What’s the difference between being a cricket blogger and a member of the mainstream cricket media? I could mention the salary, and the long months spent away from home covering the team, but what really sets us apart is the ability to write from the heart.
Bloggers can write polemics. Bloggers can write what they want without worrying about editors or employers. And that’s their USP. If they don’t write with complete honesty then their subscribers would have no reason to read them.
There’s just one problem. Occasionally writing what one thinks isn’t going to be popular. And I fear what I’m about to write will annoy quite a few. Therefore, I need to get a disclaimer in first:
I like Alastair Cook. He seems like a good bloke and he’s served his country with distinction. His powers of concentration are amazing. And he’s played some superb knocks for England. He wasn’t (in my opinion) to blame for the KP sacking, and he’s a legend of the English game.
However, what I do dislike is the adoration Cook has always received. This has nothing to do with him, of course, as he doesn’t encourage hero worship and seems like a modest fella, but I find it nauseating and almost surreal. In fact, I think Alastair has received perhaps the most sympathetic press of any cricketer I can recall over the years. And yet a myth persists that he’s been subject to the most horrendous abuse – by a small minority on Twitter (a medium he doesn’t even read).
In my opinion Cook was a fine batsman but certainly not the best of his generation. I don’t even think he’s the best opener (let alone all round batsman) England have produced in recent times either. I rated Marcus Trescothick, Graham Gooch, Michael Vaughan (as a pure opener), Alec Stewart (as a pure opener), and possibly Mike Atherton (before his chronic back condition affected his form) higher than Alastair.
Consequently – and here comes that toxic fart in the elevator that’s bound to stink the place up – I don’t think Alastair Cook should be knighted. I think it’s a bit ridiculous and unfair on many other equally deserving cricketers that have been ignored. I see it as yet another manifestation of the irrational Cook love-in that’s blighted his career for less infatuated observers.
Firstly, Cook’s achievements are largely down to longevity. His batting average is the 24th highest of all England test batsman. TWENTY-FOURTH! Not first. Not even top ten. He’s scored so many runs because he’s played so many games. And the reason he’s played so many games is because (a) we play more test matches these days, and (b) England haven’t had anyone to replace him when he’s underperformed for long periods. We can’t even find a decent opening batsman now.
What’s more, if longevity is the criterium by which players should be honoured then why hasn’t Jason Leonard, the famous old rugby prop who played a record 114 games for England, been knighted? And why haven’t Peter Shilton or Wayne Rooney, who have played more games for England’s football team than anyone else, received gongs? Rooney has even scored the most goals by an England player. He’s right up there with Cook in terms of comparable achievement.
I could even mention people like Jonny Wilkinson or Martin Johnson, who were absolute legends and won England their one and only World Cup. Jonny was even the world record points scorer in international rugby at one point. Cook is test cricket’s 5th leading run scorer (at an average significantly lower than all the other players around him on the ladder). So why does Cook deserve a knighthood when these others legends have been ignored?
I believe this can only be explained in terms of favouritism (some might even call it class prejudice) and what I once described as the cult of Alastair Cook – a term that makes me blush a bit these days. It basically means that the legend of Cook far exceeds his actual abilities and achievements.
But perhaps we shouldn’t broaden the debate to include other sports at this point. Let’s just focus on cricket. By knighting Cook the message the authorities are sending is that Cook is the greatest cricketer that England have produced for decades. Why? Because in recent history only one other English cricketer has been knighted: Sir Ian Botham. And Beefy was knighted for his services to sport and charity. His walks for leukaemia over the years were awe-inspiring.
Was Cook England’s best player of recent times? Of course not. Once again his achievements were largely down to longevity and the fact that England play a lot more test matches now than they used to. One could argue, in fact, that Cook wasn’t even the greatest cricketer in the England teams he played in. Jimmy Anderson is currently the 4th highest test wicket taker of all time, and the most prolific pace bowler. Where’s Jimmy’s knighthood? You don’t have to be retired to get a gong. Just ask Sir Andy Murray.
Then there’s Geoff Boycott. He scored 8000 test runs at an average of 48 in over a hundred appearances against some of the most fearsome attacks the world has ever seen. Whereas Cook milked runs against Kemar Roach and Jason Holder, Boycott had to face the likes of Michael Holding and Andy Roberts. Only an idiot would claim that Cook was a better player than Boycott.
