Friday’s final Test against India at The Oval marks the end of the career of England’s greatest ever run-scorer and Alastair Cook is fully deserving of all the accolades that come his way.
Cook came into the side in 2006, scored a hundred on debut in Nagpur and hasn’t looked back since. He’s been the rock at the top of the order for 12 years and has broken so many records along the way.
Opening the batting is not an easy position, especially in England with the Dukes ball. It’s been a fantastic effort.
My favourite memories of playing with him were in the 2010-11 Ashes in Australia when he had an unbelievable series, scoring 766 runs to drive the Aussies mad and bring the Ashes home for the first time in 24 years.
Openers always have fallow periods and Cook was experiencing one going into the series. There was talk about his position, but he and Andrew Strauss were excellent.
As a fast bowler, when you’ve bowled your overs you want to sit back and relax. With Cook batting you always felt at ease. It was a nice feeling.
In that series he led from the front. It was a pleasure to watch him frustrate the Aussie attack while our bowlers were able to refresh and refuel to win games with the ball.
Cook stood out in Australia, but he’s done it his entire career. He’s shown so much mental strength and patience to bat through difficult spells and score big hundreds.
Not only is Cook a very good player, he’s also a very good human being. He’s always played the game in the right way.
He’s a normal down-to-earth guy. There’s no ego. I’ve played with Kevin Pietersen, Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad – guys who feed on self-confidence and have at times had negative things written about them.
By contrast Cook has always gone under the radar in that sense. There’s no fuss: he keeps it simple, gets on with it and does the right thing – he’s a pure professional.
As role models go you can’t ask more. You want to play competitively but also in the right way and Cook was a shining example of that.
At 33 he’s still the fittest player going and has got plenty to offer with the bat and knowledge to pass on with Essex, where he’s signed a new three-year contract.
I would have liked to have seen Cook’s replacement given a chance at The Oval. Rory Burns is the stand-out candidate and it would have made sense to play him at his home ground, in a no-pressure situation.
They could have played Burns or the under-fire Keaton Jennings at No3 to still allow Cook his chance to shine.
If Burns comes in for the upcoming Sri Lanka tour it’s going to be much more difficult for him. Speaking from experience, getting off to a good start does a lot for your confidence.
Life after Cook will be tough but in some ways it might help. Previously there was always pressure on new players to bat alongside Cook. Now there will be two batting together, who can work as a team and take pressure off each other.
It is exciting for whoever comes in to try and fill those shoes and prove themselves. I’m sure they will be filled eventually, but players like Cook don’t come along very often.