. If only Hick had been able to feast on Lakmal and Perera.
However, instead of dissecting Hick’s career, I think it would be much wiser to compare Cook to another English opener. I randomly chose Michael Atherton, whose test average of 37 was, well, pretty average at first glance. Of course, Athers also suffered from a hereditary back condition that made it almost impossible to move around the crease after his thirtieth birthday. This obviously impacted his career.
Anyway, here is a list of Atherton’s test centuries (sixteen in all) and who they were scored against. I’ve put a * against the very good attacks – although in Athers’ case they were usually bloody frightening rather than merely ‘very good’.
Mike Atherton’s Highest Test Scores
185 v South Africa – Donald, Pollock, Pringle, McMillan *
160 v India – Srinath, Prasad, Kumble, Raju
151 v New Zealand – Hadlee, Morrison, Snedden, Bracewell (*)
144 v West Indies – Ambrose, Walsh, W.Benjamin, K.Benjamin *
136 v Zimbabwe – Streak, Nkala, Johnson, Mbangwa
135 v West Indies – Ambrose, Walsh, W.Benjamin, K.Benjamin *
131 v India – Kapil Dev, Prabhakar, Kumble, Hirwani (*)
125 v Pakistan – Waqar Younis, Razzaq, Saqlain, Kaneria *
118 v New Zealand – Allott, Doull, Davis, Vettori
113 v West Indies – Walsh, Bishop, K. Benjamin, Dhanraj *
111 v New Zealand – Nash, Owens, Pringle, Hart
108 v South Africa – Donald, Pollock, Hayward, Klusener *
108 v West Indies – Ambrose, Walsh, McLean, Nagamootoo *
105 v Australia – Alderman, Reid, Rackemann, Matthews *
103 v South Africa – Donald, Pollock, Klusener, P. Adams *
101 v New Zealand – Davis, Nash, Larsen, Hart
As you can see, nine of Atherton’s test centuries came against extremely hostile attacks. These centuries were made against all time greats like Donald, Pollock, Ambrose, Walsh and Waqar. This proves, beyond reasonable doubt, Atherton’s ability to do what openers do best: see off the new ball and withstand genuine, top class fast bowling.
Although Atherton scored a few easy runs against New Zealand, his highest score against the Kiwis was made against the great Richard Hadlee. What’s more, his runs against India came against attacks that featured two all-time India greats (Kapil Dev and Anil Kumble) playing in the same team.
My aim here is not to try and prove that Atherton was better than Cook. I’m simply providing information that will help readers decide whether Alastair Cook is overrated. Was he really is an all time great, or simply even an England great?
As I said above, it’s hard to compare batsmen from different eras. What I do know for sure, however, is that Atherton has never been described as England’s best ever batsman, despite his list of hugely impressive centuries against some of the best bowlers the world has ever seen. Let’s just revisit the score here: it’s Atherton nine, Alastair Cook five.
Of course, statistics like these can only show us so much. They provide insight but do have weaknesses. For example, nobody knows how Cook would have fared against the hostile bowling encountered by Atherton and his creaking back. Given the opportunity to face top class seam bowling more often, maybe Cook would have scored a similar (or greater) number of runs? What’s more, who’s to say that Atherton would have scored as heavily against the likes of Fidel Edwards and Corey Collymore as Cook?
This is where guesswork (or rather educated guessing) comes in. Based on his record against New Zealand, I suspect Atherton would have filled his boots against the bowlers of the last ten years – although I cannot say this for certain.
What’s more, the fact that Cook has scored just four centuries against top quality fast bowling, and that three of these innings came in series in which he struggled mightily, I think it’s fair to assume that Cook’s career would have been most disappointing had he played in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
What’s more Cook’s career record against Australia – he has disappointed in six of his seven Ashes series – suggests that when Stuart Broad called his captain the best batsman in England’s history, he simply hadn’t done his research properly.
Is Broad aware that Cook has never scored an Ashes century at home despite having more opportunities to do so than any of his contemporaries? Is Broad aware that Cook has the second worst average of any English opening batsman in home Ashes series since World War One (minimum of five games)? I bet he isn’t.
I bet he doesn’t realise that the one player who has a worse record than Cook, Mark Butcher, actually scored one of the best centuries ever made by an Englishman in the Ashes when he batted number three at Headingley in 2001. Therefore, one could argue that Cook is actually the most disappointing player on the list.
The next twelve months are absolutely critical for Alastair Cook and England. If our captain wants to save his test career he’ll have to do something he has never done before: score runs consistently against top class opposition.
If Cook can score heavily against New Zealand, Australia, Pakistan and South Africa in the next calendar year, then I might start taking people who call him England’s best ever batsman more seriously. Until then, I’ll keep arguing that Alastair Cook is overrated.*
Runs against the West Indies will help to ease the pressure, but I cannot agree with those who will doubtless claim that Cook’s back in business if he succeeds in the Caribbean. Runs against a threadbare Windies side will mean nothing in the scheme of Cook’s career: it will simply prove that at his best, Cook is still extremely adept at punishing very mediocre bowling.
The problem with England’s captain (as the data demonstrates) is that Cook’s best is rarely good enough against the very best. At thirty years of age, Cook should be at his peak. Unfortunately, no test centuries for nearly two years suggests that Cook is actually past his best.
It is time for Alastair Cook took to stand up and be counted. Good player though he is (especially against spin) the next year will be all about how he copes with a sustained barrage of top quality pace bowling. Let’s pray he’s up to the challenge. His country desperately needs him.
* Update: Cook subsequently disappointed in these series. It shouldn’t have been a surprise. In fact, his career generally wound down after I wrote this article and he ultimately retired. His biggest success was a double hundred made at the MCG which was, typically, a completely dead and slow surface that completely nullified Australia’s fast bowlers. It was a great feat of concentration – classic Cook – but like in the subcontinent, slow pitches make it difficult for pacemen to expose his technical foibles.
Great analysis there James. Backs up what a lot of people think without having the DATA.
Also fascinating to see Athers’ career record of tons…always said he was a class act and an amazing record of tons against the bowling attacks he faced…would rather have scored the runs he scored than Cook’s runs.
Atherton’s record would have been better in another era, but I don’t like making those sort of comparisons. His bad back, on the other hand probably, knocked a few runs off his average.
Comparisons always difficult but the attacks that Athers faced were in a diffucult league to today and also test wickets weren’t produced by chief execs trying to pay for staging payments in his era…
Wow! This is some piece! Never really looked at it like this. Usually most people commenting on Cook’s form haven’t really looked at his scores in his career and who they have been scored against. This question continues to keep coming up whenever the issue of Cook and dropping him is brought up. It’s an interesting point but it also takes away the effort that Cook had to put in to score those centuries, albeit against less fancied attacks than the South African foursome (Steyn, Morkel, Kallis, Philander and Ntini when he was playing) The runs shouldn’t be taken at face value but neither should the centuries be dismissed as barely anything.