And then we come back to Sir Ian. Beefy was a legend of the sport, and a larger than life character that raised the game’s profile. He was also exceptional in England’s signature series: the Ashes. You probably don’t realise this, as Cook has always received such a sympathetic press, but Alastair was a disappointment in 6 of the 7 Ashes series in which he played. And he only excelled in 2010/11 when Australia were at their lowest ebb (Siddle and Hilfenhaus opened the bowling and Mitchell Johnson was all over the place).
So how come Cook, the 4th leading run scorer of all time, gets a gong whereas Ian Botham who was the leading wicket taker of all time at one point did not? Beefy had to walk thousands of miles for charity before he was even considered.
Now let’s broaden the debate to cricketers from the commonwealth nations. I’ll leave out the Aussies who also achieved a lot more than Cook (such as Shane Warne, Ricky Ponting and Steve Waugh) because unlike Sir Don Bradman they’d be unlikely to accept a knighthood. So let’s just focus on the other countries instead.
There are several West Indies cricketers who could / should have been knighted but have not. Shiv Chanderpaul played 3 more test matches than Cook and scored his 12,000 runs at an average of 51 (a far superior record to Alastair’s). And then there’s Courtney Walsh, who took 519 test wickets at an average of 24 in 132 tests. He was also the leading fast bowler (in terms of wickets) in history not long ago.
One could possibly argue, of course, that Cook has made a bigger individual contribution to his specific country’s cricket team than any of the above. It’s hugely debatable to say so (obviously) but one could make this spurious argument if one wanted to. If that’s the case, then why hasn’t Stephen Fleming, who is New Zealand’s all-time leading run scorer, and also one of the finest captain’s in test history, been knighted? Cook’s captaincy was average. He lost more games than any other England test captain and had a lower win percentage than both Strauss and Vaughan.
As one can clearly see, therefore, there is no basis whatsoever for knighting Alastair Cook. He is not one of the greatest batsmen ever unless one judges purely on longevity. And if longevity is the main criteria for awarding knighthoods then why haven’t England’s most capped players in other sports been honoured?
Consequently, I can only conclude that Alastair Cook has been knighted for one reason and one reason only. The country loves him. He’s adorable. He’s handsome. He’s got a nice voice. And he’s quintessentially English: a modest and polite gent. But since when has ‘we like him’ been reason enough to give someone a knighthood? The honours system has many, many flaws, but surely it hasn’t stooped this low?
Cynics might conclude, therefore, that Alastair Cook has been knighted for all the wrong reasons. They might even go back to Giles Clarke’s infamous ‘right sort of family’ comments during the KP affair. Maybe, at the end of the day, Alastair and his family are just the kind of people the nation wants its knights to be.
This all seems very unfair to me. Wayne Rooney, with his think scouse accent and history of boorish behaviour, isn’t considered worthy. And neither for that matter is David Beckham, despite his long career and work for UNICEF, Comic Relief, and The Red Cross. Old golden balls might be handsome and have nice hair but he’s only married to Posh, rather than actually being posh.
Personally I think the whole system is ridiculous and why anyone should be knighted for doing a job they love and for which they have been well paid is farcical. As with ‘entertainers’. When they have done loads for charity like Sir Ian, fair enough. There are thousands of people throughout the country who do noble and honest toil for others for many years and get paid very poorly for it but who are ignored by the so-called honours system. I would like to see the whole thing scrapped!
I could add that “Sir” goes down very well when being considered as a Tory MP.
But I won’t!
The only thing that has changed is that the cost has increased and the money is channelled through the party. Take Baron Farmer, made a life peer in 2014 for donating over £6m to the Conservative Party.
The unkind might suggest that going down very well is a required form of greeting when meeting certain MPs of both parties.
But I won’t.
I take it you are talking from experience
Of for goodness sake James! People are knighted for all kinds of dubious reasons. On the whole, it’s not an acceptable system but give Cook a break. It’s not a system of his making. He’s had major ups and downs but he has slogged his heart out for England. Honours are often inexplicable and in the eye of the beholder. Maybe Theresa May likes him?
Please, let’s not go down this road of who he is, making him unjustifiably the darling of many. It’s been done so many times before. Over and over. You are entitled to say your piece, but having done that, why not just leave him be?
