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Chef Finally Gets Out Of The Kitchen

Something just wasn’t right at Southampton. On the first day Alastair Cook, who for so long has embodied focus and stoicism at the crease, poked at a wide ball outside off stump and guided it straight to third slip. It was a tired shot; it was a shot that said “I don’t have the mental strength for this anymore”. And who can blame him. Cook has played 160 test matches for England. And he’s never been injured. Chef has been in the kitchen non-stop for 12 long years. No wonder he finally wants out.

I’ve always had somewhat conflicting feelings about Cook – emotions that have evolved over time. When he first emerged on the scene I actually wondered what the hype was about. I’d heard so much about this wonder-kid from Essex that I was actually a little underwhelmed when I saw him play for England U19. He scored runs but they weren’t great to watch, and I wondered whether he had the technique for test cricket. 12,254 test runs later I think I might have my answer to that one.

Cook first came to public prominence when he made a big hundred against Australia for Essex on that famous 2005 tour. Once again the hype reached Graeme Hick proportions. And when he made a century in India on his test debut, people were already crowning him as the next great England batsman. The difference between Alastair and Graeme, of course, was that Alastair actually lived up to expectations – although he never went past Tendulkar’s aggregate. He had an ounce of Hick’s talent, but Hick only had an ounce of Chef’s steel.

They say that everyone is uber-talented at test level, and that mental strength is what divides the best from the also-rans. Cook is living proof that this old adage holds water. He was never the prettiest – although the ladies certainly found him easy on the eye – but he was usually bloody effective. What’s more, he cuts and pulls imperiously – one of the best I’ve seen – despite never looking totally comfortable either on the drive or, crucially, in defence against top class seam bowling.

No doubt many will write in the coming days that Cook is England’s best ever opener. This doesn’t bear scrutiny in my opinion. A forensic examination of Chef’s career shows that he was at his best on flat pitches against less than world class bowling. Sorry to burst any bubbles here. Of course there was the odd innings when he did very well – Durban in 2009 immediately springs to mind, not to mention Perth in 2006/07 – but most of his runs came when the bowling was less than top drawer.

I wrote an article a couple of years ago which demonstrated that only 5 of Cooks 32 test centuries came against attacks containing two bowlers who averaged less than 30 at the time. And most of those came in either very high scoring games or series in which he otherwise struggled. And his Ashes record (if one takes that wonderful 2010 tour out of the equation) was less than stellar. Nobody’s perfect I guess.

I must admit, however, that I’ve always written about Cook from the perspective that he was over-hyped. And things that are over-hyped annoy me. Therefore, I’ve never been completely objective when writing about Chef. Had I looked at his career through an objective lens – something I’ve been able to do more effectively in recent years – then I certainly would have been more generous looking back. After all, Alastair’s longevity, and his ability to dig in and make big scores when his teammates failed (Melbourne last winter being the prime example) is incredibly impressive. His retirement will leave a massive hole in the England team. What’s more, I’m extremely sad to see him go – although I feel the timing is probably right.

My feelings about Cook shifted significantly for the first time back in 2013 after the Ashes debacle. Many people blamed Alastair for the Kevin Pietersen debacle, including my former co-editor Maxie, but after careful thought I eventually saw Cook as something as a victim in the saga too; therefore I went from seeing him as something of slightly nauseating ECB choirboy into a somewhat tragic figure. As soon as Giles Clarke sang his praises as someone from the right kind of family, there was suddenly a huge target on Alastair’s back. And he became a symbol of resentment. None of this, of course, was Cook’s fault.

Some say the skipper should have gone out on a limb to save Pietersen, but after losing the Ashes 0-5 he simply didn’t have the power to do so. He was lucky to keep his job. And why should he go out of his way to protect a player he didn’t see eye to eye with? There was obviously some animosity there. It will be interesting to see what Cook’s book reveals. I suspect he’ll claim that he felt somewhat powerless and incredibly frustrated that he was unable to give his side of the story in public.

My feelings about Cook metamorphosed more recently as white ball cricket has become ubiquitous and, in my opinion at least, dangerous. As the ECB announced its plans for a city-based T20, which soon became Harrison’s Harebrained Hundred, I suddenly realised that Alastair had become something on an anachronism in the modern game. Here he was, in an era of increasing run rates and ever-increasing hype (yes it’s that word again), representing England as an old fashioned opener. It dawned on me that we should cherish Alastair while we still had him. After all, we might never see another stodgy opener play for England again – especially as test cricket itself is under siege these days.*

So how will I remember Cook? I think what sticks out for me is his performance in India back in 2012. He had just been appointed captain and he batted phenomenally well. The extra responsibility on his shoulders didn’t faze him (like it has affected Joe Root for example), and he led England to a famous series win. I’ll always remember Cook’s amazing application in that series, not to mention his awesome stamina. Pietersen stole the headlines at Mumbai, and Swann bowled beautifully too, but Alastair held the team together fantastically well. He was the hero of that tour in my opinion.

