The English opener, Alastair Cook announced that he will bow out after the fifth test at the Oval. He announced his retirement in a statement a day after England’s series-winning effort in Southampton. The test beginning on Friday will mark his last appearance for England after which he wishes to continue to play for Essex in county cricket.
The Gloucester born cricketer has had a magnificent and record-breaking career for England, especially in Test cricket. Dubbed as “The Chef”, his presence in the English side will be sourly missed.
“There is nothing left in the tank”, he said announcing his retirement from international cricket after 12 years of determined and decorated performances for England.
“I have achieved more than I could have ever imagined and feel very privileged to have played for such a long time alongside some of the greats of the English game,” he added.
It might seem like a premature retirement for the 33-year-old English batsman but his form this year was sluggish, like watching paint dry for entertainment. The purist that usually excites Test match crowds was hidden away somewhere. This year he averaged 18.62 in 16 innings, a faraway figure from his Test average of 44.88. So, the writing was already on the wall.
Graham Gooch, his mentor commented just days ago on BBC Radio show Today that his ward was “flat-lining a little bit. When you’re a batsman, you need to improve yourself, you need to look for new things to do to drive you forward.”
Gooch’s statements came as a possible premonition for what lay ahead. Within three days, Cook announced his retirement citing that he had given everything he could to the sport and the team.
Gooch paid tribute to his protégé calling him, “a genuine legend of English cricket”. A truly befitting title to the man who has shouldered the English batting as the opener for nearly 12 years. After Strauss’ departure, Cook has been the ever-present feature in the opening alongside 12 different openers.
His long stand not only as an opener but also of consecutive Test appearances is a testament to his illustrious career. In the era of a power-packed cricketing schedule and fast-paced cricket, Cook has made perpetual appearances and performed consistently. Every time his form deterred, he came back with strong performances to ensure he wasn’t axed.
A look at his illustrious career
England’s record breaker has accumulated 12, 254 runs and 32 centuries in 160 tests. Called up to replace Marcus Trescothick at Nagpur in 2006, ‘Cookie’ has been an ever-present figure in the England dressing room. After scoring a debut ton at Nagpur, he sat out the third test of the series, but since then he has appeared for England in 159 consecutive tests – another record.
His Ashes career also exhibits his illustrious career in the whites. He was part of four Ashes out of the seven he played. He won two Ashes as captain in 2013 and 2015 at home. In down under, he produced one of his best ever performances at the Brisbane test – scoring 235* at the Gabba. He amassed 766 runs in the 3-1 Ashes win – England’s first win down under in 24 years.
As captain, he led England to their first win in India in 27 years in the 2012 Tour of India.
In 2016, he became the first Englishman to cross 10,000 test runs, cementing his place in history as one of the last remaining test purists in the current era.
Cook served as England’s longest-serving Test captain. He captained the English side for 59 tests that included 24 wins and 22 losses. His last year as captain in 2016-17 was marked by a poor run of losses – 8 matches – and just like now, he decided to step down and let others take chance. Like a guest who knows not to overstay his welcome, Cook too departed on time, then and now. His predecessor Andrew Strauss and then England’s Managing Director said, Cook “deserves to be looked upon as one of England’s great captains.”
If Cook was to write his accomplishments in his resume, it would look like this –
Most Test runs for England – 12,254
Most Test runs for England as opener – 11, 627
Most number of Test centuries for England – 32
Most number of Test appearances for England -160
Most number of consecutive Test appearances for any player – 159 (his appearance at oval will be the 159th appearance)
Most 150+ scores for England – 11
Most Test matches as captain – 59
Second most Test wins as England captain – 24 (Michael Vaughan has two more)
Most catches by an England fielder – 173
This is what the batsman said in his statement-
His decision of retiring comes after “much thought and deliberation over the last few months”.
“Although it is a sad day, I can do so with a big smile on my face knowing I have given everything.
“The thought of not sharing the dressing room, again, with some of my team-mates was the hardest part of my decision, but I know the timing is right.
“I have loved cricket my whole life, from playing in the garden as a child, and will never underestimate how special it is to pull on an England shirt.
“So I know it is the right time to give the next generation of young cricketers their turn to entertain us and feel the immense pride that comes with representing your country.”
Just like his on-field smiling presence, he leaves the same way – smiling and encouraging young stars to take on the big role.
He thanked people who have been a part of his journey. “There are too many people to thank individually but a special mention must go to the Barmy Army and all supporters for their constant encouragement for the team and also a special mention to Graham Gooch.
“Graham was my sounding board, especially in the early years of my career, spending hour after hour throwing balls at me with his dog stick. He made me realize you always need to keep improving whatever you are trying to achieve.
“My family and I have had 12 wonderful years fulfilling my dreams and this could not have been done without them. So I wish to thank my parents and brothers, my wife, Alice, and her family for their quiet, unwavering support behind the scenes. As cricketers, who travel frequently, we often don’t realize just how important our families are to our success.
“I would also like to thank Essex for their help and support ever since I was 12, and I can’t wait to get fully involved with them in the 2019 season. I wish the England team every success in the future and I will be watching with great excitement.”
Cook truly stands out, not just because he was a record-breaking player, but because he is one of the most underrated batsmen in the present age. He does not feature in the aggressive ranks of Kohli or Root or Warner. His achievements though rank among the best names of the sport, but he is often invoked in the same breath as them. Maybe his absence will invoke this sentiment.
The Barmy Army shouts of “Ali, Ali, Cook; Ali Cook, Ali, Ali Cook” that resonated stands when the legend displayed his sublime form will be missed. With the series won, the fifth test at The Oval will give the team and fans a proper chance to celebrate the cricketer and give him a proper send off.
After the sudden announcement, there was an outpouring of heartfelt messages for the English legend. Here are some:
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 .. Thanks for all the memories Cookie .. #CookRetires
— Michael Vaughan (@MichaelVaughan) September 3, 2018
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Alastair Cook retires from international cricket 😩 He gave it everything and more. Huge respect for a guy that has achieved so much, it was a pleasure being out in the middle when you scored a lot of your hundreds for @englandcricket !! Thanks for fighting so hard 🏴 This pic was from his debut hundred in Nagpur when he flew in last minute to replace @marcustrescothick An incredible century that was to carry on for the next 160 test matches!! #goat #cricket #england #proud #legend
#AlastairCook has been one of the finest batsmen to have represented @ECB_cricket, and his conduct on-field and off it, has been impeccable. Well played Alastair. Wish you all the very best for what your 2nd innings has in store for you! pic.twitter.com/Y2mZd31GaN
— Sachin Tendulkar (@sachin_rt) September 3, 2018
— Jonny Bairstow (@jbairstow21) September 3, 2018
To conclude, I leave here the Barmy Army chant, in honor of the legend who will be missed dearly by many:
You flew out to India,
When your country needed ya,
Century on debut,
What a find…
Na Na Na Na Na Na…
Ali, Ali Cook
Ali, Ali Cook