PS. You are right about Beefy and Jimmy has not yet retired.
PPS. Thank goodness someone, somewhere has noticed a cricketer.
Just one point – Hadlee was knighted whilst still playing, so Anderson shouldn’t be disqualified.
Not sure what you mean when you refer to “the nation”. We didn’t get a chance to vote and if we had of, my feelings replicate your 100%. It’s an establishment choice rather than the nation’s choice.
I meant vague notions of what the authorities consider to be ‘the nation’.
i think the authorities consider the nation to be those who follow cricket for pure enjoyment and recognise someone who has contributed to that. As opposed to those who would find fault with Mother Teresa. I think they are called the terminally miserable
You remind me of someone who in the act of copulating says “I hope you don’t think I am enjoying this “
You didn’t get a chance to vote cos your are irrelevant
Two points: First, the general observation that the honours system is ridiculous, something I wrote about in The Times a few years ago (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/letters/article6978152.ece).
Second, I agree entirely that Cook is overrated and distinctly not the best English batsman of his era. He just wasn’t consistent enough, even if he built innings with greater concentration and staying power than any English batsman since Boycott.
I’d discount the non-English comparators since although it is possible for non-British people to receive British gongs (Norman Schwarzkopf got one after the First Gulf War, Bob Geldof got one for what his one time music commentators Smashy and Nicey would call chaariddy), it’s extremely unusual. Hadlee got his at a time when NZ still subscribed to the British honours system, as did Bradman/Australia. Viv Richards, Curtly Ambrose et al received theirs from Caribbean rulers as would Lara unless I’m wrong. That, however, still leaves many an English cricketer such as those you’ve identified who would be at least as worthy as Cook.
Cricketing greatness in my view comes from (a) undeniable stats, particularly average and aggregate; (b) someone who regularly scored runs (or took wickets) in difficult conditions when his teammates struggled. (That. for a random example, made Jeremy Coney especially valuable for NZ in the 1980s, and made him a better player than his stats suggested, even if I wouldn’t go as far as to call him great); and (c) someone who the opposition would least like to face (Malcolm Marshall being a cricketing exemplar, or for other sports Jonah Lomu is a quintessential example).
Cook barely makes any of those criteria. He had a very long career, hence a high aggregate, but as you’ve observed he is nowhere in terms of average among other players with a similar aggregate. Sunny Gavaskar and AR Border were if I recall the first players to pass 10,000 test runs, and both played against the Windies at their most feared (I doubt there has been a better batting performance since the war than Border’s 1984 tour of West Indies). Tendulkar and Dravid too were leagues ahead, as was Ponting. Nor would Cook stand up against openers of his time – think of how many vital fourth innings scores Graeme Smith made for e.g., or how he batted two England captains into retirement.
Finally, Cook’s mentor Gooch never got a gong of that order. I don’t think he deserved one as a person, as there were too many unsatisfactory aspects to his conduct over the years (the South African tour, his regular non-availability, the Gower affair) but Gooch played a number of seriously great innings, probably more than Cook.
Some players are “in” and others are not – it’s that simple.
And Maggie is right – especially as honours are (a) easy to secure by persuading friends/acquaintances to send in letters of support, whilst denying knowledge of any such communications and (b) scattered like confetti among the sporting fraternity – win a couple of races and there’s a knighthood/damehood. The more honours are doled out, the more debased the whole system becomes.
Look, cricket needs a boost and the profile on New Year’s Day will be most refreshing. Imagine waking up on January 1 and it really had been Rooney!
Maybe it was recompense for the SPOTY oversight (the exception that presumably proves the rule)? Or a buy-off to Theresa for not giving one to Boycs (what ELSE has he done??)
I can forgive the invective. But “criterium”??
That’s a very good point. At least cricket will get a boost in publicity.
How depressing.You say “I like Alastair Cook. He seems like a good bloke and he’s served his country with distinction. His powers of concentration are amazing. And he’s played some superb knocks for England. He wasn’t (in my opinion) to blame for the KP sacking, and he’s a legend of the English game.” Sounds positive. Why not just congratulate him on the recognition his knighthood will represent and leave it there?
Because I don’t think it’s fair on all those who have missed out. Why should Cook be a special case?
