When Alastair Cook walks away from cricket at end of the ongoing Oval Test, cricket will surely miss a stylish left hander who was the embodiment of patience, determination and values.
While reporting his marathon knocks in the UAE, one could not but admire his patience.
In the 2015 three-Test series against Pakistan, he scored 450 runs, which included a knock of 263 in Abu Dhabi, 65 and 10 in Dubai, 49 and 63 in Sharjah.
It was tough to dismiss him once he gets going — a trait that could be seen right from his debut Test match against India in Nagpur when he scored 60 and an unbeaten 104, and continued in the ongoing Test match to score 71 when England collapsed to 198 for seven on the first day.
When Cook notched up his 30th century in his 136th Test match, the cricket world debated whether he would break Sachin Tendulkar’s record of 51 Test centuries. Instead of observing and admiring the perfection in his choice of shots and batting style, many were questioning his ability to break records.
For Cook it never mattered whether a record was ahead of him, and he enjoyed proving his critics wrong. His ability to stay at the wicket for long hours made critics label him a Test player rather than a shorter version specialist.
In 2012, UAE fans saw him crack back to back centuries against Pakistan. He was in sublime form in that series with scores of 137, 102 and 80 from the three One-dayers.
Cook’s knocks have always been a lesson for cricketers to watch and learn. He had in him the elegance of left handers like Brian Lara and Kumar Sangakkara, and with his retirement, cricket will lose another classy player.
Despite playing many long innings during his Test series in the UAE, one could see him train intensely for long hours at the nets even on break days. It must be this dedicated training that helped him score easily on Indian wickets when his teammates struggled. His ability to score on unfamiliar wickets is something that has made him a legend of the game.
There are many tales about his dedication to cricket, and I was fortunate to witness it once. Cook arrived for the 2012 series against Pakistan right after his marriage to his childhood sweetheart Alice Hunt.
After the warm up game against Combined XI in which he hit a 76, he was flooded with questions about his marriage. When asked how he could leave his new bride at home and come for the series without even a honeymoon, he said: “She knew what she was marrying into — the life of a cricketer. Maybe we will get to go away in the next 12 months.”
That’s Cook, nick named Chef, who dished out many memorable knocks in cricket.