I often wondered what it would be like to write a ‘farewell Alastair’ article. His career was often under the microscope, as he often endured horrible patches of bad form, but I always assumed he’d go on and on forever. It’s quite surreal that I’m finally writing this article. I don’t really know what to say!

It’s all a bit emotional because in some ways the Alastair Cook story is The Full Toss. Maxie and I started blogging not long after his international career began, and we’ve often focused on his ups and downs. I recall an early iteration of TFT (circa 2008) that had a picture of Cook losing his off-stump in the sidebar. The caption, written by Maxie of course, read “what does he have to do to get dropped”? And now we know the answer. He never was. He just kept going until he’d had enough.

In some ways I think that says it all. Cook was the golden child. So he pissed some people off. But he was also understated, determined, always polite, and quintessentially English. And I think that his final test average of 45 (or just below that mark now) is probably a fair reflection of his abilities. He was a very good (but not truly ‘great’) opening batsman with a quirky technique but a brain I wish we could clone and insert into Stokes, Bairstow, Root, and all the other England players with twice his talent but half his resolve.

I will miss Alastair Cook greatly. And I’ll miss writing about him even more. His quirks, the dips in form, the controversies, his awkwardness in front of the camera, and even his limitations as a captain gave us so much to discuss. What on earth are we going to do without him?

James Morgan

* One thing I should have added here is that Cook has also expressed concerns about first class cricket, and implied that the creeping influence of white ball cricket is a worry. This puts him on the right side of the debate imho. I can’t recall too many other current England players expressing similar sentiments; therefore it’s wrong for some to portray Alastair as merely an ECB stooge. I think he might open up more about this topic once he retires.

2018-09-04T10:02:35+00:00 September 3rd, 2018|Player Spotlight|75 Comments

75 Comments

  1. maggie September 3, 2018 at 1:32 pm - Reply

    A fine tribute, everything I would have liked to say and more. Well written James! At a time when people are so quick to criticise and make truly unkind remarks about people, in many cases when they know little of what happens behind the scenes, I hope there will be due appreciation of what Cook has given to English cricket.

    • James Morgan September 3, 2018 at 1:46 pm - Reply

      Thanks Maggie.

    • Nigel September 3, 2018 at 3:38 pm - Reply

      Agreed.
      Neither hero nor villain for me, but an undoubtedly fine cricketer.

  2. Simon H September 3, 2018 at 1:43 pm - Reply

    “It will be interesting to see what Cook’s book reveals”.

    I doubt that very, very much.

    • James Morgan September 3, 2018 at 1:46 pm - Reply

      I’m not so sure Simon. I think Alastair is itching to talk about quite a few things.

      • Simon H September 3, 2018 at 3:12 pm - Reply

        If he wants some cushy ECB sinecure whether in admin, coaching or (shudder!) commentary, anything of interest will soon be purged from the book…

        • James Morgan September 3, 2018 at 3:41 pm - Reply

          I did wonder if the ECB might offer him some kind of token role. However, I think he’s quite likely to simply walk into the sunset. And that’s why I think the book might be interesting. He certainly had a lot to say when his ODI career came to an abrupt end.

      • Willie Mohan September 5, 2018 at 6:32 pm - Reply

        Did it ever occur to you that he might just be one of those people who couldn’t be arsed to write about his career and life. After all what has he to write about.

  3. James September 3, 2018 at 1:48 pm - Reply

    That sums up a lot of how I feel about Cook. I’m not sure whether his finest series was the 2010/1 Ashes or the India tour 2 years later (for me it’s between those 2). Either way it’s a few years ago, and this doesn’t surprise me too much. Whatever, over 12,000 runs and 32 centuries is a monumental contribution (monuments don’t move!). He’s one of only 3 people to have scored two double centuries in Australia (against Australia): Hammond and Lara are the others.

    The problem at the moment is that this means we have to find at least one more opener (given Jennings’ problems, possibly 2), and we don’t have too long before the Ashes. I suggest resting Jennings and bringing Burns in on his home ground (or letting one of Burns Jennings and Cook bat no 3).

  4. John September 3, 2018 at 2:16 pm - Reply

    A fine piece, James. Just out of interest, would you play him at the Oval?

    • James Morgan September 3, 2018 at 3:16 pm - Reply

      It’s a tough one. Steve Waugh once said “the minute you start thinking about retirement, you’ve basically already retired” as you can’t give 100% and you lose that intensity. It probably makes sense, now the series has been won, to blood another opener before the SL tour. But it would seem harsh to deny Cook one last hurrah. After all, he’s still probably more likely to score a hundred than Jennings. I really dunno.

