Alastair Cook is one of England’s greatest ever sportsman. A quiet, unassuming figure who by the way he talks and conducts himself you wouldn’t think is a record breaker and former captain of his national team. Never in the headlines for the wrong reasons, hard-working, and modest, he’s not just one of England’s greats, but one of the all-time greats. This week he stepped out to feature for the 150th time for his side, for the 147th time in a row, 12 years after his first appearance. An astonishing achievement in any sport, let alone in cricket (no I don’t care that you don’t care about cricket) where the physical and moreover the mental demands are so strenuous. Let alone in his role as an opening batsman, playing half his cricket in England, which is to put it simply one of the hardest possible roles to take on. You’re basically mad if you do- though Cook comes across as anything but mad. He’s been unfairly called by many “not the most talented” which is honestly ridiculous; you don’t achieve the things he has without being unbelievably good at what you do. And Cook is bloody good at what he does. One of the best ever, in fact. So it is a little saddening when you see some of the criticism he gets from punters and even occasionally pundits who, because he’s not a flashy or extravagant player, don’t see the value in a batsman who has achieved as much as he has, and as a captain beat Australia twice and led England to victory in India- one of the single hardest hurdles for any team overcome over the last 20 years. I’m not exaggerating when I say he’s probably England’s greatest cricketer and one of the greatest ever.
Cook hasn’t been at his best over the last two years, he would admit that himself, but some of the things I’ve seen written over social media since the Ashes began a few weeks ago have been ridiculous. Saying he should retire, should be dropped, he’s past it, all that kind of thing. It’s shameful. He’s the wrong side of 30, sure, but he’s still in peak physical condition and if the desire to play on for longer is still there- and that is where he’s been questioned since he relinquished the captaincy in January- then he should be given that opportunity. You don’t just drop a man who is your all-time record run scorer, and your only reliable player in the most difficult role in cricket. He’s earnt the right the play for as long as he is still able to contribute at the top level, and deserves a hell of a lot more respect than some people (looking at you Kevin Pietersen) show him.
Whatever Cook’s future is- whether he regains his form or bows out after the Ashes- he’ll no doubt be at least considered for a knighthood. I reckon the 13,000 and counting runs, the two Ashes wins as captain, the absolute bullying of the Australian bowlers in 2010/11, the win in India, plus everything else deserve it. But for now, thanks for all the memories Chef, and here’s to a few more.