Home > Features > Facts and figures >

Alastair Cook – right up there with the Test cricket’s great openers

Alastair Cook – right up there with the Test cricket's great openers

If the adjective great seems to be too liberal and loose when used to describe Alastair Cook at this moment, there are very strong indications that he is on the verge of walking into that exclusive club © Getty Images

Alastair Cook has had a sensational series so far and his claims to greatness have been reasserted. Arunabha Sengupta analyses to see that, at the current moment, his 85 Test- career places him alongside the best openers in the history of the game.

Few can doubt the quality of Alastair Cook’s batsmanship. He has made runs with regularity and poise across the world on seaming, bouncy and turning tracks, and has grown more prolific with experience and responsibility.

At 27, he has already drawn level  with the Test record of 22 centuries for an English batsman – a ridiculously low number given that England has been playing Test cricket since its inception. Given the form he is in, it should not take him too long to go past Wally Hammond, and it promises to be a healthy race down the next few years with Kevin Pietersen who also stands at 22 hundreds.

While his heroics of the recent past have raised his claims to greatness as an opener, judging a batsman cruising at the crest of his career against all-time greats is riddled with risks. Anyone who carried out a similar exercise for Gautam Gambhir in 2009 will know all about the pitfalls.

Yet, having played 85 Tests, Cook has done enough to leave a significant mark on the pages of cricket history. Going by the way Cook approaches his batting, it is reasonably safe to say that he has a long career ahead of him – his game is safe and based on sedate technique, not unduly dependent on the extra keenness of eye and the fractionally quicker movements of limbs that comprise the gifts of youth. It makes sense to find out where he stands with respect to the other opening batsmen of repute.

If we look at the records, we find Cook perched comfortably among the best opening batsmen. Among all the notable openers who have played more Tests, only four boast an average greater than Cook. Two of them, Virender Sehwag and Graeme Smith, are his contemporaries, and the difference between them and Cook is almost negligible and fast decreasing with time.

What is even more striking is that only five – Sunil Gavaskar, Matthew Hayden, Smith, Sehwag and Geoff Boycott had figures better than Cook at their 85-Test point … the same stage the England captain stands now.

So, at the current moment, Cook seems to be doing pretty well.

Top opening batsmen in Test history

  Career   After 85 Tests
Opener Tests Runs Ave 100s 50s   Tests Runs Ave 100s 50s
SM Gavaskar 125 10122 51.12 34 45   85 7385 53.51 26 33
ML Hayden 103 8625 50.73 30 29   85 7384 52.74 26 26
GC Smith 104 8469 49.52 26 34   85 7090 50.64 21 27
V Sehwag 100 8487 50.51 23 32   85 7613 54.56 22 27
G Boycott 108 8114 47.72 22 42   85 6415 49.72 18 34
GA Gooch 118 8900 42.58 20 46   85 6336 42.24 13 37
MA Taylor 104 7425 43.49 19 40   85 5939 41.82 15 33
CG Greenidge 108 7558 44.72 19 34   85 6054 46.93 15 30
MA Atherton 115 7728 37.69 16 46   85 5963 39.49 12 37
JL Langer 105 7696 45.27 23 30   85 6401 46.05 21 24
DL Haynes 116 7487 42.29 18 39   85 5340 41.39 12 31
AJ Strauss 100 7037 40.91 21 27   85 6111 42.14 19 24
ST Jayasuriya 110 6973 40.07 14 31   85 5430 41.45 11 26
A Cook 85 6912 49.37 22 29   85 6912 49.37 22 29

Apart from the batsmen listed above, there have been other celebrated openers across history who did not manage to play as many Tests. In the table below we have taken a look at the careers of venerable names who flourished as openers, and have recorded Cook’s figures at corresponding junctures when their respective careers ended.

We find that apart from the greatness of Jack Hobbs, Herbert Sutcliffe and Len Hutton, Cook is fairly abreast with the rest of the best openers in history.

