‘I said they’ve got to think outside the box!’
Sir Alastair Cook opened for the English Test team for 4578 days – or 12 years, six months and 11 days.
From 1 March 2006 to 11 September 2018. 533 Test matches were played while Cook churned out run after run, playing in 161 of them.
He only missed one Test, and that was due to a stomach illness in India, 2006. After that, Cook played 159 consecutive matches, setting a record that is unlikely to ever be broken.
Cook is one of the few players to have never been dropped from Test cricket.
The embodiment of traditional cricket technique, he was strong in defence and knew where his off-stump was. He only played three shots, the cut, pull and nudge, but those three delivered Cook 12,472 runs at 45.35 – an incredible feat for a man playing at the top of the order.
As an opener, Cook is the only player to have scored more than 10,000 runs while opening, and he scored the fifth most amount of total runs.
Often going under the radar and oft criticised, he plodded along with dogged determination, weaving himself into the fabric of the grand old game. He scored 33 centuries, 57 half-centuries and holds a high score of 294, all while only hitting 11 sixes in over 26,000 balls faced.
Cook was a talented lad, with a love of music that resulted in him learning the clarinet and being a chorister in his education. He learnt the piano and saxophone in his teen years, and may have been a great in that field, but the MCC came to town.
As they were a man short, they drafted Cook to play against his school team, and he delivered a century.
Between the ages of 14 and 18, Cook scored 17 centuries and two double-hundreds, amassing 4396 runs at 88, and he had the fine opportunity to captain the Bedford School XI in his last year, averaging 160 – a school record.
All this while being president of the music society.
Essex came calling, with Cook making his first-class debut with 13 and 69* in a nine-wicket victory. He piled on the runs in his first season at 48 per innings, then came out where he left off in 2003, scoring a century in the first game of the season.
In 2005, Cook was selected for the MCC to play reigning champions Warwickshire, duly scoring 100 in the first innings and 97 in the second to secure a win.
Cook was awarded Young Cricketer of the Year for 2005 and proved he deserved the award by scoring a double century against the touring Australian squad in a two-day game.
Cook had spent his time the England under-age teams since 2000, taking over the captaincy in 2004, before a call up to the England A squad in 2005 after Kevin Pietersen replaced Andrew Flintoff in the Test team.
In February 2006, he was called up to the national team (alongside Jimmy Anderson) for the tour of India. Having flown to the subcontinent from the West Indies, Cook walked straight into the XI and became one of the few to score a century and a half century on debut, with 60 and 104*.
Returning home, he played at number three and soon scored his maiden ton on English soil – suitably at Lord’s, the traditionalist at the home of tradition.
He scored 403 runs against Pakistan in a controversial series that included the forfeit at the Oval, however he earned himself Young Cricketer of the Year once again.
Naturally, he was selected for the Ashes touring squad of 2006-07, where he regained the opening spot after Marcus Trescothick pulled out due to stress.
While Cook did not have a spectacular series, he did score a maiden Ashes hundred at the WACA, staying at the crease for over six hours to try his hardest to earn his country a draw.
Cook became the second player in the history of Test cricket to score 1000 Test runs in his first year as a player, second only to Mark Taylor. For his gritty and plentiful debut year, Cook earned himself a place on the ICC World Test XI.
Part 2 shall be released next week.