We’ve published a lot of articles about England’s test skipper over the years but this new one, by guest writer Jack Mendel, looks at Cook’s records from a different angle. I have to admit it’s not something I’ve considered before …
Alastair Cook is the first English batsman to break into an elite group of modern-great players, but his career has been inflated by how much England play.
Without a doubt, England’s captain is one of the greatest English batsmen ever, and will no doubt be one of the leading Test batsman ever too by the end of his career.
Yet, he has had a big advantage in that he’s played, in some cases, more than double the amount of cricket that his closest contemporaries have.
Of the top 20 batsmen on the ‘most Test runs list’ of all time, only Allan Border, Graham Gooch and Javed Miandad retired before the year 2000. The record books have been redefined in the last 15-20 years, and England have rather missed the boat. Cook is one of only two Englishmen in the top 25 top run-scorers ever. India and Australia both have five.
The main reason Cook is viewed with such admiration in world cricket is not because of his swashbuckling style or awe-inspiring power; it’s his longevity. After all, he has been playing in the golden age of batting, in the shadows of legends such as Brian Lara, Ricky Ponting, Sachin Tendulkar and Jacques Kallis.
His breakthrough into the top 10 is historic, and is on top of an array of other impressive records he has been piling up. But he isn’t in the same category of greatness as Lara, Tendulkar or Kallis.
Cook is a grinder, not a genius. Bowlers don’t fear him. And, if he was playing in any other team, he probably wouldn’t have the amount of runs he does.
Out of the top 15 Test run scorers in history, Cook has played by far the most Tests per year (on average). This is a major advantage when it comes to accumulating runs.
- Sachin Tendulkar played 200 played Tests between 1989-2013 = 8.3 Tests per year
- Ricky Ponting played 168 Tests between 1995 – 2012 = 9.8 Tests per year
- Jacques Kallis played 166 Tests between 1996 – 2013 – = 9.8 Tests per year
- Rahul Dravid played 164 Tests between 1996 -2012 = 10.25 Tests per year
- Kumar Sangakkara played 134 Tests between 2000 – 2015 = 8.9 Tests per year
- Brian Lara – 131 played Tests between 1990- 2006 = 8.18 Tests per year
- Shiv Chanderpaul played 164 Tests between 1994 – 2015 = 7.8 Tests per year
- Mahela Jayawardene played 149 Tests between 1997 – 2014 = 8.7 Tests per year
- Allan Border played 156 played 1979 Tests between 1994 = 10.4 Tests per year
- Steve Waugh played 168 Tests between 1985 – 2004 = 8.84
- Sunil Gavaskar played 125 – Tests between 1971-1987 = 7.8 Tests per year
- Younis Khan played* 115 Tests between 2000-2017 = 6.7 Tests per year
- Graeme Smith played 117 Tests between 2002-2014 = 9.75 Tests per year
- Graham Gooch – played 118 Tests between 1975-1995 = 5.9 Tests per year
Cook has played* 140 Tests between 2006-2016. That’s a mind-boggling 14 tests per year.
In other words, Cook is a great run scorer (of that there is no question) but he’s also a player that has had, in some cases, double the amount of playing time as other players in the same bracket.
If any other batsman on this distinguished list had played 14 tests per year, they’d have probably scored a lot more runs than Alastair. After all, every single one of them has a higher batting average.
Not for one moment would I challenge Cook’s right to be in the upper-echelons of English greatness. He’s the highest run scorer England have ever had.
However, if he ends up as the top run scorer in test history at the end of his career, it doesn’t necessarily make him the greatest batsman ever.
When looking at ‘the best’, it’s not just about numbers. It’s about how. It’s about the rate at which greats accumulated their greatness. After all, Cook’s batting average of 46 isn’t even in the top 60 highest averages of all time.
Having said that, Cook might go down as the most (or one of the most) durable players of all time. And that’s certainly nothing to be sniffed at.