Just 26-years-old, England’s Alastair Cook has already scored 19 centuries © Getty Images

 

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

 

There is an unmistakable sense of serenity and composure about Alastair Cook’s batting. His consistency and calming influence at the top has helped England lift its overall game to a new level.

 

Rewind to August 2010, Cook was going through a rough time during the English summer and there were calls for him to be replaced, keeping in mind the Ashes series that was few months away. His response was a 110 in the third Test against the touring Pakistan team – England’s lone fighter against an inspired bowling attack. Little did anybody know that it was the start of one of the most prolific run one would ever see in modern day Test cricket.

 

Cook was always a prodigy as he made his Second XI debut for Essex at 16 and was drafted into their senior squad when he was just 18. His talent caught the eye of the English selectors early on as he kept scoring consistently in county cricket.

 

When England toured India in March 2006, they were hit by injuries and withdrawals. In fact, Marcus Trescothick and Michael Vaughan flew back home. Cook, who was then in the West Indies with the England Academy Team, had to make the long journey to Nagpur to open the batting for his country. He responded magnificently to the call, scorings 60 and 104 not out on his Test debut. There are quite a few things that made this debut special. Firstly, it came when he least expected it and had to fly half way across the globe. Secondly, a tour of India is never easy, especially for the first time. And to come and score so heavily after a long journey showed the world that he was a talent to watch out.

 

His debut was a sign of his impeccable maturity and temperament. Throughout his international career he has shown character in tough situations.

 

Cook has been consistent, but it was the Ashes 2010-11 Down Under that started his run of big scores. His scores in the Ashes series read: 67, 235 not out, 148, 32, 13, 82, and 189. England won the series 3-1 and Cook was rightly declared the man of the series. That form has continued into the ongoing England-Sri Lanka Test series in which Cook has already stroked two hundreds in as many matches.

 

Before the Ashes tour late last year, Cook had scored 4364 runs in 60 matches at an average of 42.78. Since then he has amassed 1101 runs in 7 matches at an average of 122.33. His career average, consequently, has rocketed over seven notches higher to 49.23. In this period he has scored five Test hundreds, taking his career tally to 18. He is just 26 years old and has already scored 18 hundreds.

 

His stats compare favourably with many of the modern greats when they were the same age.

 

The following table encompasses the career stats of Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Brian Lara and Jacques Kallis till their 27th birthday.

 

Player

Tests

Runs

Average

Hundreds

Tendulkar

76

6036

55.37

22

Ponting

51

3160

44.50

9

Lara

33

3197

60.32

7

Kallis

60

3971

47.27

9

Here is Cook’s current Test record:

 

Player

Tests

Runs

Average

Hundreds

Cook

67

5465

49.23

18

 

When you compare Cook’s current Test record to the modern greats’ when they turned 27, you would find that he is right up there with them. As far as runs and hundreds are concerned then he is only behind Tendulkar. At this stage he also averages better than Ponting and Kallis. It must be pointed out that Cook still has a few more months and the opportunity to play a few more Test matches before he turns 27. Going by his current form, he may get closer to Tendulkar in the number of runs and hundreds by age 27.

 

Though Cook’s numbers are very good, he is not spoken in the same breath of, say, a Tendulkar or a Lara when they were of his age. This is probably due to the fact that he is not very flamboyant in his strokeplay like the two greats and also possibly because he has not played a lot of one-day cricket. Now that he has been appointed England’s ODI skipper, we may see him mature even more as the responsibility will help him think a lot more about his game. What we have seen from Cook is very good, but the best is yet to come for sure.

 

Whether he is batting or fielding, he always looks calm and composed, seemingly as if all is under control. In any aspect of life, body language is important and Cook’s positive body language will certainly help him once he starts captaining England in One-Day Internationals. In all probability, he will succeed Andrew Strauss as the man at the helm in the Test arena. English fans can be assured that England’s captaincy will be in safe hands after Strauss.

 

(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 20-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.”)