A fair analysis, but the sporting comparisons overlook some who were far greater than any of those cited, and still were not recognised. The most obvious example is Daley Thompson, far and away the greatest athlete produced by this country (and don’t get me on to the comparison with Sir Mo Farah, who – whilst a great performer – was second best to Keninesa Bekele for most of his career). The CBE for Thompson makes the nod to Andy Murray look utterly corrupt. Cook deserves huge praise for his career and the way he has conducted that career, but only the PR department of the government would see it as worthy of a knighthood.
Sadly the honours system in sport is irrevocably broken. It started with Major but then Blair and Brown did the real damage. It is no longer a rational or consistent appraisal of a sportsman’s achievements; rather it is a matey nod from a government that they “get” sport and follow it. As such they believe that they must bow in deference to all the supposed dirty biases* that they believe hoi polloi use when they assess worthiness.
So we get this.
As you say, there are at least six English cricketers since Botham who deserve it more on cricketing achievements alone, but this isn’t about cricket. It’s about a government signalling to the public that they agree with them. Or that they agree with what they think the public thinks. It’s screwed, it has been for decades, and it’s never going to return to what it should be unless we go for years without dishing out knee-jerk honours. Which isn’t going to happen.
As you can probably tell from my tone of resignation, I just tend to ignore them today.
*(in particular the availability and affect heuristics – i.e. the how recently something happened and how much emotion it generated, and therefore how fresh that emotion is)
I might add that had the same level of knee-jerk awarding of honours been around in 1981 as there exists today, Brenda probably would have been forced to abdicate in the autumn with Ian Botham (King Beefy the first to use his regnal title) installed as the new reigning monarch.
Enjoyed the reference to Brenda. Wonder how many got it
To be fair to Blair, he did show a really sly sense of humour about sport and politics by making Kate Hoey Minister of Sport. I have nothing personal against Hoey, but her habit of making the point that she understood sport because she was the Northern Ireland Schools High Jump champion would have been more impressive if she had cleared more that 4’6″ to win.That would not have won my daughters school sports day.
Rooney’s England goal record is actually a very valid comparison.(53 in 120 games). Very good, but better than Lineker (48 in 80) or Greaves (44 in 57)? Not in terms of goals per game. It’s down to games played.
Regarding Brian Lara.
My understanding is that Lara is not eligible for Knighthood as he is a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago which, although a member of the Commonwealth, is not one of the Commonwealth Realms.
Someone else just pointed this out on Twitter. I didn’t know if true. I think there are other examples I could have used. Cheers for the heads up.
People aren’t knighted for being the greatest in their field–that’s what all the trophies and honours boards and gold discs and statistics and money are for.
As you say, Botham wasn’t even knighted for his cricket, so comparing Cook to other cricketers is pointless. Does he stack up as a national figure compared to other people who have been knighted? Of course he does.
But I’d argue that Cook’s achievements are all cricket related. He stays out of the limelight and there’s no charity work I’m aware of. What constitutes ‘a national figure’?
Cook could command universal admiration and support if he refused a knighthood, citing the (slightly adapted) dictum of Marx (Groucho) – ‘I do not care to belong to any club that would have (insert name of any of numerous scumbags) as a member.’
Your comment about Australian cricketers is not entirely correct. I know Warne once mused on Twitter that he was the only one of Wisden’s 5 Cricketers of the Century not to get a knighthood, and expressed a liking for “Sir Shane”.
No hold on – Australia doesn’t have the honours system any more, I’m sure. Vivian Richards didn’t get his from Queen Liz either
What do you expect when politicians feel they must pander to a population steeped in a cult of celebrityism with the attention span of goldfish?
Cook was Captain. when Simon Kerrigan played his one and only Test Match at the Oval.against Australia in 2013.
It was a disaster for him.
Did Cook go to him on the field and give him any sort of encouragement?
I do not remember him doing so.
I didn’t forgive him for that.
I can remember feeling so sorry for the lad who has now been released by Lancashire.
I may be wrong but I don’t think Kerrigan did anything after that match to speak of for his County team.
I would definitely not give Cook a Knighthood.
Please can anyone tell me if I am correct about what I have written?
I may be wrong in which case I apologise to Cook.
Well we know Teresa May liked/perhaps still likes Geoffrey Boycott.
I would far rather he were knighted than Cook.
