Occasionally an article lands in my inbox at exactly the right time. And this is one of them. I’ve long thought that Alastair Cook’s form would be absolutely in the Ashes. And I think, in many ways, he needs to have a good series to safeguard his legacy as an ostensibly great batsman.
Cook’s Ashes record really isn’t very good. In fact, if you take out that amazing series in 2010/11 – which came against the weakest Australian attack I can remember – then it’s outright poor. Did you know that Alastair has never scored an Ashes hundred at home? It’s strange but true.
There’s obviously no time like the present for Cook to put things right. So here’s new guest writer Jacob Savill with his take on England’s former captain, and how vital his contribution will be this winter.
You know those awkward questions that everyone’s thinking, but no one really wants to say out loud – nor even admit to themselves? Well, I’ve got one for you:
When was the last time Alastair Cook was heavily in the runs?
The traditional media line about England’s batting line-up is fairly well-rehearsed at this point. You probably know it (heck, you’ve probably used it): ‘The rest might be a bit shaky, but at least we’ve got two world class players in Joe Root and Alastair Cook.’
On paper, at least, this is true. But let’s be honest, in the last few years Cook hasn’t really proved his world-class credentials with the sort of relentless consistency that allowed him to acquire them in the first place.
This may seem harsh but look at the statistics. When you think of peak Cook – his Terminator mode, as I call it – you probably think of the three-year period between 2009-2012, in which he bagged 16 Test centuries, at an average of over 65.
He had those two iconic overseas tours, the Ashes down under in 2010/11 – where he averaged a mammoth 127 – and England’s tour of India in 12/13. This was android Cook. The cybernetic batting-machine of human form, designed by the nation’s top scientists with the sole function of scoring as many runs as possible.
Since then, slowly but perceptibly, he has faded. From the beginning of 2013, Cook has averaged a shade under 42 in Test cricket – a modest return for a world-class cricketer. And even this number has been propped up by a couple of his famous “daddy hundreds,” like the 263 in Abu Dhabi, and the 243 against the Windies this summer. In fact, he has scored only 6 other Test centuries in the last 4 years. These are fairly average numbers, no?
Just to be clear, I hope you don’t think at this point that I’m being overly negative for the sake of it. Quite the opposite. I actually think Cook’s dormant potential should be exciting news for England fans going into the Ashes.
In the last 24 months or so, under Bayliss, England have shown themselves to be a talented, yet inconsistent Test side. What we don’t really know, though, is how good this England team can be with the fully activated, turbo-charged Alastair Cook android, firing on all cylinders.
It’s been a trope of English cricket in the last few years, that the team always seem to find themselves in deep trouble after the first hour. We’re always 3 or 4 wickets down, and then have to be bailed out by our S.O.S middle order. Which is why an on-song Alastair Cook could make all the difference …
Suddenly, instead of 3 or 4 down, we might even find ourselves in a strong position at lunch. Can you imagine that? And from there, bowlers start to tire, and our aggressive late-middle order – with or without Ben Stokes – have a license to propel us quickly onto a big first-innings score.
I’d even go as far to suggest that the form (or lack thereof), of Alastair Cook is such a powerful weapon, it will be the single biggest factor in deciding the outcome of the Ashes. Good or bad.
And since we all like to talk up Cook as still being a world-class batsman (or at least, we pretend that’s what we’re thinking), it’s about time, when it really matters, he started to bat like one.
After all, England need him.