      • John September 3, 2018 at 4:02 pm - Reply

        Yes, I think it’s a tough call. Someone btl in the Guardian picked up a lot of flack for saying he shouldn’t but although it’s a tricky one,not least because the series is won, I tend to agree with him and would have played someone else with a fighting chance of making the SL tour (and Ashes). It will be interesting to see whether or not this affects the decision on Jennings.

  5. Jackie Litherland September 3, 2018 at 2:25 pm - Reply

    My opinion of Cook changed during the 2013-14 Ashes. How a captain could allow a teammate to be scapegoated for the failure of the Series is unacceptable behaviour and dishonourable. He and coach Andy Flower started a chain of events which destroyed a brilliant side during the Series which is still reverberating today. Merit was no longer the basis of selection but whether you were the right sort etc and approved by a certain agenda and clique. England has never recovered and has staggered from one poor selection to another. Alastair was weak and culpable. I wasn’t even a fan of KP but it was wrong and venjgeful to drop him on the flimsiest of reasons, looking out of the window and whistling. What a dark time. Ridiculous when Strauss banned him forever and then we had years of the deification of Cook when he was a pretty awful captain. Cook benefited from the Flower vendetta but he’ll have to live with the consequences. The events will always be part of his story.

    • James Morgan September 3, 2018 at 3:14 pm - Reply

      Hi Jackie. I understand where you’re coming from, but it wasn’t Cook’s fault that the ECB put him on a pedestal etc. And it wasn’t him who vilified KP, it was the ECB’s PR machine. I doubt Cook had anything to do with that. The only interview I remember seeing with Cook he simply said “a lot has obviously been going on and it’s very frustrating that I’m not allowed to talk about it”. Plenty will disagree, and I respect your opinion, but I’m not sure how a captain can stop a board and a PR machine from scapegoating a player.

      • Elaine Smpson-Long September 3, 2018 at 4:33 pm - Reply

        He did not even try James. Kept going on about not being able to say anything. If he does now it will prove to me that he did not have the guts to do it at the time.

    • AB September 5, 2018 at 10:51 am - Reply

      I think it was more Strauss’s fault that he allowed a cabal of bullies to form in the dressing room under his captaincy that publically humiliated one of their own team-mates whilst sitting in the same dressing room as him. That is absolutely unacceptable, and created the situation that, along with Flower’s arrogant, control freak nature, destroyed the team and left us with a legacy of failure and embarrassment.

  6. Simon H September 3, 2018 at 3:10 pm - Reply

    “No player has given more to the England cricket shirt .. No player has got more out of there ability .. No player has shown more mental strength than Alastair Cook .. More than that he is the nicest Cricketer we have ever had”.

    Did Michael Vaughan:
    a) Carefully evaluate the careers of Grace, Rhodes, Barnes, Hobbs, Sutcliffe, Hammond, Compton, Hutton, Trueman, Illingworth, Boycott, Underwood, Gooch, Gower, Botham and others against Cook, or
    b) Tweet the first old bollocks that came into his head?

    • Comte September 3, 2018 at 3:31 pm - Reply

      b) he’s made a career of of doing that since he retired. Worthless ****

      As for Cookie himself, I reckon he should have jumped earlier. Good luck to him.

    • Nigel September 3, 2018 at 3:36 pm - Reply

      “No player has got more out of their ability” – I think this bit is perhaps true… and one can allow a certain amount of hyperbole on the day of his retirement announcement.
      I think he perhaps shares some of the qualities of Sutcliffe, but it would be absurd to claim he came near to the peerless Hobbs.

      Almost certainly a ‘nicer’ cricketer than quite a few on that list, too.

    • Willie Mohan September 3, 2018 at 6:22 pm - Reply

      Here’s a question Simon. Vaughan skippered England to one of the greatest wins in her history. That Ashes series was lauded as the best ever by people like Richie Benaud. Vaughan was a quite brilliant batsman. So the question is, how do you know he is talking bollcks. Unless of course you skippered England to an Ashes win against arguably the bet test side ever, or failing that you were a world class batsman. If you are either of these, you have kept your light well hidden under that bushel

      • Jackie Litherland September 4, 2018 at 7:10 am - Reply

        I don’t think you need to be a Prime Minister to know when one of them is talking “bollocks” so your argument falls.

        • Willie Mohan September 4, 2018 at 8:48 am - Reply

          Really so you think Simon knows more about cricket than Michael Vaughan. Interesting

  7. Doug M September 3, 2018 at 3:14 pm - Reply

    Well all said very well James, but I do wonder if he thought he might be dropped for the Oval, and that therefore hastened his announcement?
    Really he’s probably gone on just a bit too long, I thought he was passed his sell by date before this summer. He just didn’t look as though his heart was in it. Mind you with about a dozen opening partners over the last 5 years it hardly makes for stability. A nice guy and if not one of the greats, not far off.

    So now we need two openers if you discount Jennings who is probably playing for his place on Friday.

