Alastair Cook isn t the greatest English batsman of all-time neither a good enough contender to make it to an all-time England Test XI. He may hold all the major batting records for English cricket but he isn t even the best batsman in the current squad as well. It s debatable if he ever enjoyed a status like that.

Is Cook even the best English opener post the Second World War? Len Hutton heads the list. He will probably be partnered by Geoffrey Boycott. Cook will have to compete with Graham Gooch and Dennis Amiss for the other spot. We are not even mentioning the two all-rounders, Trevor Bailey and Alec Stewart.

However, he has never averaged less than 30 in any country he has played. In fact, barring South Africa and New Zealand, he averages over 45 in all countries he has played.

Despite the relentless consistency, there was always Kevin Pietersen to steal the limelight. At one time, Jonathan Trott could do no wrong. And now there is Joe Root.

And yet, we are discussing Cook ending up overhauling Sachin Tendulkar s tally of Test runs an astronomical 15,921! This is Tendulkar we are talking about the man often regarded as the game s most complete batsman since Don Bradman.

Yes. Cook can get there.

Players M R Ave HS 100s 50s
Sachin Tendulkar 200 15,921 53.78 248* 51 68
Alastair Cook 144 11,325 46.03 294 30 55

Cook has to topple the names Mahela Jayawardene, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Brian Lara, Kumar Sangakkara, Rahul Dravid, Jacques Kallis and Ricky Ponting, and then amass another 2,544 runs (almost Ajinkya Rahane s Test run-tally from 40 Tests) to get past Tendulkar.

What do the coaches say these days?

It s never going to be easy.

Hard work has no substitute .

Keep toiling. Results might follow.

Nobody is saying it is going to be easy for Cook.

All the eight names above Cook have retired from the sport. The 14 names that follow Cook in the run-tally have retired as well. The 15th name on the list is Hashim Amla, almost 3,000 runs behind Cook and is over a year-and-half older to him. The other non-retired players in the 8,000-run club are Kevin Pietersen and AB de Villiers.

Cook (presumably) played a significant role in halting Pietersen s international career, which is as good as over now, and we do not know when de Villiers will play his next Test or if he willever play one at all. Anyways, both the South Africa-born gentlemen are older to Cook.

Cook is only 32. Misbah-ul-Haq was a year older when he attempted that scoop off Joginder Sharma at the Wanderers.

Tendulkar was 32 when he went past Sunil Gavaskar s 34-century mark to set a new record. He scored another 16 after that.

Jack Hobbs didn t play for almost 7 years after turning 31 because of The Great War. He returned at 38 and scored 10 Test hundreds in the next 10 years.

Misbah, who scored his first Test ton at 33, went on to score 10 centuries and three 99s in next 10 years. Even Sourav Ganguly made a comeback at 34 and played 25 Tests in next two years, averaging 46.30. During the same phase he scored more runs than Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid and Virender Sehwag.

The likes of Misbahs, Chanders and Sangas can go on and on. Meanwhile, the Tendulkars have the capacity to score double tons in ODIs at 37.

Batsmen are still considered to be at their peak even at 32. Most batsmen actually peak after that.

Cook s best years were between 2009 and 2012. Following a slump in 2013 and 2014; 2015 saw him score at over 54. He has been consistent since but not exceptional.

In the recent series against South Africa, Cook scored 268 runs at 33.50. Considering England s opening conundrum in Test cricket, the management is pleased with Cook. If anything, the trouble is in finding a proper partner for Cook. They have tried 11 of them in the last five years since Andrew Strauss retirement. Mark Stoneman will be the 12th.

He is no more Captain Cook . The baton has been passed to Root. The myth usually goes that once you are relieved of the captaincy stress, you are supposed to have a freer mind and scoring becomes easier. Captain or non-captain, Cook has done equally well. In fact, as captain, his average stands at 46.57, some decimals more than his career average.

England s focus on Tests

England have significantly improved as a ODI unit since the 2015 World Cup debacle. However, focus on Test cricket remains priority. England play 8 Tests in the next five months, 3 against West Indies at home (starting with the day-night encounter) and 5 more in the Ashes Down Under later this year.

Since debut Cook has played over 13 Tests a year. From between 2012 to end-2016 he has played close to 14 a year.

Putting the predictor s hat

In extreme heat of India or UAE, where batsmen are often seen emptying their helmets full of sweat, Cook remains undeterred to the conditions. He hardly sweats. Rarely does he get injured.

He plays only one format since his sacking as ODI skipper in end-2014. He isn t the national captain. In the glitzy world of cricket that is infested with T20 leagues and international cricket round the clock, Cook is in a free space. His concerns are restricted to guiding a young Root and scoring runs at the top for England and Essex.

Gooch, also of England and Essex, played international cricket till 41-and-a-half. He played across formats and played domestic cricket till he was 47. He still holds the records of most runs across formats. Cook, obviously inspired by Gooch, has recently named Gooch as the opener and the captain of his all-time XI.

Jim Laker, mainly remembered for his Surrey exploits, also ended his career with Essex. Laker played international cricket till 37.

Tendulkar retired at 40. Let us safely assume that Cook is going to play till 38, another 6 years. At an average if he plays 11 Tests a year, so that is another 66 added to his tally, which makes him surpass the unthinkable 200-Test mark.

Yes. Cook will have one Tendulkar record off his list.

What about runs?

In between 2012 and 2016-end, Cook has scored 1,038 runs (from the average of 13.6 Tests) a year. Let us assume Cook is playing minimum of 11 Tests a year. Going by his form over the last five years, if he continues at same rate, he may score 840 runs at an average a year. Taking the worst scenario in, let us consider a dip in form and let us round it to 800.

Cook will still end up adding another 4,800 to his tally, and that is actually a conservative estimate.

11,325 + 4,800 = 16,125

What was thought of being unconquerable, the number 15,921 may only top the charts for another half a decade.

However, to break the hundred-tally, he needs 22 more and that might seem far-fetched. We never know, he may do a Gooch and play till 41! The Misbahs and Chanders have set unthinkable trends, after all.

The threat

Here is the list of Cook s 5 major predecessors as English captains. They left the game quite early but have continued their association with the sport.

England captains Age at last Test
Michael Atherton 33
Nasser Hussain 36
Michael Vaughan 33
Andrew Flintoff 31
Andrew Strauss 35

What is alarming is the fact that the average age at these five men played their last Test reads 33 years 7 months. This was the exact age Misbah was playing his 10th Test and amassing runs in India to establish himself in the side. He ended up with 75.

The fact of premature ends to these former captains career is the only gloomy mist on the otherwise smooth highway. Steering through it depends a lot on Cook himself. If he does that, the then crowned Colossal Cook, a good amongst the greats, will get his name etched in the rewritten history books.

The quest continues: the next step is his first-ever day-night Test. He will be up against the West Indies.