That being said, this Windies series is simply a chance for Cook to get confidence in his ability. There are a really good bunch of Windies quicks coming up and if it’s some of the lads that played in the WC like Taylor and Holder not to mention the spin factor. Unfortunately WI haven’t announced the squad as yet but this will be more of a test for Cook considering his recent record. Think also if Trott opens with him, there might be a sense of familiarity and he might just surprise everyone.
Odd comment from Broad.
Cook has a very good record, and unless this year goes *really* badly, he will finish as England’s highest run scorer in Tests.
But it’s unlikely that he’ll go down as one of our very greatest players. The fact is, we’ve had quite a few openers with excellent records – though you do have to go back a few decades for them. Hutton for example scored 19 centuries in 79 games and averaged 56. You’ve also got Gooch, Boycott, Hobbs and Sutcliffe. Some fine players.
His longevity is of course admirable and it does add to a record. But you’d struggle to find many who would say Ponting or Border is better than Bradman, or Chanderpaul better than Richards.
But that’s not to take anything away from Cook. Of the 665 players to have played for England, he’ll comfortably be in the top 5% or so.
“It’s unlikely that he’ll go down as one of our very greatest players”.
It depends who’s writing the history!
I think (and hope) with the passage of time, the correct and fair view prevails most of the time.
Just like people remember Botham, Gatting and Gooch for their performances (as opposed to cannabis, barmaids and rebel tours), both Cook and Pietersen will be remembered primarily for their runs and great innings.
Regarding the longevity and high aggregates of modern players, I also doubt you’ll find anyone who says Cook’s better than the likes of Ponting, Chanderpaul, Michael Clarke ect.
Personally, I think it’s very unfair to criticise Cook just because he hasn’t scored runs against the top class bowling attacks. You can only score against what’s in front of you and Cook has done that. It is a general pattern that the quality of bowling has diminished – especially in comparison to the nineties where the Atherton analysis is unnecessary. I doubt even the beloved KP had scored as many hundreds against world class opposition in comparison to Athers. Nevertheless, Cook has scored 25 test hundreds for his country in the highest format of the game and for that, he deserves praise. Surely, it would be more embarrassing if he had failed to score runs against these poor quality bowlers. Naturally, batsman tend to struggle more against top opposition. After all, it is a game between bat and the ball.
The whole gist of this argument is that Cook does not score runs against top bowling irrespective of the era so it is justifiable to criticise him. His career stats are based on him accumulating runs against weaker bowling attacks. He has received special treatment which has protected his career to result in the longevity.
This isn’t about KP so it’s odd to bring him into it but given his track record against good bowling and rising to the occasion he may well have excelled in Athers’ era but that is highly speculative.
All true, but the main point I was trying to make is that Cook has usually failed quite badly on the few occasions he has actually faced top quality bowling.
I fear you’ve rather missed the point; it’s not that the bowling he’s faced has been weaker than previous generations (although arguably it has) and he’s being criticized for beating what’s in front of him, it’s that he’s often been confronted with good bowling attacks and more times than not has failed against them.
Cook is not a patch on Mike Atherton. He has not played against the strength and depth of quality bowlers. James may not like to hazard a guess as to what Cook may have achieved if he had to play against such great bowlers but I will.
In my opinion he would have failed, and failed badly. And judging by the number of times both Hick and Ramps were dropped by England I don’t think he would have been given his current luxury of going 2 years without a century.
And never mind the England batsman who had to take on the great WI sides in the 70s and 80s. (The last Ashes was a reminder of the difficulty of playing real quality pace bowling. Cook failed hopelessly) And before that you are talking about un covered pitches.
If Stuart Broad thinks Cook is England s greatest batsman he is an idiot. But then judging by the short pitched bowling of long hops and half trackers he has served up lately he seems clueless.
For crying out loud. Give it up.
We know this blogs position on Cook. You’ve said it many times before. You do not need to spend glorious bank holiday Monday’s proving your point.
You’re obsessed man.
There is an “unsubscribe” option.
Nothing stupider than someone who comes on another persons blog and complains about what he/she chooses to write about.
Most of your own posts on here should come with a govt health warning. “There now follows a party political broadcast on behalf of the ECB.”
“You can use stats to prove or disprove any argument. But you need to stick to facts.”
I think James gave you a ton of facts. Sorry you missed them. Perhaps you can offer 20 to 30 facts in reply.
this is my first visit here, so thanks for confirming what I was suspecting reading this piece; that this “research” already had its conclusion determined long before it was begun. Cook will almost certainly score more runs than any other England batsman in Test history — he can’t be that bad… He’s also scored more runs (at a much younger age) than KP in the same period, and against the same oppositions. Would you swap him for Hobbs or Hutton, yeah, probably, but he record still deserves respect.
Youth has absolutely nothing to do with anything. Cook played at an early age because Trescothick retired suddenly whereas KP had a qualification period due to his South African roots. As for doing research that confirms a preconceived conclusion, I think you’ll find that you are the one who arrived at this blog with a preconceived opinion – as you freely admit.
Do you think I would have written this article if the evidence backed up a different conclusion? Of course not. I wrote it because the evidence was overwhelming. Meanwhile, the suggestion I’ve cherry picked evidence is absurd. I’ve listed EVERY test century in his career, not just some of them. I have not fabricated the evidence or twisted it. I’ve stated it as cold, hard fact, and then reached the only natural conclusion. I cannot twist the bowling averages of the guys Cook has scored runs against. They are statistics written in stone for all to see.
And nobody said Cook doesn’t deserve respect. I clearly said he was a good opener and has been for a very long time. I’m simply arguing he isn’t as great as some believe. Did you actually read the piece? It seems you’ve skimmed it.
Cognitive dissonance, it seems.
You can use stats to prove or disprove any argument. But you need to stick to facts.
For instance, Athers didn’t score a century against the great Richard Hadlee. He scored a century against a Richard Hadlee that was very much near the end of his career.
“You can use stats to prove or disprove any argument”.
Typically lazy argument by those who can’t be bothered to research them but would rather assert their prejudices or, as your previous post makes clear, would rather play the man than the ball.
Richard Hadlee averaged 21 with the ball in the last two years of his Test career. That’s a fact. In my opinion, that puts Hadlee right up there with the greats until the end of his career.
That Hadlee bit was a very minor part of the argument Neil. Show me another article that looks at every single one of Cook’s test centuries and then I’ll accept it was a waste of time.
Interesting article. Big problem for cook is that bowling has generally improved in test cricket and ox bz sa and pak have 4 of the best attacks. They will have bowlers good enough to expose his weakness. Sure he will score runs in the windies. Personally I feel tres was a better opener than cook.
Trescothick scored almost exactly the same weight of runs as Cook, but against noticeably better bowling. I researched his record for this piece but chose Athers.
could you put those stats too as info, would liek to see the comparisons, while not releavent woudnt mind seeing KP’s too.