    • James Morgan September 3, 2018 at 3:18 pm - Reply

      Good point mate. Perhaps it has already been decided that Cook won’t play at The Oval. I don’t know. My understanding is that he will play, but I’ve been out of the loop a bit in recent hours.

  8. John September 3, 2018 at 4:08 pm - Reply

    That’s interesting – I hadn’t thought of that but re-reading the piece it says that he is retiring ‘after the Oval Test’. I had assumed that meant he would be playing in it but it doesn’t specifically say so. Does Ed have another surprise up his immaculately coutured sleeve I wonder ?

    • Elaine Simpson-Long September 3, 2018 at 4:35 pm - Reply

      So once again he is allowed to choose when he goes an indulgence not given to others

      • Willie Mohan September 3, 2018 at 6:15 pm - Reply

        Strange he doesn’t do social media, so all those who don’t rate him will be shouting in an echo chamber.

  9. Stephen September 3, 2018 at 4:47 pm - Reply

    A fine tribute, James, as others have already said, I was wondering how you might approach this moment given your criticisms of Cook over the years, but I feel that you have been perfectly honest…..and I agree with you over Cook’s role in the KP affair, I always thought that he was a decent guy and that was probably why he was used by the ECB establishment.
    For the sake of English cricket, I hope that another opener with his determination does come along…had hopes for Hameed,a couple of years ago, still do………

    • James Morgan September 3, 2018 at 5:39 pm - Reply

      Cheers Stephen 🙂

  10. Hungerpang September 3, 2018 at 6:00 pm - Reply

    Finally, our “other” opening batsman will become part of an opening pair, rather than being “Alastair Cook’s partner”. My hope is that this psychological change will finally allow someone (and hopefully, two) to step up to the necessary standard.

    I laughed when I read Nasser saying “you’d think at some point you’d lose form” over 158 Tests. Er…Naz…he did…for the last 5 years. 7 hundreds since the start of the 2013 Ashes, and passed 50 just 5 times in his last 36 innings. His average tells you what he was – a good player, nothing more. He was also a lamentable captain, by some margin England’s worst in my lifetime out of those who have held the role for any length of time, and stubborn to a fault. He’s not yet 34. If he’d taken some time off in the last couple of years, he might have been able to refresh himself and come back performing at a satisfactory level.

    • Willie Mohan September 3, 2018 at 6:05 pm - Reply

      My comments apply especially to you

      • Hungerpang September 5, 2018 at 10:08 am - Reply

        Well in spite of being a pretty hopeless cricketer, I managed to retire at 45 from my chosen profession, so I think I “did” ok. People who come on to sites such as this to hurl abuse rather than express an eloquent opinion baffle me. Why bother? What do you hope to achieve? I accept that my post sounded rather harsh, but that was because I banged it into my phone while sitting in the car waiting to pick up up my kids, and when they arrived I just hit “post” without reading it through. That said, I stand by its basic sentiment. I didn’t say anything daft like “he’s rubbish”, but I happen to believe he’s a bit overrated – good, and at times very good, but nowhere near great, and suggestions in the media that he’s “England’s greatest ever batsman” and just laughable and demonstrate ignorance. Having agreed with James’s various posts about Cook almost to the letter over the years, I was also a bit surprised to see him come over a bit dewey-eyed when Cook finally retired. He’s been little more than a passenger for most of the last couple of years and over his entire career averages about 10 less than the best batsmen of his era. As for his captaincy, on the field it was as wooden at the end of his tenure as it was at the beginning. Most people learn from experience, but infuriatingly he never seemed to. However it’s his leadership off the field where I think he failed most, because he allowed cliques to develop that seemed to make it difficult for new players to integrate and ultimately led to England losing their finest player since Gooch and Gower. That’s my opinion and if you disagree with it, that’s just fine, but how about explaining why you differ rather than just posting inflammatory nonsense?

        • Willie Mohan September 5, 2018 at 6:21 pm - Reply

          Hells bells mate, I suddenly realised it was me you were replying to. I don’t think I was being insulting in the slightest. Just have this thing about folk like you and I, who are just run of the mill gagies to be honest. We have never played or coached at the rarefied atmosphere of international sport yet you assert that Cook is this that and the other. I do find it odd that Cook for all his achievements, is still damned with the faintest of praise. That’s when he is not being vilified of course. It’s not his fault he scored all those runs in his era. It’s not his fault that he is a quiet family man, it’s not his fault doesn’t do tatts, it’s not his fault that he doesn’t have a penchant for nightclub brawling, it’s not his fault that he didn’t text the opposition in the middle of a test. So apart from all that he doesn’t seem a bad bloke. As for your assertion of being the worst skipper in your lifetime. Well it’s not his fault that he didn’t rock up st nets still drunk on an Ashes tour in 2006. Now that is lamentable skippering don’t you think. There you go nothing inflammatory there.

