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Alastair Cook has come through fire and the restrained smile that touched his lips today was laced with relief and perhaps exoneration. Even though his bat rightly did the talking, the England captain packed subtle punch in his suave responses. Arunabha Sengupta looks back at the comments during the post-match press conference.
On the eve of the Test match, Alastair Cook had spoken to the media beside the nets of the indoor cricket school on the first floor of the Pavilion at Ageas Bowl. The sun had baked the terrace, the heat had radiated across the room in bristling currents, the questions had grilled the England captain as they had been doing for the past several months. He had answered with a smile constructed with all the painstaking effort that goes into scoring the most demanding hundred.
Today, after the day’s play, he faced the press again, in that same setting. But this time the sun was too busy playing hide and seek with the clouds to stifle the premises. The air was cooler and 95 runs had wiped at least some of his troubles away. Cook had come through roaring fire, but perhaps the worst was now behind him. The smile was more spontaneous, easier on the eye and tinged with relief.
“It has been a tough six months and it’s still going to be tough. But, I think I’ve got a good attitude to the job and can smile through tough times.”
The feelings were mixed. Cook agreed that it was frustrating to get out at 95, but added that if someone had been offered 95 while he talked to the press the day before, he would have snatched it out of the benevolent hands.“It would have been good to get the other five runs. Everyone keeps talking of the 26 innings and 27 innings, if I had got the hundred they would have stopped and recounted. But it’s just nice to contribute.”
There had been the stroke of luck when Ravindra Jadeja dropped him at 15, but it was perhaps fate’s way of balancing things after having put him on the most torturous of racks. “I have always fought through my career, and sometimes you do need a little bit of luck. In some ways you earn it.”
The support from the crowd at the Ageas Bowl had been incredible all day. Cook had been given a rousing ovation when he had walked out to bat, and the crowd had applauded wildly when he had reached his fifty. Even when he disappointed all by getting out at 95, he was cheered all the way back to the pavilion. The press and the ex-cricketers might have been asking for his head, but the spectators had supported him to the hilt.
“It was an amazing reception, even as I was walking out to bat. I haven’t experienced anything of that sort. It would have been fantastic to get a hundred with all that noise, but even the applause for the fifty was amazing.”
However, Cook did not feel that the knock had done enough to silence all his critics – or any knock would ever do that.
“You never silence everyone or anyone –that is the nature of the beast. It is just heartening that my batting is going the right way. It is a sense of contributing to the team. It is frustrating as a batter when you are in the dressing room, others consoling you but you feeling you have let them down.”
Cook was happy with the changes to his game during the innings. ”I was going at the ball a lot more. I never really change my trigger movement in the middle of the innings, this was the first time I did that. I got back into the ball a lot better than I had been doing. I have never had this sort of pressure as a player, with everyone sayingI should give up … It feels good to be back among runs.”
During the knock, Cook went past David Gower and Kevin Pietersen in the list of England Test run getters. Yet, according to him, he was not thinking of the milestones as he walked in.
“They are very nice achievements, aren’t they? But honestly, at the beginning of the day I was not thinking of any of them. Any runs today were good runs.”
However, one persistent local journalist asked whether it felt particularly pleasing to go past some individual’s aggregate. It was not too subtle a hint at Pietersen’s recent comments about Cook and the England captain flashed a smile as he answered, “Let’s be honest, it was not to get past Gower.”
(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)
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