If there’s anything like a cardinal sin in this sport then it’s to underrate the left-handers.
You’d do that at your own peril. Why take a risk?
They are cricket’s version of a disclaimer: be careful; danger ahead.
Left-handed batsmen could be likened to the dark stallions that don’t lose a race. They are the earthen wonders meant to both win a steeplechase and set records in the same instance.
Lefties are the high-testosterone gym supplement.
The left-handers are the flamboyance in a sport hailed as the gentleman’s game.
England took a left-hander lightly on two separate occasions. That led first to the construction of 375 at Antigua, which was later followed up with an unbeaten 400.
In between, Lara was to witness a heartbreak as Hayden would stretch his powerful arms and muscle 380. In that instant, Zimbabwe took the left-hander lightly.
The peril danger that struck everyone out of nowhere in 1996 World Cup saw Sanath Jayasuriya emerge unannounced and send bowlers to submission. Decades before, another left-hander countered the likes of Lillee, Thompson, Kapil Dev and Sir Hadlee with a staid charm.
David Gower was elegance redefined.
In between the traditionalists and expressionists of the class of Saeed Anwar and Kumar Sangakkara, there would be Gower’s compatriot, someone who’d pick up a cricket bat long after he’d hang up his.
His name is Alastair Nathan Cook.
Even before, Alastair Cook turned 33, he’d draw comparisons with the great Tendulkar. Stroking runs with a glee on his face, Cook would become the epitome of dogged determination.
But unlike Tendulkar, a bard of grace, Alastair Cook’s craft isn’t about the absolute subversion of bowlers. He’s your bat session after session batsman.
Alastair Cook’s batting hardly bears any resemblance to some of his famous opponents.
It doesn’t boast of the destruction wreaked by a Hayden. It doesn’t mirror the absolute dominance of bowlers like Lara.
In a lighter vein, it could be said, he’s a subdued and lesser aggressive version of Adam Gilchrist. Make Gilly more obdurate and consistent and you get the former English captain.
But with at least three years of cricket left in him, given Cook’s great fitness standards, there’s little doubt why he shouldn’t be able to get to Tendulkar’s tally of nearly 16,000 Test runs.
That’s not any landmark; that’s the magnum opus of Test Cricket.
As on August 2018, Alastair Cook is 3500 runs shy of that milestone.
In 5-day lingo, it’s akin to holding Jupiter with bare hands.
It’ll be an enormous task requiring the rigour and excellence of a lifetime.
Should he hang up his bat precisely at 36,( which should be a surprise for he’s going strong) particularly when some of his famous contemporaries like Sachin, Dravid, Lara and Sangakkara, continued till 38, the math would require him to score about 1000 runs a calendar year.
Truth be told, there’s little doubt why Cook may not be able to do that.
Are you aware of just how many runs he’s piled on in the last two calendar years?
In a game so often resting with the exploits of the ‘fab-four’, maybe there’s little time to eschew histrionics of the briefer formats while greats like Alastair Cook gather feats silently.
In 2017, Cook amassed 1 shy of 900 Test runs.
A year before, he’d strike 1200 runs and a year prior, he’d smash 1300 runs.
Of his 12,000 plus Test runs, nearly 3500 of them would come from the onset of 2015. That’s extraordinary for a cricketer who has the embrace the challenge of scoring from the top-order.
For a sport that often searches for consistency, Alastair Cook is the perfect ambassador of a rare virtue.
But interestingly, quite like Lara, Cook’s game is also about handing bowlers a chance or two at taking his wicket.
A few hours before, Cook endured a lame outing at Edgbaston
Thankfully, for England, the ordeal ended inside 4 days.
Thankfully, Root and Curran were able to salvage some runs. In the end, it wasn’t a disaster for England.
You could be sure that Cook would have been gutted at having failed to cross 20 in both innings. That’s not stellar from a man responsible for producing some stellar scores, including 5 Test double-hundreds. Isn’t it?
Throughout the massively-entertaining Test, Cook struggled against spin, showing very limited foot movement, a malady that’s often hurt his craft against the turning delivery.
On both occasions, howsoever, he became Ashwin’s bunny.
Rewind the events to ICC World T20, 2014
is batting and Ashwin comes into bowl with his top-spinners and off-spinners; a mystery concoction no wizard can toy with. Moments later, a ball pitching almost outside the leg-stump turns in sharply and clips the top of off-stump.
Fast-forward to Edgbaston, 2018
You didn’t know what Cook was up to.
You didn’t know what had gone wrong to a batsman of the class of Alastair Cook.
He’s someone who’s previously tackled Kumble, Murali, Warne and, Herath. At least, 3 of the 4 have been huge turners of the ball.
But Ashwin is Ashwin and Cook is Cook, the latter having his own follies.
What’s remarkable, of course, is that, how despite his evident struggles against spinners, Cook has 13000 Test runs in his sight. That’s some commitment and ability.
Is it not?
Interestingly, when England last played India in a full-fledged Test series, Cook didn’t seem in the element either.
While Edgbaston shouldn’t worry him much, he’d like to remember his opposition is nearly the same that troubled him everywhere from Rajkot to Chandigarh.
He’d be Jadeja’s bunny in 2016
This would be a series where out of 10 innings, he’d score 1 hundred, that faultless 130. But that was that. A year later, we’d see a very different Alastair Cook to the troubled bloke in India.
In arguably Cricket’s greatest rivalry, The Ashes, Cook would dig a hole of concentration, the one Root would want him to dig now and would go sleep in there.
How else would you describe his Melbourne Marathon?
Batting for over 630 minutes, he’d pile on Australia’s misery in that majestic 244 not out, his fifth double ton in Tests. That would bring up his 32 Test ton.
It’s been over half a year since and he hasn’t scored another century.
An opportunity arrives inside a week. Should Jadeja play on what could be a turning track, we could see an all-out war between England’s finest opener and India’s spin wizards.
This will be an onerous battle, the key to which would be simply batting time. Cook’s done it before.
But the question is, can he do it again?
Surely, someone needs to show Cook the highlights of that famous 294, his tour-de-force at Birmingham, in 2011. The best hero, often, is the one who resides within.
Right, Mr. Cook?