          • Hungerpang September 8, 2018 at 8:41 am - Reply

            I don’t really count Flintoff because he was a stand-in (Michael Vaughan was the chosen captain until 2008, even though he wasn’t playing), but yes, I accept he was a worse skipper than Cook. David Gower, for all his batting brilliance, was pretty awful, too. And Willis.
            I’m not sure you have to have played top-level sport to be able to validly criticise it though. I may not have got to any level whatsoever as a sportsman, but I have managed many teams of high-performers in business, who often have egos to match. The man-management skills transfer, and from what I’ve read and observed Cook tended to hide rather than lead. This is what leads to cliques. Didn’t happen under the best man-managers, Vaughan and Hussain.

          • Hungerpang September 8, 2018 at 8:46 am - Reply

            Botham was probably the worst of the lot, though we only got a telly for the 1981 Royal Wedding (between the Headingley and Edgbaston Tests of the ’81 Ashes) so I never saw his captaincy.

  11. Willie Mohan September 3, 2018 at 6:02 pm - Reply

    There are two types of people in this world. Those who can and those who can’t. Those who can do and those who can’t sit at home and write about.

    • Jackie Litherland September 4, 2018 at 7:20 am - Reply

      I think you will find there are many types of people in the world thank goodness. If those who can’t play cricket never watched it the sport wouldn’t exist.

      However some people are astute at analysis and some at judging personalities and body language. They can have valuable insights into the game.

      One of the lovely things about cricket is the enormous number of narratives the matches create over time. Which is one of the reasons Test Cricket is so special.

      • Willie Mohan September 4, 2018 at 8:57 am - Reply

        Some people may be astute at all things, but never as astute as those who are masters of their craft

        • Dave G September 4, 2018 at 3:27 pm - Reply

          Indeed. All the great football managers either won a Ballon d’Or, or at least one World Cup. Oh, wait.

          • Willie mohan September 4, 2018 at 8:30 pm - Reply

            I wasn’t talking about great managers, I was talking about those such as you and I. We love our sport but if we were really astute then we would be great managers. Instead we are ordinary punters, who to be honest, have all the sporting nous of a chair leg

  12. oreston September 3, 2018 at 9:02 pm - Reply

    A measured and thoughtful piece, James, which was never going to completely satisfy either Cook’s detractors or his adherents – which means you’re probably doing something right 😉
    Would he have stayed in the team so long without a) the media placing him on a ridiculous pedestal and b) the little matter of there being no alternative? No, and neither situation is of his making (England are still struggling to replace Strauss, for heavens sake). His captaincy became ineffectual as time wore on and his tactical limitations were exposed by a shallowing of the talent pool as Trott, Swann, Monty, Prior, Bell and KP all departed one by one for diverse reasons and Finn failed to become England’s next great seam bowler. Was he really “…lucky to keep his job” after the 2013-14 Ashes? He SHOULD have been lucky to do so, as historically any captain surviving a whitewash down under would’ve been, but was he actually? Did anyone at the ECB or in the UK media seriously suggest he should go? No, all we heard was TINA so far as I recall.
    Sadly his legacy is sullied, as few players’ has been, by developments off the pitch which you allude to. While I accept he’s just not a strong enough character always to have been driving events (particularly in an ECB that was dominated by the likes of Flower and Clarke) I’m not sure I’d go so far as to describe him as the unwitting victim of all that – I just don’t think we have the evidence available to regard that as a working hypothesis and he hasn’t really clarified anything himself. It’s certainly an interesting speculative angle though and credit to you for putting the notion out there. You were always going to invite some ire for doing so.
    I think you’re absolutely right to describe Cook as potentially one of the last of a certain breed of Test batsman. His decline and retirement have coincided with a particular moment in the history of the game and with what many of us would feel is its debasement. As a batsman he had a limited array of scoring strokes and lacked either the elegance of a Gower, the adventurousness of a Pietersen – or the flair of either. What he did have however was a desire (and I believe the desire remained even as his powers waned) to stay out in the middle for as long as possible and score patient runs, strike rate be damned. He embodied that quality as few players in an England shirt have done since Boycott – though of course one has to calibrate one’s understanding of his career record in the context of the bowlers he faced. Would he have made 12,000 Test runs batting in the ’80s or ’90s? Not a chance, but at his height he was a very, very good opener nonetheless.

    • James Morgan September 4, 2018 at 9:54 am - Reply

      Thanks mate. I agree with most of what you say. The pedestal stuff was nauseating and I definitely think Alastair benefitted from special treatment over the years that other players never enjoyed. Part of that, however, was also because he was well liked within the team and set a good example. It wasn’t all about class etc.

      The reason I don’t blame Cook for the KP thing, although many always will, is because it’s pretty clear from KP’s book that the main argument was between KP and Flower / The ECB. The worst Pietersen said about Cook is that he kept his “head down” if I recall. In other words, Cook stayed out of it.