Much in life is being in the right place at the right time, It is hardly Cook’s fault that some of the opposition he faced was inferior to that faced by some other batsmen. Yes he was overrated but again that’s not his fault. I deplore the Honours System. I deplore that Olympic athletes are seemingly automatically honoured irrespectively of their actual achievements over a sustained period. By the name token I cannot abide SPOTY, which I no longer watch.
But which ever way you cut it Cook was the backbone of England’s batting over a long period and he applied his (relatively modest) talents well. And he’s a good guy. One of the few cricketers I’d welcome to my dinner table. Again not his fault. Sure there are some guys who might be more deserving candidates for honours. Hardly his fault. And there were far less deserving ones -e.g. Collingwood for a single Test in 2005.
So, given my huge dislike of the system I think it would nonetheless be wrong to heap years of bile on Cook. Lets’s not get into sour grapes. He’ll wear his knighthood well and good luck to him.
Geoffrey Boycott’s knighthood is 20 years overdue. He should be next in line.
The World’s Gone Mad.
Whilst I have no love for Lord Geoffrey of the Flat Earth I do agree that his record deserves consideration. However, his French conviction for assaulting his partner would be a huge mark against his getting a knighthood. Venal behaviour is fine – but do not get caught. Having said that I almost feel he deserves a reward for the most bizarre complaint I have heard – that he could not understand the case against him because the court only spoke French. Said like a true Yorkshireman!
I think it’s correct to say that citizens of Commonwealth countries can only be knighted if their own country recommends it…So it’s quite possible that Guyana & Trinidad & Tobago haven’t done so for Chanderpaul & Lara. I also think we all know whey Beefy had to wait a while to get his knighthood, and also why Rooney probably will have to wait a fair time afterwards. Boycott too has a blot on his copybook which makes it less likely he will get one.
FWIW I’d scrap the system, and even whilst it continues I wouldn’t knight a sportsman whilst he/she is still active. But cleraly times have changed.
Presumably the same would apply to Clive Lloyd who probably deserves a knighthood for sporting achievement.
Personally don’t have a problem with it. It will raise the profile of English cricket for a while, which is a good thing, as it’s being turned into a minority sport. When Anderson retires from International cricket, he should be recognised accordingly.
We can all name personal favourites, that we’d like to see honoured, (although of course some are ineligible), but the sour grapes is a bit too much. Good luck to Cook if he gets it.
I am not so sure it is sour grapes more intellectually moribund!
Would Cook really want to belong to a club that includes Branson,Green and the like?
I’m not sure what you’re expecting from a system that’s so silly and corrupt that it’s always borne little relation to recognising any merit. Why not give him a knighthood for being nice? It seems infinitely preferable to handing one to Philip Green for services to asset stripping.
I am with you 100% on this. And if this had been T20 or soccer, it would have been 120% !!!
He’s right up there (forgive the pun) with Sir Fred Goodwin. Now just Fred Goodwin.
He’s been elevated because he took some shit for the Establishment on the KP sacking. No more, no less.
Have you read “The truth about the lie”?
If people move in high circles things can happen. If you move in high circles, you need people to deflect interest from the true subject matter. Arise Sir Alistair…
Tell us your thoughts on the twin towers and the illuminati, oh and how you are David Ickes biggest fan
as an Aussie, I always admired Eddie the Eagle and lamented he did not get higher recognition. Would have done wonders for elevating in the public eye whatever sport it was that he represented. But thank goodness S Warne is ineligible, the insufferability ratings would blow off the charts…
“I dub thee Sir Eagle”
As knighthoods are about as potent a symbol of the establishment as you can get, I dont see why so many get so hot under the collar about them. They are no refelection of public opinion and are recommended by a group of unelected people behind the scenes who see every appointment in a politically correct light.
A classic example of this was George Best, who in a few years, as his career was pretty much over by his mid twenties, was massively taken to their hearts by the public, even after his disastrous drink wracked private life ruined him. Even today he is probably the most iconic pure footballing image the UK has ever produced, well above the likes of Beckham, whom I am a great admirer of, but is very much an establishment figure, courting celebrity to great effect. Give me one game of Best to a career of Beckam.
To consider Best for honours of any kind would be an anathema to our establishment yet in Ireland he’s had an airport named after him. This is how relatively meaningless knighthoods are.