Other openers with min 3000 runs at 45+   Cook at similar stage
 Opener Tests Runs Ave 100s 50s   Tests Runs Ave 100s 50s
L Hutton 79 6971 56.67 19 33   79 6357 48.89 19 29
H Sutcliffe 54 4555 60.73 16 23   54 4138 44.97 12 22
JB Hobbs 61 5410 56.94 15 28   61 4666 45.30 14 23
B Mitchell 42 3471 48.88 8 21   42 3127 46.86 8 19
WM Lawry 67 5234 47.15 13 27   67 5465 49.23 18 26
RB Simpson 62 4869 46.81 10 27   62 4814 46.28 15 24
Saeed Anwar 55 4052 45.52 11 25   55 4168 44.34 12 22
CC Hunte 44 3245 45.06 8 13   44 3303 44.04 9 19

Standing at this point, we can say Alastair Cook has had an excellent career so far, has been consistent, at par with all but the very best, and has matured steadily.

If the adjective great seems to be too liberal and loose when used to describe the southpaw at this moment, there are very strong indications that he is on the verge of walking into that exclusive club.

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)

Pakistan tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Aug 23, 2014 (10:00 IST)   at Hambantota

India tour of England 2014

Aug 25, 2014 (15:00 IST)   at Bristol

Bangladesh Tour of West Indies, 2014

Aug 25, 2014 (00:00 IST)   at Basseterre, St Kitts

Zimbabwe Triangular Series, 2014

Aug 25, 2014 (13:00 IST)   at Harare

India tour of England 2014

Aug 27, 2014 (15:00 IST)   at Cardiff

More

Bangladesh Tour of West Indies, 2014

Aug 22, 2014  at St George's, Grenada

West Indies won by 177 runs

South Africa in Zimbabwe, 2014

Aug 21, 2014  at Bulawayo

South Africa won by 7 wkts

Bangladesh Tour of West Indies, 2014

Aug 20, 2014  at St George's, Grenada

West Indies won by 3 wkts

South Africa in Zimbabwe, 2014

Aug 19, 2014  at Bulawayo

South Africa won by 61 runs

South Africa in Zimbabwe, 2014

Aug 17, 2014  at Bulawayo

South Africa won by 93 runs

Photos

England Women vs India Women 2014, 1st ODI at Scarborough

Videos

Morgan talks upcoming ODI series and World Cup

India tour of England 2014: Blaming WAGs for India’s poor run is childish

India look to regain confidence in warm-up match ahead of ODI series against England

India tour of England 2014: Visitor’s recent record in overseas ODIs a cause for concern

India tour of England 2014: Is county cricket really the answer for Indian batsmen?

India vs England 2014: Ideal opportunity for Sanju Samson and other youngsters to shine

Bangladesh England England vs India England vs India 2014 India India tour of England 2014 India vs England India vs England 2014 Ravi Shastri South Africa tour of Zimbabwe 2014 Sri Lanka West Indies Zimbabwe Zimbabwe vs South Africa Zimbabwe vs South Africa 2014

Eoin Morgan believes England must be more aggressive in ODIs

Shoaib Malik: When playing for Pakistan, my role in the team is not made clear

West Indies steamroll Bangladesh by 177 runs in 2nd ODI at Grenada, take series 2-0

Yuvraj Singh pays tributes to yoga guru Iyengar

CAB’s appeal in Supreme Court transferred to different bench

Sri Lanka vs Pakistan 2014: Younis Khan’s ODI comeback brings hope to Pakistan

India tour of England 2014: India among teams losing three tests in a series after being 1-0 ahead

Stephen Fleming: New Zealand tour to England in 1999 is one of my best moments

India tour of England 2014: Blaming WAGs for India’s poor run is childish

India look to regain confidence in warm-up match ahead of ODI series against England

Fan of the Day

Niharika Shah

Niharika Shah

660 Posts | 6 Fans

Funny Cricket Wonders and Blunders

Yeh Hai Mohabbatein: Will Raman and Ishita let Simmi live with her husband?

Apple iPhone 6 confirmed by Chinese carrier ahead of September 9 launch

Eoin Morgan believes England must be more aggressive in ODIs

EU deplores Russia`s humanitarian convoy into Ukraine

Everton vs Arsenal, Preview and Team News, Barclays Premier League 2014-15: Toffees test await Gunners in EPL

Latest Ebola News: Why pregnant women and infants are more susceptible to Ebola

Shoaib Malik: Misbah-ul-Haq comparisons with MS Dhoni unfair

India tour of England 2014: India among teams losing three tests in a series after being 1-0 ahead

5 diseases that may give you no warning signs

Rajkumar Hirani, Gauri Shinde, Karan Johar, Mahesh Bhatt, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and Anurag Basu to do cameos in Amitabh Bachchan’s Shamitabh!

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here