      If one puts oneself in Cook’s shoes he’s feeling vulnerable, worried about his job, and he’s also got to lead a divided dressing room. Maybe he was between a rock and a hard place, couldn’t see a solution, and thought there was no point putting his head on the block for a teammate who was in conflict with the coach (who he got on well with) and the board (who pay his salary). It must have been a very tricky dilemma, and to be honest I might well have done the same in Cook’s position. Why should Cook risk everything, and be a martyr for KP, when his livelihood is a stake?

      It’s pretty clear that things were coming to a head re: KP and the board, so he probably thought he’s sit back and see how it plays out. He probably assumed his interjection would have been futile at this point anyway. From everything we’ve seen and read about Cook over the years, and the 100% positive things his teammates and ex-teammates have said about him, I just can’t see him as some kind of conniving backstabber. The narrative just doesn’t fit imho. Therefore I’ve looked for another explanation.

      • James September 4, 2018 at 4:34 pm - Reply

        Andrew Miller on Cricinfo says Cook took the flak for the ECB on KP due to ECB incompetence, buck passing and bad PR, which seems reasonable. http://www.espncricinfo.com/story/_/id/24570820/alastair-cook-immense-record-stand-test

        Worth remembering here that Cook had already fought for KP once (after the SA texts, I think), when the ECB wanted him out. Flower hated Pietersen, and, when KP was sacked (after the 2013/4 Ashes debacle) Cook was in no position to resist. When Strauss (who was the target of some of the texts) was brought in as England MD, KP wasn’t going to return. So Cook got on with it, which is his way. However, I think Cook and KP brought out the best in each other (think Mumbai) as a sort of yin and yang. Pietersen was pretty generous in his assessment of Cook (though I notice that he listed the top 5 English run scorers, down to a certain K**** P********!).

        • James Morgan September 5, 2018 at 1:54 pm - Reply

          Cook has just said in his presser that he was “involved in the KP decision, but it wasn’t his decision”. He said it was the low point of his playing career and wishes the whole thing had been handled better. No doubt people will take from these comment what they want to suit their own interpretation … including me!

          • James September 7, 2018 at 9:23 am - Reply

            In his interview with Aggers, Cook said he suggested that the England management drop (rather than sack) Pietersen, but they wouldn’t do it.

    • James September 5, 2018 at 8:51 am - Reply

      There’s actually another test specialist batsman playing in the current series. Cheteshwar Pujara.

  13. Marc Evans September 3, 2018 at 11:47 pm - Reply

    Good to see a sportsman with the nous to know when to call it a day, before all his good deeds are sibmerged by negativity. If we had lost at the Rose Ball I am sure he would have stayed on for the decider and been selected. However, it is clear his mental strength is on the wain, fatal in an opening bat.
    I believe history will be kind to him as the last of the genuine old style red ball specialist batsman, a sort of modern day Boycott. I think he is aware his attacking limitations leave little for him in the modern game.
    I wish him well and hope he can find an active niche in the game more than just joining the Sky pundits.

  14. Jackie Litherland September 4, 2018 at 7:31 am - Reply

    Let’s hope that Cook by joining Essex in the day to day County Championship will discover for himself all the dire things going on outside his bubble. If he is still fond of playing the longer format then he could be a force for good if he speaks out or even hints that the County Championship needs protection from the machinations of the ECB under Graves. If he still has influence among the Essex overlords Gooch, Hussain and Flower then this is the time to use it.

  15. Elaine Si pson-Long September 4, 2018 at 7:54 am - Reply

    Bunble in the Mail says that Cook should not play in the Oval Test now he has announced his retirement. First bit of commo sense from him for a long time. We all know it is going to be a lovefest of nauseating proportions. I shall not be watching.

    All I need now is for Anderson and Broad to retire and then I can start to like the England team again.

    • Willie Mohan September 4, 2018 at 8:51 am - Reply

      Still carrying a torch for KP I see.

      • Elaine Simpson-Long September 5, 2018 at 11:17 am - Reply

        Why do you assume that?

    • Elaine Simpson-Long September 5, 2018 at 11:18 am - Reply

      I daresay they will survive.

  16. James September 4, 2018 at 8:11 am - Reply

    According to Aggers (and I think he’s telling the truth) Cook had decided to go before the Rose Bowl test, and told his team mates immediately after the game. He delayed the announcement for a day to allow the media to focus on Moeen’s return. All that suggests his focus is on the team, which may explain the “second KP debacle” (the first was the South African texts, when Cook fought for his retention). It was clear the ECB wanted rid of KP, and Cook may have been upset at “betrayal of the team”, and not in a good position to exert any influence after the ashes debacle (a case of “his job or yours”).