Great piece as usual james, sheds a new light as to how i look at cook, while i never considered him the greatest always put him in that one of the best openers category,
Neil I’ve read your blog and suffice to say, it’s garbage. I wouldn’t criticise other people’s blogs if I was churning out some of the banal stuff that you do. Another shout out has to go to the ‘Voicefromthestand’ who has to be the most jumped up and irritating tweeter out there. If he’s not tediously trying push the ISM conspiracy theories, he’s trying to get a reaction from the likes of Piers Morgan or Kevin Pietersen by constantly replying in a provactive manner, in a desperate “please notice me” kind of way. Seriously read some of his tweets, you would think the guy was in his 80’s.
Thanks for reading Martin.
Cheers Martin. Always love feedback from the fans.
Ryan Harris played 3 tests in the 2010-11 series. He played at Adelaide, Perth & Melbourne.
Yes you’re right. Apologies. But Cook didn’t score a ton at either Perth or Melbourne, and I’ve already included the Adelaide ton. So it makes little difference to the data. Cheers for the heads up.
Jesus Christ, get some friends and get a life you sad, sad man…
I’ve just had a lovely day out with friends and family thanks. I tend not to go out on a Monday evening though … which is when I wrote this. Maybe next time I’ll write about people who fail to engage with well researched arguments and just resort to abuse.
Well researched and presented James. Good on you. You are entitled to to your opinion the same as everyone else, the difference is your opinion is backed by research and facts. His is backed by frustration that he can’t come up with anything intelligent to refute it
Why do people called Anonymous appear on blogs and tell us to get a life? Surely this means that you need to get out more as well?
Cook is not a great batsman. He is a one dimensional opening batsman. If people are saying that Cook is great then they should also be saying that Marcus Trescothick was an absolute genius as an opener.
Trescothick definitely could have been a great, imo. It’s a real shame it didn’t work out for him.
95 n/o at stumps against the st Kitts invitational Xl. The headlines will doubtless read that:-he’s letting his bat do the talking, back to his best, answers questions about his position, ends the KP debacle….take your pick!!!
Not the most demanding of oppositions, according to cricinfo…
…it tells you everything you need to know about the St Kitts performance that a stray dog that ran on to the playing area during the morning session provided more resistance to leaving the pitch than any of their batsmen.
Nice place, but the combined population of Nevis & St Kitts is just over half that of Halifax… who might give England a decent game.
What is it with DATA DATA DATA in this country
He scores runs against opposition put out in front of him, not his problem.
WG Grace scored runs against some absolute tosh back in the day
Murali took wickets against some awful opposition too
Its not like we have an abundance of talent lined up to walk in
But he hasn’t scored runs against teams put in front of him. He hasn’t scored a hundred for 2 years. While other players who have scored 100s have been dumped.
You witnessed the WG Grace matches did you, or did you rely on Data?
I don’t buy the ‘he can only score runs against the opposition in front of him’ because when he’s been presented with top opponents, he’s generally failed. That’s kind of the point I was trying to make. Apologies if this doesn’t come across.
“WG Grace scored runs against some absolute tosh back in the day”…breathtaking! Compare the achievements of WG Grace at his peak in the 1870s with any other batsman of his era. He might have been playing against tosh but he outscored everybody by a considerable margin. It is like Bradman versus the rest. His test debut came when he was 32 but his figures bear comparison with his younger contemporaries. Grace was never clinging on to past glories in the same way as Cook is. he always deserved a place.
Alastair Cook is among the best batsmen we’ve ever produced. We do him down a lot because of his robotic technique, his glaring weaknesses and his relative lack of beauty in the way he plays. In the same way we are deeply suspicious of talented freaks, so we are of manic obsessives. It’s simplistic in many ways, but Alastair Cook is the Nick Faldo to ,say, KP’s Seve Ballesteros. They both got there, but got there in different ways.
What sticks in my craw, as you all know, is that it is the record against Australia, our toughest foe, which is poor (and buffered immensely by that one tour) but which if you listen to all the paid pundits is supposedly good, and the lack of runs for two years, which is ignored. He is treated differently, but does he deserve to be? Many of us believe, passionately, he should not be, especially when someone else’s form is chucked in our faces as a reason to shut up about you-know-who.
Great piece James, tons of work and food for thought, and lots I don’t agree with, and as it’s late I won’t get into it. Ignore those who don’t put the counter argument and play the man. Until they write a blog like this, with the sheer effort and enthusiasm in entails, they really need to come up with something better than I’m seeing by way of a riposte.
Hear hear, some of the responses on here are childish and pathetic, with the odd bit of blasphemy thrown in for good measure. This is an extremely interesting analysis, thanks for taking the time to post it James. It’s been a bit of an eye opener reading it, finding myself more fascinated with Atherton’s skill than Cook’s lack of! I still consider myself as being fairly new to the game, certainly not a purist, so am enjoying reading and learning…
If I can play devils advocate for a moment, one thing I didn’t feel was taken into account was temperament and ticker. Admittedly I probably feel more comfortable ‘judging’ character rather than technique but it does seem like it is a crucial part of scoring a Test 100 that shouldn’t just be overlooked. I know India’s attack wasn’t top class by your qualifications, but I’d suggest that scoring 104 on your debut, opening away from home, is a top class century…? Likewise, in the same country against the same opposition, when he became the full-time captain he scored two hundreds in the first two Tests… 122 tough runs when nobody else made any in a heavy defeat and 176 in match-winning partnership with the brilliant Pietersen, who hit an even better one. Both of these should also rank as special efforts, no? I get that he is far from pleasing on the eye, but how much should aesthetics count for anyway? Who cares if he looked “scratchy” and survived close calls? Bowlers sometimes get lucky wickets, batsmen sometimes get lucky runs / reprieves. Isn’t it how many, rather than how?
James here. Thanks very much :-)
I’ve said it before in other articles before (and didn’t have time to repeat it again as the article was already quite long) but I’m a massive admirer of Cook’s mental strength. He is indeed a tough Cookie. What I question is his ability against the very best. I think he is a good player but an overrated one, for the reasons I’ve given in the article.
Many thanks. It’s sometimes hard to say something new, or at least say something new in a different way (with new evidence). I thought I’d achieved the latter above.
I believe this article would be unnecessary if the selectors were doing their job honestly and correctly. Cook doesn’t deserve to be in the team. He is being given a free ride. His team mates and embedded press are lined up to kiss his ring (you know how that’s really meant, you mucky types) whilst the Kiwis and Aussies are lining up to have him on toast. Maybe the West Indies will do him over, maybe not. But I’m sure he’s gonna get properly irrigated over the next year, even if Colin Graves turns out to be his new bestest cheerleader.
I would have liked Cook never to have been captain and to remain as a good opening batsman. Sadly, he was made captain, a position for which he is obviously unsuited and this has caused his decline. I would like him to resign, go back to the ranks and see if he can get his batting back. He will not do this because he is a Man of Steel aka stubborn and does not have the humility to admit he cannot cope. If he could summon up the courage, and it would take courage, to take this course of action then there is hope for him but until he does then his unhappy cricketing career will continue on its downward spiral and I am sorry for that. Perhaps if he can get a few runs against the Windies and get used to staying at the crease again for a long period of time it might help. He should be able to do this as we have been told by the highest cricketing authority in the land that they are ‘mediocre’…..