I’d missed the news, so thought this was just a rant against something theoretical until I got to the antepenultimate paragraph’s “has been knighted”!
At which point, my thought was “that’s good for cricket’s publicity among the general public”. And if somebody is deemed worthy of an honour now, it would be weird not to award it just because you failed to reward other worthy people in the past — that’s basically “We’ve never done the right thing before, so let’s not start now” thinking, which is hardly admirable either. (Come to think of it, maybe it could be the motto of the ECB?)
However, I like Carrie Dunn’s point that even just considering recently retired cricketers, Charlotte Edwards has achieved more for women’s cricket than Alastair Cook has for men’s — let’s hope she gets a suitable honour, too: https://twitter.com/carriesparkle/status/1074928797810606080
I’m not crazy about it. It all feels scripted from fine batsman to FEC, to captain to TINA to right family to knight. Don’t believe it will raise the profile of cricket. Those who have never heard of him will continue with their lack of interest.
The one quality I’d recommend in a cricketer worthy of an honour is “does he empty the bars when he’s performing?” – Botham yes, Lara yes, Cook ………
I don’t think rich sportsman, entertainers, celebrities or politicians should be knighted. What for? For doing their job well? People who do things selfishly to improve society and help people are far more deserving if you must have “awards”. The thing is most of these people are unpaid and do it for the satisfaction of doing so, not some silly award. I do a lot of charity work and have raised £1000’s over the last 10 years , but a simple thank you is quite sufficient.
As for Cook he’s an alright opener, but far from the best England has produced. And whose heard of him outside of Cricket?
Thanks for telling us how wonderful you are Doug
before I comment on the actual subject matter a couple of the images the quality of the writing in itself brought to mind had me chuckling. Congratulations to the author on making me laugh. Sir Vivian, Sir Garfield, roll off the tongue. Sir Shiv just made me chuckle like a 13 year old boy. As for Chef, longevity and concentration are his two main qualities. Well done on those but I agree not worh a knighthood.
Tbf I couldn’t care less who gets a OBE, MBe, Dame or knighted. It’s all meaningless tripe now so you literlaly can’t take them seriously. I’m sure anyone getting one loves it though.
Who cares? Knighthoods are meaningless anyway.
“English cricket grounds have never been so full for test cricket, at least in the last 50-odd years. If you watch any old footage from the 70s or 80s, there was barely anyone there on test days, even at the Oval and Lords”.
If anyone’s stupid enough to maintain a presence at the Guardian, would you go and set this idiot straight?
Just back to Lara for a second. I found this online which suggests that he could have been knighted by Antigua, where he broke the world test innings record twice https://www.stabroeknews.com/2012/sports/03/04/antigua-and-barbuda-should-knight-lara/
Not quite sure how this would work – as Sean from BOC said to me on Twitter it would be a bit like Cook becoming a sheik because he scored runs in the UAE – but it’s something to investigate at least.
“Assuming the reports are accurate, Cook will be the 10th English cricketer to get the full ceremonial sword treatment and it’s hard to imagine it happening to a more deserving or decent guy. Sir (Confirmation Pending) Alastair is the most prolific batsman and second-most successful captain England have had, whose modest bearing and keep‑calm‑and-carry-on demeanour practically demanded its own part in Downton Abbey”.
It’s a crowded field but Emma John’s bold move to be the worst UK cricket journalist is to be applauded. She also manages to get in two references to the sheep, turn deer-hunting into something adorable and finish up with the kind of remark about the CC that seems on the surface affectionate but is really designed to prepare the way for killing it off.
It’s now been officially announced. Nothing against Sir Alastair but the sight of “Harebrain” Harrison telling the public on BBC that Cook got his gong for, effectively, being a role model gets my goat.
Hells bells what a collection of sad, jealous people. I bet some of you are the types who would complain about a lottery win
Why can’t Aussies accept Knighthood? And why no mention of Sachin Tendulkar, Kumar Sangakarra, Rahul Dravid?
Just wondering aren’t India in the commonwealth? Because I may not like him but I’m sure sachin tendulkar deserves it more than cook. Also why not darvif
I couldn’t agree more I got a shock when I saw the sir
Then I think they had a Civic reception or use recognition for winning a test series against Australia
You need to learn these titles they are significant the question this appointment I would think