  17. James Morgan September 4, 2018 at 10:04 am - Reply

    I’ve just added a footnote to my article which mentions Cook’s concerns about the health of first class cricket. In fact, he made some remarks at a primary school just up the road from me in April. Here’s a link https://www.telegraph.co.uk/cricket/2018/04/24/alastair-cook-never-inconsistent-not-afraid-change/ this puts him in my good books!

  18. Jennyah46 September 5, 2018 at 6:04 am - Reply

    A very fair post James.

    Obviously I’m sad to see Alistair Cook go but I’ve found it both heart wrenching and embarrassing to watch his slow decline. In his own way and within his limitations he has had an outstanding career for England and I will remember him in that way.

    I really enjoyed your blog and all the ongoing comments and replies. I’m a bit behind as I’m deep in the Peloponnese!

  19. Hungerpang September 5, 2018 at 10:18 am - Reply

    Question for you James (and others): If you had to choose between Cook and Mike Atherton for someone to bat for your life, who would you choose?

    • Nigel September 5, 2018 at 11:30 am - Reply

      Do we get choice of venue ?

      • Hungerpang September 5, 2018 at 2:10 pm - Reply

        Nope…and you don’t know who the bowlers are, either.

        • Nigel September 6, 2018 at 7:38 pm - Reply

          Given those structures (and assuming were talking about them in their prime), I agree with James.
          Though I’m not sure either could have played Gooch’s famous innings at Headingley, which was the finest innnings by an England opener in my memory (and I thought Gooch a bit rubbish at the start of his career, being a Gower fan… and having grown up with Boycott opening).

    • James Morgan September 5, 2018 at 2:01 pm - Reply

      I think Atherton was a better playing than Cook. Atherton’s late career was affected really badly by a hereditary back condition which meant he was completely inflexible at the crease … and therefore a bit of a sitting duck. In his prime I rate Atherton extremely highly. I remember watching him stand up to Walsh / Ambrose and Co as England captain in the West Indies, with the crowd screaming for blood. Atherton was a rock and basically carried that whole batting order (alongside Stewart) for a while. Athers’ duels with Allan Donald also stick in the memory. I really don’t think Cook’s technique would have withstood the attacks Atherton had to face e.g. Wasim / Waqar, Ambrose / Walsh, Donald / Pollock, McGrath / Gillespie or McDermott etc.

      • Hungerpang September 5, 2018 at 2:20 pm - Reply

        Wholeheartedly agree. There were some quite good spinners in that era too, if you could survive the quicks…

      • James September 5, 2018 at 3:20 pm - Reply

        Possibly the best fast bowling attack Cook played against was the 2012 South Africans: Philander, Steyn (in his prime), Morkel, Tahir and Kallis. Cook got a century at the Oval (as did Smith and Kallis; Amla made 310).

        Wonder how Cook would have stood up to the 1980’s West Indians that his mentor Gooch played as well as anyone (with the possible exception of Robin Smith). Not that well, I suspect.

      • Willie mohan September 5, 2018 at 5:56 pm - Reply

        Here’s a thing, KP didn’t play in that era either. So I take it he isn’t as good as we think he was.

        • James Morgan September 6, 2018 at 9:38 am - Reply

          I think Pietersen might have struggled a bit too because he played almost exclusively off the front foot. However, his eye and natural talent were such that I think he may have adapted eventually. The fact the benchmark for a world class player used to be 40 twenty five years ago, whereas it’s now 50, is quite revealing.

          • Willie Mohan September 6, 2018 at 10:03 am - Reply

            Would have loved to see him playing off the front foot against the great Windies quicks. Now that would be a clash of the titans. I agree with you that his enormous talent would have enabled him to handle them. But the thought of Holding et al charging, or in Holdings case, gliding in, to bowl at KP would have been something special.

            • James September 7, 2018 at 9:17 am - Reply

              Malcolm Marshall didn’t exactly charge in either!

              KP would have found it difficult (and physically dangerous, given those bowlers’ use of the short ball, and primitive helmets) to play off the front foot against them, but he could certainly play the pull and hook shots.

              I think the change in the great batsman benchmark is not just the exceptional quality of the 1980’s and 1990’s bowlers. There are now limits on bouncers, good quality helmets (Rick McCosker tried an early helmet in WSC, and a Joel Garner bouncer broke it!), better bats.

              I’d say Joel Garner is probably the most underrated of those WI fast bowlers (250 test wickets at under 21 each is some record, and his ODI economy rate is like Bradman’s batting average).
              Trying to decide who is the most underrated “great” batsman of the modern era. I’d go for either Kallis (whose stats compare with Sobers’) or Sangakkara. Any thoughts?