I’m wondering where the great W.G. Grace would fit in on the “greatest English batsman” list.
At the very top.
“Captain” and “pre-captain” stats might tell us something about Cook and Atherton
It’s a good analytical piece and one that confirms what I have always thought. Cook has an extremely limited shot selection for someone who has scored so heavily, he basically has 2 main scoring shots, 1) Clipping off his legs and 2) the cut shot. Over the last 2 years bowlers have worked out not to bowl full and on the stumps and also not to give him any width. If you keep the ball on and around off stump, if there is any movement he is extremely susceptible at knicking off to the slips / keeper. This tactic doesn’t even require world class bowlers, just discipline, look at Sri Lanka and how they managed him.
It is true that you are only a product of your environment and that you can only face what is in front of you. However with certain players you feel that they would still have been successful in other eras, for me KP is one that would still have fared well against the quality bowlers in the 90’s. Just look at how he took McGrath apart at Lords in 05, hitting him back over his head for 6 to bring up his 50, and this in his debut test match! Cook however, I’m certain would have failed, and failed to the point where he would probably have been discarded quite early on his career. I think he will probably score heavily in the current WI series, but I can’t see him doing anything of note against either NZ or Aus in the summer.
Stats, stats and more stats…..
Cook has been a great batsman for England. Obviously not our greatest but great all the same
He’s been a pretty crap captain though….
James, it’s an incredibly well researched and well written piece. Not criticising your work as you know I think you’re an excellent writer (which is why I won’t unsubscribe)
It’s just this subject matter again and again, the county championship starts in 6 days. Hopefully your attention will turn to that this week.
Thanks Neil. All I can say is that many people are still interested in Cook – as the number of comments and hits thus far shows. I’m afraid it’s impossible to please all of the people all of the time. I accept this isn’t an entirely new debate!
Yeah, that’s probably what I’m struggling to understand. People don’t share my decision to move on!!
PerhaPs Neil we get fed up with being told to Move On when there sre still so many unanswered questions and biased journalism and dishonesty. I have commented above about Alastair. Part of me feels sorry for him at the position he is now in, part of me tells me he could sort this out if he wanted to. I posted a tweet to Pringle and Selvey the other day and their reaction speaks volumes and shows why we must keep banging on and not let the ECB and its acolytes continue to treat us with contempt.
Whew! Sorry for rant…
Funny how the people who have eulogised Cook and puffed him up into something he isn’t always want to change the subject as soon as their hero is exposed to serious comparison with other players.
‘Oh look over there, the county championship starts next week.’
Yet these same people have been happy to slice and dice KPs record. Their army of chums in the cricket media have delighted in running down and picking over other players in the England team. Ian Bell for example only has to go about 6 months without scoring a hundred and the moaning starts to gain traction.
Another point in Mike Athertons favour was that not only did he score his runs against great attacks, but he also did so in a usually losing team. Cooks first few years in England colours occured in a team that was winning often, and he was surrounded by other players who would deliver. Like KP.
As long as this MSM weird cult of Alastair Cook keeps on telling us how special he is, I for one will enjoy more expert opinion, backed up with hard facts, not candy floss.
Finaly, lets us remember that this argument was started by Cooks mate Stuart Broad, who made the ludicrous claim that Cook was England’s greatest batsman. Perhaps you should take it up with him.
If I get the time to do it I’d like to do a real comparison between Cook and Boycott, simply for curiosity’s sake. Their test averages are not dissimilar over a long period of time. Boycott stopped playing for England for 3 years due to some dispute and did end up playing against some weak Aussie teams later in his career and missed the 1976 series against the awesome WI, but he did play against some formidable bowling attacks and did OK.
I’ll try it myself when I have some time, although won’t moan if someone could beat me to it.
I’m interested because Boycott is certainly having his say these days and was definitely one of my heroes as a kid. I’m wondering if his own stats back up his analysis. I have a feeling they will.
“some weak Aussie teams later in his career”.
Boycott played against the Packerless Aussies in 78/79 but had a poor series which lowers his career average. A combination of poor pitches and Rodney Hogg meant he only managed one fifty in six Tests.
Otherwise the Aussie attacks he faced after his comeback:
77 Thomson, Walker, Pascoe
79/80 Lillee, Dymock, Thomson
81 Lillee, Alderman, Hogg/Lawson/Whitney
I’m struggling to see how these can be called weak (except in spin – O’Keefe, Bright and Mallett weren’t out of the top drawer). Boycott missed the 74/75 roasting by ‘Lillian Thomson’ but he didn’t pull out of the tour because he was scared – everyone thought England would score lots of easy runs before that tour (Thomson arrived out of nowhere and Lillee was written off because of a back injury. Max Walker had been carrying the Aussie attack).
I’m no great Boycott fan but that he averaged 40+ in two consecutive series against the great West Indies’ attack when aged nearly 40 was a great achievement.
Fair comment, Simon. I wasn’t trying to put Boycott down, he was a hero of mine, just wanted to make sure that if people want to use stats then make sure it’s fair.
I just reread Boycott’s book about the our of Aussie in 78/79. He didn’t do very well on that tour but it’s a remarkable analysis of how to play test cricket.
But just a quick summary – Cook vs Boycott. Boycott was a much better opener than Cook. But I don’t, yet, have the stats to back that up, just my own experience of watching both.
Different era, I know, but Boycott almost knew when he had to score a century and quite often did it. Not so sure Cook can do the same.
The “Packerless Aussies” also had Alan Hurst who was pretty quick before hurting his back (my memory is that he used to hyper-extend his back in his delivery stride.) He took 25 wickets at 23 (don’t you just love Statsguru) in that series.
I vaguely remember Boycott being distracted in that series due to his mother having health issues – or have I got that wrong?
It was a little more than that. Just before the tour Boycott’s mother died, and his captaincy of Yorkshire was removed. He also lost the England vice-captaincy. Given all that, it wasn’t too surprising he didn’t have the best of tours.
Although Cook may not be all that. I think it is a bit harsh to single him out! Almost every top 6 batsmen in every test playing nation has benefited from the lack of top quality bowling that has been on offer.
It would be more appropriate to compare Hick & Ramprakash to someone like Ian Bell as had he spent his international career taking on Ambrose & Walsh Donald & Pollock McGrath & Gillespie Waquar & Wasim or even Gough & Caddick I have no doubt he would be on his way to breaking every domestic record in the county circuit as his England career would be over under scrutiny around his temperament.
I understand that no one is suggesting Ian Bell is one of the greatest ever but in the era we are discussing with average bowing and flat wickets a better article would have scrutinised those players that are not performing to Cooks standard, which appears to be the minimum acceptable standard for English players
James here. The point I’m making is the difference between perception and reality.
Bell is often depicted as a weak character who only makes easy runs. This isn’t the case. He made 3 test tons in last year’s Ashes in England against very good bowling (Harris at this best). He also has a 199 against Steyn, Morkel and Ntini at Lord’s, and 140 against South Africa at Durban.
