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Cook – The next Tendulkar?

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Alistair CookThe first time I saw Alastair Cook, was on his test debut against India in India. I didn’t get the feeling that he was spectacularly talented but he surely caught everyone’s eye with a 60 and century on debut. Not many could have done the same considering just 48 hours prior to this match, he was leading England ‘A’ side in the West Indies. Yet it took him little time to adjust to the conditions and compile two solid knocks.

Cook followed this up with a good series against the Pakistanis at home and sealed his berth in the Ashes squad of 2006/07. Spectators following English cricket had always felt that he was destined to make it big at test level and he was proving them right so far. A rough Ashes series down under surely dented his confidence where his faulty technique (on some fronts) was exposed.

One big test that he had to go through next was the tour of Sri Lanka towards the end of ’07. Just like many other English batsmen, even Cook was said to be slightly dodgy against spin bowling. His critics were silenced as the southpaw amassed close to 300 runs at a healthy average of 46. Later on, he kept scoring consistently even though his conversion rate (converting 50s to 100s) wasn’t great.

No English cricket fan can forget Ashes ‘10/11. England defended their title and the man who laid basis for this was none other than Alastair Cook himself. A magnificent series with 3 big centuries and 766 runs helped him cover up for his poor prior show against the Aussies. He had tamed his old nemesis and done it in comprehensive fashion.

During this unforgettable tour, Cook went past 5000 test runs becoming the second youngest to do so after legendary Sachin Tendulkar. This is when people realized he could, just possibly come close to breaking the various records set by the little master. By now, he had become the youngest Englishmen to reach 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000 and of course 5000 test runs.

Before I start putting statistics in order to compare the two, let me make it clear that this comparison is only in tests. In ODIs, Sachin Tendulkar is probably the best opener ever whereas Cook hasn’t always been a certainty in the English side.

Currently with the 67 test caps, Cook has scored 18 test centuries. Interestingly, even Tendulkar has scored the exact same number of tons after same number of matches, though he had played 15 innings fewer. Much like the Indian genius, Cook averages higher(54) when playing away from home as compared to when playing at home(44). While batting in the fourth innings, both average around the 40 mark.

Back in the days when Tendulkar nearing age of 27, he had played 76 test matches and piled up more than 6000 runs with 22 centuries. Considering the form that Cook is presently in, one can expect him to score at least 2 more by the time he turns 27, taking his tally to around 6000 runs and 20 centuries in 72 tests(if he plays all fixtures). Not too much difference, right ?

Here, two aspects clearly are in favour of Cook. One being the amount of cricket being played these days. The elegant lefty made his debut at 21 while talented prodigy from India made his debut at 16. Yet, both would have played more or less the same number of matches by their 27th birthdays. The other aspect being the kind of pitches being prepared. Back in the early 90’s, Australian, English, Carribean were all known for their pace and bounce. Nowadays, many of these pitches are not as fast or troublesome for the batsmen. In fact, some of them have become belters making run-making pretty easy.

Having said that, I cannot take any credit away from the English ODI skipper. For his record in the last year or so, and particularly in the last few matches has been mindboggling. He has knocked up centuries for fun as his last dozen innings in test matches have produced: 110, 10, 67, 235, 148, 32, 13, 82, 189, 133, 96, and 106. Flat pitches or not, those are staggering numbers.

Tendulkar, on the other hand, has been going strong in the past couple of years and I believe it is safe to assume that he will not retire for at least another 2 years. By then, Cook will probably be approaching 29. If he plays till the age of 36, it gives him 7 years of cricket to cover up the difference of 9000 test runs. (Here I make another assumption that neither will not outscore the other by much in the two years when Tendulkar is around.)

In the 5 and half years that Cook has been around, he has played around 70 tests. Considering he plays the same amount of cricket for 7 years (after Tendulkar has left the international scene), he will play 85 tests. So, around 160 innings at his current average would help him pile up another 8000 runs, falling just about a 1000 short.

Generally, if a batsmen plays over such a long period, his average is expected to increase. After all, Tendulkar with 67 test caps after 53 which has climbed up to 57 after 177 matches. Something similar can be expected from England’s talented opener making him a serious contender of closing in on Tendulkar’s runs.

In terms of hundreds, Tendulkar has scored 51 in 177 tests, which makes it 3.5 tests per century. Cook has 18 tons in 67 matches, that is, 3.7 tests for 1 century. So, if he plays close to 170-180 tests, he is bound to close in on 50 test centuries.

So, in terms of most centuries as well as runs, Cook has a realistic chance of catching up with the ‘Little Master’. However, even if he succeeds in surpassing the numbers of Tendulkar, he may never be considered as great a batsman as the Indian. There are plenty of reasons for this and the most prominent one is Cook can never be as dominating as Tendulkar, who from a very young age showed he had the ability and temperament to blast top bowlers from around the world even in tough conditions.

As a player, Alastair Cook will probably never think of comparisons with Tendulkar and would aim to keep performing without keeping records in mind. But, the fact that he is being compared to a person, who millions consider to be God, is probably the biggest compliment he can ever get.



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