Category: Alastair Cook (page 1 of 10)

Alastair Cook is a complete part-timer

Epic, they say. Monumental. Alastair Cook batted for 836 minutes against Pakistan. That’s almost 14 hours. Or, in other words, not even two days’ work for a normal person.

So before we start lauding Cook’s extraordinary powers of concentration, let’s just stop a minute and ponder whether he could spend a full 37 and a half hours working on the same bloody spreadsheet. No six-hour shifts with breaks every two hours either – proper, long, miserable stints where even taking a lunch break is frowned upon.

How would he cope then? It’s pretty easy to avoid playing an airy-fairy cover drive – most of us achieve this goal daily – but how would he cope trying to work out which cell contains a buggered-up formula? How long could he spend methodically entering data without getting a decimal point in the wrong place?

That’s concentration, Alastair. That’s work. What you did was what kids do at playtime.

Alastair Cook does the big shop

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

After sizing up the bowling and briefly treating himself to a strange and hugely entertaining ‘mustn’t handle the ball’ dance, Alastair Cook quickly moved up through the gears. At times he got as high as third. Mostly he sat in second. When there was a break in play, he refuelled, pumped up his tyres (whatever the hell that might entail in this analogy) and then he carried on.

It was Alastair Cook doing the Alastair Cook thing; playing those four Alastair Cook shots and being there for bloody ages.

Like Shoaib Malik’s monumental 245, a Cook innings is hard to take in. It’s hefty but oddly featureless. Really, the whole point is the size. It’s not an exquisite meal out. It’s the weekly big shop.

Attempting to eat a whole week’s food in one go is inadvisable. That’s not the way to go about it. You need to pace yourself, take a step back. What’s important is that at the end of the week, you’re still alive.

The value of being alive is not to be underestimated. It’s hard to enjoy the finer things in life when you’ve lost your anima. One day, Alastair Cook will disappear and England’s health will instantly deteriorate.

Ben Stokes: Brutal Deluxe

There are times for thoughtful analysis and there are times for giddy enthusiasm. Today is clearly the latter.

At the peak of his powers, if you said the name ‘Flintoff’ to someone during a match with the right look in your eye, that person would immediately drop whatever they were doing and rush to the TV because no-one wanted to miss a moment of one of his innings. Already, Ben Stokes seems like Flintoff Deluxe – Brutal Deluxe, if you will.

In this Test, Stokes made 193 runs off 186 balls, hit 30 fours and four sixes. He emerged at 30-4 and at 232-4 and had a massive impact in both situations. He has achieved the impossible and made the arrival of Jos Buttler feel like something of an anticlimax.

A mechanical watch is full of all sorts of sprockets and cogs and springs and screws and when all those components are correctly positioned, everything works satisfyingly smoothly. But then there are other devices, like hammers, which do the job for which they are intended equally well without requiring all that complexity.

Stokes is very much a hammer. Not many of his shots go behind square and each makes a clean percussive sound you rarely hear even in this era of power hitting. This is a batsman who hits the ball with the middle of the bat and propels it forwards. That’s his method and may he never complicate it.

Kudos to Alastair Cook as well. He was there before Stokes and he was there afterwards. It was his day too.

If Stokes enjoyed himself in the afternoon, the morning was no time for fun. There was work to be done. The lawn needed mowing, the dishes needed doing, the laundry needed hanging out. It was only once all those jobs had been ticked off that England could relax and start enjoying themselves. Suppose that’s teamwork or summat.

The week in politics

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Like a tired bear in winter, let’s try and put this to bed for a few days. Maybe it’ll have to get up again at some point next week to go for a wee, but we’re kind of hoping that we can concentrate on the New Zealand series from now on.

As far as we can tell, this is how it’s gone…

Colin Graves told Kevin Pietersen that if he came back and played county cricket and maybe made a triple hundred, he couldn’t see why he wouldn’t get back in the team. He said this because he genuinely couldn’t see why he wouldn’t get back in the team.

Then, while Graves was in the Caribbean, he discovered that England’s captain, Alastair Cook, was adopting a ‘him or me’ position on the issue. Not mad keen on having Joe Root as Test captain just yet, the ECB opted for ‘me’ in favour of ‘him’ and tried to ham-fistedly make the best of that.

Kevin Pietersen came back, played county cricket, made a triple hundred and requested his place in the side. Andrew Strauss broke the news to him.

This is perhaps why, at the press conference the following day, Strauss said that Pietersen wouldn’t play for England ‘this summer’, while adding that he couldn’t offer guarantees beyond that. He was basically just acknowledging that there are two possible scenarios.

  1. England win the Ashes, Cook stays, Pietersen remains excluded
  2. They lose, Cook goes and Joe Root – who has just been named vice captain – takes over

Cook presumably feels the presence of uppity Pietersen with his inability to keep his trap shut makes captaining the side impossible. If the public comes to accept the version of events outlined above, he may come to reclassify that particular ‘impossible’ as merely ‘very, very difficult’ in comparison to what he is likely to experience should England start losing this summer.

Strauss said of Peter Moores that every game had become a referendum on whether he should continue to do the job or not. It would be like that, only a hundred times as vitriolic and a thousand times less dignified.

Here’s the real nub of the problem

The main problem, as we see it, is that some people seem to think that being England captain is a big deal; like it somehow elevates you above all other England cricketers. If Alastair Cook didn’t see captaincy as something to aspire to, he could have acknowledged that it wasn’t especially his thing at the very outset and instead busied himself with the greatly more important job of scoring Test runs. Pretty much everyone would have liked him more for it.

You’d never get this kind of thing with Pakistan. Pakistan would have had about nine different captains by now and everything would have been much less chaotic as a consequence.

Alastair Cook hasn’t made a hundred since yesterday

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Restart the clock.

This may have been all of 10 runs more than he made just a handful of Tests ago, but it rewrites a tired script. Suddenly people can’t fall back on ‘hasn’t made a hundred since…’ and so they’re instead forced to look at the facts. Those facts are that Alastair Cook has been scoring quite a lot of runs in Test cricket of late.

Cook knew that the fifties didn’t really count though. He knew their value would only be seen in the light of a three-figure score. The man has more grit than a resurfaced rural road. Having painstakingly worked his way past fifty five times in his previous eight Test innings, he started again from nought. Again he wrung painfully deliberate runs out of this West Indian attack. Again he put the hours in.

He nurdled, worked and occasionally hoicked it to leg; he ignored the ball when it could be ignored; and when he called a team-mate through for a single that was never there, he ensured it was a homicidal single, not a suicidal single. He did everything in his power to ensure he reached three figures and for once, no-one stepped in at the last minute to deny him.

It meant a lot to him. You could tell. He even let fly a huge, bestial roar.

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