That’s five tons that eclipse Cook’s best innings against top class pace bowling right there. Yet Cook is the one famous for making tough runs and battling through tough times, and is the one depicted as our best ever player. It’s simply not true. Bell’s record against the very best bowlers is actually slightly better than Cook’s. Example, in the 2006 Ashes whitewash, Bell made 4 half centuries and averages 33. Cook averaged 28. It’s the same with Pietersen, who has scored quite a lot more runs against top class bowling.
The comparisons are there if people look for them, but people rarely bother. They just see ‘Oh Cook has scored 25 tons so he must be special’. Bell has 21 hundreds and KP 23 against the same bowlers. As an opener, Cook has more opportunity to score those hundreds against weaker attacks. Their averages are all similar. When KP was dropped, the media consensus was that KP was a player of great inns, not a great player. Yet Cook is routinely depicted as great, or even our best ever. I just don’t understand why. The data doesn’t support this.
James….” Yet Cook is routinely depicted as great, or even our best ever. I just don’t understand why. The data doesn’t support this.”
It is still the $ 240000 question. Why the eulogising of Cook above all others? Why is there an attempt to give God like status to this man by almost all the MSM?
Whatever your views on KP or Bell or any other England player it doesn’t explain the quite deliberate attempt by the ECB to elevate Cook to the status of a deity. I have never seen an England player so protected and so lionised by the authorities in over 40 yeas of watching English cricket. Far better players, and far better captains have been torn to pieces by the media. But not Cook.
It’s creepy, Very very creepy!
Ferriday & Wilson’s ‘Masterly Batting’ is worth mentioning as it is the main recent attempt to rank batting by quality of innings using a thorough statistical analysis. Quality of bowling is one of the measures they use – they also factor in the pitch, support from teammates, chances given and if the match was won. Their methodology isn’t perfect (they take no account of dead rubber status for example) but it is still a thought-provoking work.
No Cook innings makes the top hundred. He’s not alone in that – Bell, Strauss, Vaughan, Gower, Atherton, Hussain, Boycott and many others don’t make it either. Only three Englishmen of the last decade are included – Tres (the 180 in SA), Butcher (twice) and Pietersen. Pietersen has four innings in there.
I also remember a lengthy analysis on cricinfo a while back of which batsmen made most of their runs against quality bowling. Top of the list was Alec Stewart.
Again, I know the point has been made by others but it needs repeating, all this is said in the context of Broad’s remark that Cook is England’s greatest ever. Stokes is then quoted as saying Cook is one of the best in the world (he is 25th on the ICC rankings currently). This constant puffing up of Cook is what produces these reactions. If the MSM simply said he was a very good player – and there was some serious analysis of his long lean spell – then articles like James’s wouldn’t be needed. Pump too much air in and there’s bound to be some deflation…..
That’s it exactly.
Some recent examples: both Simon Hughes and Steve James have stated that Cook is destined to become England’s “greatest ever” batsman. When picked up, they used almost exactly the same wording in response: “He has more centuries than anyone else: what more do you want?” *Qualitative* analysis is almost completely absent from discussion of Cook’s considerable merits, and even the most widely accepted *quantitative* measure of greatness (batting average, not centuries or aggregate) isn’t given due attention, lest people start talking of Amiss and Boycott, let alone the three Hs. Personally I think his average will end up closer to Trescothick than Boycott, and that’s about right.
And another: it was Mike Selvey putting Cook in a post-1970 Ashes XI ahead of Boycott, on the basis of one good series in three (at the time; now one in five of course) that started me researching openers’ Ashes stats in that period. And what I found was even more convincing evidence than expected, then last week MildredPlotka expanded the research and proved he has the second worst opener’s record since WWI in home Ashes Tests. Boycott’s Ashes average is now twice Cook’s at home, by the way. Cook has to overhaul Mike Brearley first.
It’s Dennis Amiss’s birthday today! His double century in 73/74 to save a test in the West Indies is 19th on the Ferriday&Wilson list. I wish there was some film of it!
His double century at the Oval against Roberts and Holding on a comeback after being dropped and having been hit on the head against the same bowlers and led off bleeding in an MCC match doesn’t even make it (because it was high scoring game England lost).
These are the sorts of career-defining innings that Cook’s career lacks. The awesome lone-hand against a quality attack to win or save a match (or even defiance in a heroic defeat). The innings in India come closest I guess.
Ferriday & Wilson’s ‘Masterly Batting’ is worth mentioning
That’s a cracking book.
You might disagree with some of their criteria, but they are applied rigorously, and it does end up with many unarguably great innings.
And great to pick up again and browse at random.
“Again, I know the point has been made by others but it needs repeating, all this is said in the context of Broad’s remark that Cook is England’s greatest ever. Stokes is then quoted as saying Cook is one of the best in the world (he is 25th on the ICC rankings currently). This constant puffing up of Cook is what produces these reactions. If the MSM simply said he was a very good player – and there was some serious analysis of his long lean spell – then articles like James’s wouldn’t be needed. Pump too much air in and there’s bound to be some deflation…..”
Absolutely spot on Simon. This is exactly how I feel, and why I wrote the piece. I have nothing against Cook personally (I don’t know him) I’ve just always found the attention he got somewhat over the top and unfair – ever since he was Eng U19 captain. I think he has benefited from favouritism throughout his career (in my humble opinion) and I find the glowing comments from certain journalists quite nauseating. I think Giles Clarke’s ‘the right sort of family’ remarks got under a lot of people’s skin. Of course, this wasn’t Cook’s fault, but he has come to represent ECB prejudices to a certain extent. His comments in the media, which reveal a strong sense of entitlement, also rile people.
I have got 25 centuries and a iron rod 2 more than that social media freak u call KP, what have you got, just chill guys i just thrashed 95 no ducking and weaving my way out of some lethal attack, just watch me tear down attacks this summer u will change your mind
I’m a little thrown by people belittling stats. Stats have always been an essential and fascinating element of following cricket. Thorough stats that is. We’ll presumably soon have Jimmy lauded as England’s highest wicket taker but I wouldn’t passthe crown to him because:
Anderson 185 inns 380 wkts 29.72 av 58.1 SR
Botham 168 inns 383 wkts 28.40 av 56.9 SR
Trueman 127 inns 307 wkts 21.57 av 49.4 SR
Bedser 92 inns 236 wkts 24.89 av 67.4 SR
Another element is actually watching the chaps play. I had the privilege of watching Sir Geoffrey bat several times. Stuck in my memory is Colin Croft bowling a whole over of bouncers at him. Wouldn’t be permitted now of course. If ever England needed an opener to go out and save their bacon, I’d pick Geoffrey every time. Never saw Hutton but, if Cook scores a 364, without a helmet, I’ll put him up a notch or two.
Meanwhile, I’m in the Cook is/was good but not that good camp.
The Home/Away records of Anderson and Botham make an interesting contrast:
Anderson: H 250 wkts at 26.4; A 121 at 36.8.