              • Willie mohan September 10, 2018 at 5:53 pm

                How about Voges, who was having a period who had a period where he had Bradmanesqe stats. I think he wins the title

              • Willie mohan September 10, 2018 at 5:54 pm

                Cancel that I forgot the preface “great”

      • James September 7, 2018 at 9:21 am - Reply

        Notable that Atherton has 2 of the top 3 “bunny” records (most test dismissals by a single bowler). The bowlers are Ambrose and McGrath. Might as well get out to good bowlers, I suppose.

        • Willie mohan September 10, 2018 at 5:50 pm - Reply

          Considering the era Atherton batted in, then he must be one of England’s finest players. He opened against some of the true greats of 5he game. As for underrated batsmen, well Kallis has stats that if considered alone, would make him the best all rounder ever. But I am sure there are others other than the two you mention, who should wear the mantle of being well overrated

  20. James Morgan September 5, 2018 at 2:02 pm - Reply

    Everyone has probably seen this already but just in case

    • James September 5, 2018 at 3:11 pm - Reply

      I think this is KP’s version of generosity (he lists the England top run getters down to himself!). However, since KP is not a man to let go of a grudge, I think that bears out the theory that his main beef was with Flower/ECB, not Cook. After all, Cook had already put himself on the line once for Pietersen (before the 2012/3 India tour, which proved a wise decision). And Cook wasn’t in a strong bargaining position with his employers after the 2013/4 Ashes tour. Strauss and Pietersen may (do) hate each other, but I don’t think that’s the case with Cook.

      And, as Matthew Hoggard pointed out at a lunch I went to, KP has fallen out with almost everyone who’s employed him.

      • "IronBalls" McGinty September 5, 2018 at 7:59 pm - Reply

        Well said Sir!

      • Nigel September 6, 2018 at 7:41 pm - Reply

        Curious spelling of Cook’s name, too…

  21. SaxophoneAlex September 7, 2018 at 11:23 am - Reply

    I wish Cook a happy retirement from Test cricket. I feel he has gone on a little too long, and the big double hundreds against Australia in Melbourne and the against the West Indies rather papered over the cracks in his form and technique, sandwiched as they were between runs of very modest scores indeed. He is now getting a great send off and he deserves it, but it is a shame that others such as KP or Bell, didn’t get quite the same send-off. Glad to see KP’s comments above, he and Cook are probably never going to be top of each other’s Christmas card list, but a certain mutual respect is surely there.
    As someone who does not own a TV, I rely on TMS and reading articles in the papers online in order to follow the cricket. As a child I loved to watch the Test match cricket on TV, feeling guilty about not being outside doing something more energetic eg cycling or playing sport. My cricketing memory goes back to about 1970. I played some low grade ladies cricket years ago, I was mainly a wicketkeeper batsman, so I understand the game albeit I haven’t played it a high level. When Cook was in his prime, he had great powers of concentration and could thrive in hot conditions, patiently leaving the ball until there was something there to cut, pull, drive or glance away. A peak form Cook would be an asset to any Test team, but in recent times he has looked out of sorts, almost like a walking wicket. I half hope he will go out on a high and score one last century, given India might be a bit relaxed now with the series already lost.
    Who would my England openers be if I were selecting an England team from 1970 onwards ie the years that I can remember? I would want a right-hander and left-hander combination as I feel this makes it harder for the bowlers to get their line right on or outside off stump.
    Geoff Boycott has to be my number 1. He averaged nearly 48, I think, and had to face some genuinely frightening pace bowlers at their peak. The YouTube videos remind us of the fine shots that Boycott could play, and you have to respect a batsman with over 100 first class hundreds to his name. Perhaps he was a bit hard to get on with in his heyday, but a good captain knows how to deal with all the different personalities, just ask Mike Brearley. Management too should know how to accommodate the different characters with a squad.
    I want a left-hander to be Boycott’s partner at the top of the order. I was going to go for John Edrich, who was a superb player, but part of me thinks that Boycott’s partner would need to be a little more free scoring than the Yorshire legend. I am actually going to choose Marcus Trescothick, a free scoring left-handed opener who ended up with an average of about 45 I think and who, I think, shares a 25th December birthday with Cook, albeit a different year. Please correct me if I have that wrong. Trescothick’s stress and depression-related problems led to Cook’s big chance in the first place, which is quite ironic. Had Trescothick had more support at the time, perhaps he would have ended up with statistics to match Cook’s.
    Cook would be my first reserve in the even of injury to Boycott or Trescothick. Just my thoughts and of course it is all hypothetical anyway. It does fascinate me that, since the retirement of Andrew Strauss, there has been this revolving door with regard to Cook’s opening partner…Robson, Lyth, Carberry, Compton, Jennings, Stoneman etc etc. Have none of those lasted long in the side only because of their own technical shortcomings, or has it been harder for them to settle because Cook’s own form has been on the wane for quite some time now ?
    Cook has done very well and he deserves a nice break from it all, spending time with his family, and I understand that child number 3 is imminent, if not already here. Hope he can end with a huge score.

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