Botham: H 226 wkts at 27.5; A 157 at 29.6.
Don’t forget Bob Willis 165 inns; 325 wickets; av 25.2; SR 53.4.
The stats don’t back me up but John Snow was the best English fast bowler I have seen. In the 70/71 Ashes he was brilliant.
Let’s not do stats
More take the time and place
Not erzatz figures tit for tat
Prefer in game play, face to face…
Opening the innings
A fresh pitch, sweep/slog bitch
Hoping the bowlers wont swing
So my edge is clean, inside/ outside switch
Feed the full face
acknowledge the pace
Yet…my feet barely move
As the ball hits that outside deflected groove
As I lean over, my offside head far away
From my stroke, invoking, sentient play…
My legs stiff, my head all awry
How can I score runs and apply?
This solid etude in past Test solitude
When these teams show
My deficiencies known
Yet I am the Captain, with power to exude…
Nicked one, dotted three
Slick carve to short boundary
Three an over, near express we be
Against St Kitts etc, our supremacy
Will show a 95 with more to add
Slap those ‘outside’ so we ECB be glad
That the past KP and Ashes (and SL, and CWC)
Have nothing on the power of the Lightning Rod – ME
Re St Kitts XI versus Cook’s England Select Eleven
With Cook appearing to want to hog all the time, for himself (174 balls) it will be interesting to see if he then becomes the ‘team man’ and lets someone else have a go – this is not yet Team Cook XI but may as well be!!! Tough runs – even dull and boring – for the supporters more like.
Whether ‘tough runs’ or otherwise, Cook’s record since the start of the 2013 Ashes reads 29 from 17 games. I’m not sure I entirely agree on the microanalysis regarding the opposition that he scored runs against as done by James but it is definitely true to say that he has had his problems versus good quality pace bowling. The pretty lengthy lean period that he has had over the last couple of years does include failing to fill his boots versus Sri Lanka and India, although he did end up averaging 49 (somehow) in the India series last summer when he either managed to be dropped, not given lbw or find the gaps in the slip cordon in a way not seen since Michael Vandort scored a very fortunate century in 2006 for Sri Lanka at Lord’s
oh crumbs I put that up there as “anonymous”. Just for clarification that was me who posted that.
Dear admin, how come Dmitri’s blog remembers who we are but yours doesn’t!!! ?
I really don’t know! There will be a shiny new TFT soon so hopefully the problem will be addressed. Apologies.
Chris Stocks of the Guardian – Alastair Cook’s ghost writer it seems – no wonder that article is crap
in a parallel universe this happened
the player of great innings :p
That’s rather sweet really. I hope I didn’t hear the knee twinge a bit going up all those stairs.
A very interesting article James. Well done. Cook made a lot of runs (many against weak attacks) but that was long ago and he does get an extremely easy ride from both the ECB and the fawning press.
The Broad quote was removed from the article as you are no doubt aware. A very strange occurrence even allowing for the fact that Broad, like Cook, talks a lot of rubbish in public.
Is Maxie happy and well? Please give him my regards.
Maxie will be back soon, I hope! He’s working all hours.
Thank you James. :-)
Another factor to take into consideration is how quickly runs are scored – can a batsman take the game away from the opposition. This is where Trescothick is greater than Cook. For example Ashes 2005 – how often had England reached over 100 at lunch? Edgbaston they even reached 132 by lunch. Durham 2013, England were 55-1 at lunch. It makes such a huge difference.
Edgbaston 2005 England were bowled out in 80 overs but scored 407. IN 2013 England were bowled out in 90 overs for 230. With Cook scratching around look how hard Root, Robson and Carberry found it. With Trott next to open I dread to think what our run rate will be at the top of the order.
Excellent piece James thankyou.
I haven’t seen anything from Maxie for a while I trust that all is well or have I missed something.
As you probably know. Maxie’s a TV producer/director and a show he works on is currently in production – nose to the grindstone stuff. He’s also been training for the marathon in a couple of weeks (everyone feel free to sponsor him).
Thanks for the info.
Bit late joining in here but it is interesting to look at the ‘fastest to …’ stats. I looked at this last summer when some were writing about Cook being the youngest to reach certain landmarks (ie. number of centuries, passing another thousand runs, etc.) From memory, he wasn’t the quickest Englishman, in terms of no. of innings, to any of the four-figure landmarks, except maybe to 8000(?)
When reference is made to number of centuries or the age at which landmarks are passed, it is surely apt to at least check the ‘No. Inns’ column.
Cook is an excellent batsman, but not a great one.
The two big questions are:
1) Why have the ECB done everything in their power to elevate Cook – and only Cook – to the status of a god?
2) Why have the media gone along with it?
Because he is a sweetie and everyone around him seems to like him. That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it.
Sorry James but your analysis is poor. Based on a prejudice, anyone can use stats to prove a point. Piers Morgan regularly tells the world that KP is England’s greatest batsman (unlike Stuart Broad’s remarks you have not felt the need to challenge Morgan’s false assertion – we all know why), therefore I shall give it a go.
You like to focus on averages – I would also add to that: away form. Personally, I’d say a batsman who scores away from home on unfamiliar pitches is a better quality batsman than those who score heavily on home, and therefore familiar pitches. I could, if I was minded, use stats to debunk the idea that KP is a better batsman than Cook by using my criteria of away form as a measure.
For example, if you compare the averages of: Alastair Cook to Kevin Pietersen
Home 42.75 Home 52.75
Away 51.26 Away 44.16
then it is clear that Cook outscores KP away from England, which for me makes those scores more impressive. Likewise, if you break it down into individual countries:
Alastair Cook vs Kevin Pietersen
in Aus 49.53 in Aus 45.76
in SA 41.00 in SA 25.28
in Ind 61.85 in Ind 43.93
in SL 48.33 in SL 44.00
You’ve got to admit that if you take averages throughout a career as an indication of ability, which seems to be your suggestion in this and other articles regarding Cook; then the fact that Cook outscores KP outside of England is impressive; and, using my stats would suggest that he is a better batsman than KP. Therefore any assertion that KP is the de facto ‘greatest English batsman’ is also rubbish. But you neglect to mention one fundament judgement of a player’s ability and greatness: and that is the enjoyment and experience of watching them within the context of a match. Away from the stats and the computers, the real joy of cricket is watching an individual batsman or bowler use their skill and courage to face an individual challenge both personal and professional that makes their achievement really matter. For me watching Robin Smith bat against the WI bowlers made him a great player, the stats were, and are irrelevant. To boil down to numbers what is essentially an emotional bond with a player and team is to totally miss the point, not just of cricket, but of sport itself. Therefore, if Stuart Broad believes Cook is a one of the greats then he is correct, because for him it is a truth; for me it is Robin Smith; for others it will be Lara, Hobbs, Hutton, Gower, and so on. It’s called opinion; we are all entitled to one; and disembowelling Cooks reputation as a batsman in order to disagree with Broad’s view is petty and vindictive to say the least. If you wish to big up your beloved KP (which is really what the assassination of Cook’s career stats is really about), then why don’t you eulogise KP’s stats and stop denigrating others. Maybe this is impossible for you to resist; as the real problem is your hatred of Cook which appears to have destroyed your love for the game. Stick with your stats and tell yourself he isn’t one of the greats, but the rest of us will watch him score those hundreds that will write his name in the history books. Most importantly, he will have earned his place, not because of the stats, but because of that bond that I mentioned earlier and because of what he has had to endure in order to achieve it. And yes, if you haven’t guessed yet, I am a Cook supporter, and there are plenty more than you realise.
Paul Downton, is that you?
“Piers Morgan regularly tells the world that KP is England’s greatest batsman (unlike Stuart Broad’s remarks you have not felt the need to challenge Morgan’s false assertion – we all know why)”
We do all know why – it’s because Piers Morgan is a wanker and no one cares what he thinks.
“I could, if I was minded, use stats to debunk the idea that KP is a better batsman than Cook”
I must have missed the bit in the article that said KP is a better batsman than Cook.
“Therefore any assertion that KP is the de facto ‘greatest English batsman’ is also rubbish”
Missed that bit, too. I think few readers of this blog would argue that KP is the “greatest English batsman”. Most readers, however, would like to know why he was dropped. Think of us as Oliver Twist, cap in hand, hesitantly approaching the ECB and whispering “Please Sir, can I be told?”
“For me watching Robin Smith bat against the WI bowlers made him a great player, the stats were, and are irrelevant. To boil down to numbers what is essentially an emotional bond with a player and team is to totally miss the point, not just of cricket, but of sport itself. Therefore, if Stuart Broad believes Cook is a one of the greats then he is correct, because for him it is a truth”
Perhaps it’s just semantics but I think you are confusing “great” with “favourite”. Also, Broad did not say Cook is “one of the greats” (I wouldn’t argue with that) but rather he said that Cook is the greatest English player and I would strongly disagree with that.
“If you wish to big up your beloved KP (which is really what the assassination of Cook’s career stats is really about)”
It really isn’t. Like many, you don’t seem to understand that there are several separate issues at play here.
1) Why was KP dropped?
2) Why is Cook still captain?
3) Why is Cook still in the side?
With regard to question 3, Cook has been struggling for some time. I think it is hard for a player to regain form during a test series. As a result, I would have treated him like any other player and sent him back to county cricket to sort out his game. I genuinely believe that would have been the best thing for him and thus the best thing for English cricket. Having missed the world cup he has had time to work on his technique (hopefully) and in time he may come to see being dropped as a blessing in disguise.
“the real problem is your hatred of Cook which appears to have destroyed your love for the game.”
Hatred? You clearly missed how some in the English sporting media have treated KP. Semantics again but perhaps you mean “frustrated” rather than “hatred”? I can’t speak for the others but I don’t hate Cook but his treatment by ECB and some sections of the media frustrate the hell out of me.
“Most importantly, he will have earned his place…… because of what he has had to endure in order to achieve it.”
Yeah because being the Chosen One is such a tough gig. I’m sure being from the right sort of family has helped him endure (always finish with a cheap shot)
” And yes, if you haven’t guessed yet, I am a Cook supporter,”
haha, you’re the one ……
James here. Thanks for you input Forhorn but I’m afraid you’re barking up the wrong tree. Where do all these KP comparisons come from? Why are they even relevant? Regular readers of this blog know only too well that I’m ambivalent about KP and I certainly wouldn’t rate Pietersen as England’s greatest batsman of all time. As For Piers Morgan, it does not interest me what he says because he’s not in the England team and is not a cricket journalist. He’s just a fan.
It seems you’ve arrived here with preconceived prejudices. If you read my article properly you would see that I am in no way denigrating Cook. My argument is that he has been a good England opener for a very long time. What I’m arguing is that he isn’t quite as good as Stuart Broad and some other journalists claim. This is a perfectly legitimate position, and it is supported overwhelmingly by the evidence.
I have not cherry picked evidence. I have simply listed ALL of his test tons and stated who they were scored against. Why is this a crime? It is YOU who is using selective the evidence that suits your argument – only counting away tests against certain countries while ignoring the failures in Cook’s career – so I don’t think you’re in a position to criticise I’m afraid.
There are plenty of Cook supporters out there, witness the applause at Southampton for one of the scratchiest 90’s you will ever see.
I know people assume that I’m a big supporter of Cook, the truth is if he’d have been sacked after the 5-0 then I wouldn’t have argued, but he wasn’t, he was supported.
If he’s have been sacked after Sri Lanka I wouldn’t have argued either.
I was calling for him to be sacked after Lords. The ECB stuck with him to the dismay of many and they will argue they were right as we won the next 3 tests and he scored 250 runs in the process.
We are where we are, we start the most insane period of test cricket with Cook as captain. I will support him, I hope he regains his form and can set a few platforms for big scores. We will need them.
Absolutely Neil. The final paragraph of my article says England desperately need his runs at the moment. If the team is going to be competitive this year, then we need the senior players to stand up. Cook has to be instrumental in all this – as do Broad and Anderson. Otherwise this could be an absolutely chastening year for English cricket. I sincerely hope Cook scores some runs against Aust, NZ, Pak and SA because if he doesn’t we’re in deep poop.
And another one! Three of us so far.
Well, I definitely don’t support him. First of all, who went and blabbed to Flower about what was said in that players only meeting?
It’s pretty obvious that Broads comments are simply rubbish. Hobbs, for instance , made centuries against Australia when he was in his 40s. Somehow I don’t think we will be seeing Cook managing that.There have been mentioned by contributors a number of batsmen with better records than Cooks. Ken Barrington hasn’t been mentioned by anyone yet. Test average of 58. Let me just add that one. Robin Smith has been mentioned. A really good batsman against pace bowling. Lovely yovwaych against the Windies pace attack. But I woulft call him great, as he had a demonstrable weakness against spin bowling. He has a test average of 45 but once his weakness was discovered he was a grayly diminished batsman. Good, but not great. Cooks a bit similar in that he also has a good record, but also has a career threatening weakness. Either he will this year overcome it and become a mall time grest Engkand batsman or it will destroy his career.
Definitely. This is a defining year in Cook’s career. If he’s buried by it (and his past record suggests he might well be) then I think he may disappear from the international scene for a while, and his reputation may not recover. If he scores heavily then he in my eyes he would have finally proved his ability against top class pace bowling – and he would deserve all the plaudits he gets.
Somehow however, I sense he’ll probably have a decent(ish) year in which he looks poor at times but also battles his way to a few scores. Perhaps he’ll average 35-42 …. this is what I’d expect from a player of his quality (or what I deem to be his quality). I doubt this will be quite enough to save England’s blushes, but it all depends on how the other batsmen do … and I have no idea who the new guys will perform to be honest. If Cook does scrape through the year averaging 35-42 then I this debate will go on, and on, and on …..
Your hatred of Cook is palpable. It might help your credibility if you just printed I HATE ALASTAIR COOK at the start of your articles about him and then at least we could respect your honesty. Your petulant attempt to attack him under the guise of writing an article about his career is pathetic. Particularly weird is the view expressed by James that his test runs have not been against bowlers of any worth. By that measure then those who shared the batting duties with him at the time also have their achievements discredited: for example, KP – therefore by your judgement he also can not be referred to as England’s greatest ever batsmen (I hope for your sake Piers Morgan doesn’t find out you don’t rate his achievements). And while I’m at it: stop claiming you speak for the supporters of the England cricket team – you don’t, you speak for yourself; you are not elected nor representative of anything other than a self appointed hate campaign against those who do not worship the KP cult, as you do.
For the last time. I am ambivalent about Kevin Pietersen. He doesn’t concern me, and I wouldn’t automatically recall him to the England team while Ballance and Root are scoring runs.
I’m afraid you missed the whole point of the data. Yes, I believe the standard of bowling is worse now than it was 10 years ago (that is why the benchmark for a world class player is now 50 not 40). However, there are still some good attacks around – South Africa and the current Australia team being two examples. When Cook has faced these attacks, he has not performed well. He has only done (relatively) well in one series when up against top attacks (i.e teams that included two bowlers with test averages of under 30 at the time). That was in South Africa in 2008. This is fact, not fiction. Go and look at the info on statsguru if you do not believe me.
I have not done any analysis on Pietersen, but as far as I am aware no serious journalist or former player has called him England’s greatest ever batsman. Therefore there is nothing to refute. The consensus is that he was a player of great innings not a great batsman. I think I’d probably go along with that. He scored some memorable innings against the likes of Warne/ McGrath and flayed Steyn/Morkel at Headingley, but he also had a propensity to get out foolishly on occasion. He also averages 3 less than the fifty benchmark.
I am not waging a hate campaign against Cook. I said numerous times in the article that he is a good player. I rate him exactly the same as Bell and Trott, who have similar test averages – although a quick glimpse at Bell’s record shows he has scored more test hundreds against the better attacks. More research may or may not confirm this. However, as nobody is claiming Bell is our best batsman ever, there is no need for me to do this.
As for your ‘tirade’ at our slogan ‘a voice of the England cricket supporter’, we never claim to speak for all cricket fans. We are ‘A voice’. That is all. We couldn’t possibly speak for everyone. We just give our honestly held opinions. What’s more, if you were a regular reader of this blog, which it doesn’t seem you are, we give everyone an opportunity to air their views. In the last month we have published articles defending Peter Moores. I also wrote a piece called ‘Time to Move On’ after the Pietersen sacking.
how come a bunch of you are sticking to 3 point formula of stating
1.james hate cook
2.reading KP in this article when thats not even remotely the motive of the article
3.and piers morgan lol
ALL that is being stated is his holiness Sir cook is not the greatest batsman to have ever lived in the country as stated by ‘not so sure of his place in the side anymore’ Broad.
How anyone can refer to a cult of KP after the way Cook has been deified in the last year is beyond my comprehension. Your ignorance is overwhelming. James has never worshiped Pietersen as anyone who’d ever read anything he posted should know.
By the way do you suffer from a compulsion to drag Piers Morgan into everything ? WTF does he have to do with anything?
Oh and I’m an England supporter. I’m quite happy for James to post his articles here whether I agree with them or not. I don’t think he speaks for me and I don’t think he claims to
True the articles about Cook are a bit one-eyed; and especially the idea that the opposition wasn’t up too it. By that measure: no batsman would have a career of any value; as most have faced teams of lesser ability; the same would also apply to bowlers. But I suppose putting a career into context is helpful – but picking on one batsman like Cook is very personal and probably deserves criticism. Having said that this lot have form on this so you shouldn’t be surprised about the anti-Cook stuff.
How is this even anti cook nobody is calling him crap or anything alla few are saying is we cant worship his holiness as the greatest ever. Is there anything wrong in that.
I can it as difference of opinion rather than hatred or anti cookie
” this lot have form on this ” – you’re not being impudent are you???
“In 2014,” Booth writes, “English cricket repeatedly lost touch – not just with things it wished had never happened, but with the basic idea that the national team belongs to us all.”
ECB savaged by Wisden
Oh what fun. Love these blogs for being an open forum. Sadly it’s been a feature of our society for a decade or more that some people and organisations take a stance and demand that everyone concurs, otherwise they’re the spawn of the devil. I don’t like what the daily mail prints so I don’t read it. I don’t hammer them with tweets, emails etc demanding they change to my way of thinking. Rather suspect they wouldn’t but I won’t lose sleep over it.
I don’t actually see any point in deciding on the greatest anything, be it batsman, footballer, guitarist, painter …… I just love cricket and treasure having been able to watch Cowdrey, Trueman, Botham, Gower, Tresco, Freddie before getting onto Sir Viv, Warne, Lillee, Steyn, Tendulkar, Gayle and many more. Don’t recall stopping to think ah but who was the greatest?
Ostensibly, good news – the man who can detect ‘disengagement’ at a glance goes:
But who is this “Director of England Cricket” going to be ?
under his leadership the Test team have made significant strides
Good riddance to bad f*****g trash, now for Flower, our youngsters being under his control is absolutely farcical.
And I see Bairstow is the latest to defect to St Kitts.
Who can blame him!
There may be hope for English cricket after all!
Asked directly whether he would like the role of director of England Cricket, Vaughan replied: “I’m always open to chats about the future of English cricket. They’ve got my phone number.”
[…] Alastair Cook and ‘Tough Runs’ […]
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[…] Cook conundrum. As I’ve said many times before, Cook is a prolific scorer of runs against good, average and poor bowling, but often goes missing against the very best. He’s failed badly in the four out of five Ashes […]
A very interesting article. To me, Cook is a good batsman, but not a great one. His range of shots is rather limited and good bowlers can dry up his runs quite easily. It is interesting to compare his record with Atherton’s, who had back problems from early on in his career and had to have cortisone injections just to be able to go out and bat. Cook’s overall average is way higher than Atherton’s, and yet I wouldn’t say he was better than him.
I started watching cricket in the early 1970s, a TV and TMS follower as so many of us are. Here are some openers who played for England who I rate higher than Cook;
Boycott, ave not much below 48 and faced some top bowlers in his time.
Amiss, ave 46 and a bit, like Boycott he was often facing the best.
Edrich, ave.43.5, left-handed opener who once scored a triple century, like the other two above him he faced some fine bowlers in his time.
Trescothick, ave 43.7, another left-hander with career stats similar to Edrich. He had the ability to score quickly and get an innings off to a fast start.
Alec Stewart’s average was much better as an opener than when he dropped down the order and kept wicket. He faced some pretty fine bowlers too and as I recall he was also able to score pretty quickly on occasions.
If I were picking my England Best XI from 1970s to the present, Boycott, Amiss, Edrich, and Trescothick would all be up for consideration ahead of Cook, and after those four I’d probably consider Gooch before Cook too.