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Alastair Cook: Retirement Retrospective

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Alastair_Cook_England_RetirementAs Alastair Cook walks away into the sunset, after a glorious Test career for England, it's time to look back at his achievements and determine just how important a player he has been for England over the years. Cook wasn’t attractive to watch, but had an insatiable appetite to score runs. As the accolades continue to pour in from all over the world, let us do a statistical analysis of his Test career and see what the numbers tell us.

(all statistics accurate up to 6th June, 2018)

The table below gives us his record in different parts of the world.

 

Tests

Runs

Batting Av.

100s/50s

Home

88

6,350

43.49

14/31

Away

66

5,295

45.64

17/22

Neutral

6

609

41.62

1/3

Overall

160

12,254

44.88

32/56

 

He has a good record away from home, unlike those batsmen who prosper only at home but are found wanting in foreign conditions. In fact, he has scored more centuries away from home than at home, in spite of playing 22 fewer Tests away from home.

 

The table below gives Cook’s record in various conditions all over the world. 

 

 

Tests

Runs

Batting Av.

100s/50s

ENG and NZ combined

96

6,757

41.96

15/32

AUS and SA combined

28

2,135

43.57

6/8

Asia

28

2,710

53.13

9/11

 

Again, we see that he is adept at scoring runs in different parts of the world. He averages above 40 in Australia and South Africa combined, which shows that he is not intimidated by pace and bounce; and also in New Zealand and England where the ball moves laterally both in the air and off the pitch. However, his record in Asia shows his versatility as a batsman. He has scored the most runs and centuries by a visiting batsman in Asia (including Tests against Pakistan in the UAE). During his peak years as a batsman he was proficient against spin and his excellent form with the bat was instrumental in England winning the 2012/13 series in India. He scored 562 runs in that series at an average of 80.28 with 3 centuries. 

 

Cook has scored the maximum number of runs by an opener in Tests, amassing 11,627 runs at a healthy average of 44.37 with 30 centuries. His 30 centuries at the opening position is joint second with Matthew Hayden, and only behind Sunil Gavaskar who scored 34. Here are some more statistical highlights of Cook’s Test career:

 

4,844/12 - Cook has scored 4,844 runs as skipper of England studded with 12 centuries, both of which are England records. 

12,254/160 - Cook’s career aggregate of 12,254 runs is the 6th highest in Test history; his 160 Tests for England is the 7th highest in the world and the most by an England player.

766 - Cook scored 766 runs for England against Australia in the 2010-11 Ashes tour in Australia; that is the 2nd most by an Englishman after Wally Hammond, who scored 905 runs in 1928-29.

127.66 - Cook’s average of 127.66 in the above-mentioned Ashes tour is the highest by a visiting batsman in Australia who has scored a minimum of 200 runs in a Test series. 

 

Cook made his debut against India on 1st March, 2006 and impressed immediately, scoring a century on debut. In spite of his promising start, he had a modest record in his first 3 years. Starting from his debut till his 37th Test (both inclusive) which commenced in 4th February 2009, he scored 2,698 runs at 40.87. However, from the next Test, which started on 13th February 2009, till the conclusion of the Test series against India away from home (the 4th Test commenced on 5th December 2012), he scored 4,405 runs in 49 Tests at a stupendous batting average of 57.96 with 16 centuries. During this period, he scored 795 more runs than the 2nd most prolific batsman in the world (Michael Clarke) which shows what a purple patch he went through. 

 

As captain, Cook averaged 46.57, which shows that he could cope with the burden of captaincy, whereas as a player only he averaged 43.84.

 

After Andrew Strauss’ retirement, Cook has had as many as 13 different partners for the other opener’s slot and his own batting form was also on the wane. In the 77 Tests since Strauss called it a day, Cook scored 5,650 runs at 41.54 with just 12 centuries. Out of the other 13 openers, only 4 played at least 10 Tests. This uncertainty contributed to Cook’s diminishing form with the bat. The other 13 batsmen scored a combined 3,761 runs at just 26.48, which put Cook’s struggles in perspective.

 

There is no denying the fact that Cook has been going through a lean phase with the bat for a long period of time. Since 1st January 2017, he has scored just 1,197 runs in 20 Tests at 34.2, and just 2 centuries. This horror run included 2 double centuries; if you exclude these 2 innings, he averages 20.88 from 34 innings. Without being overly critical on the eve of his retirement, the lack of runs from Cook's constantly rotating roster of partners has resulted in him being given an extended rope as the selectors would have been loathe to dropping both openers. Even in the current series against India, Cook has scored 109 runs at 15.57 and has gone past 20 on only 2 occasions.

 

Where does Cook stand in the pantheon of all-time greats? There have been 13 England openers who have scored a minimum of 2,500 Test runs; only four of them have a worse average than Cook. If you consider the 55 players from all countries who have scored 2,500 runs in the opening position, Cook’s average is not even in the top 25. 

 

Conclusion: 

Cook has been a great servant for English cricket. He is not a great player, but one who was very good at what he did for an extended period of time. He has done yeoman service for his country. The fact that he is the highest run scorer for England is because he has played the maximum number of Tests for them, rather than being England’s greatest opening batsman.

 

Most fans, even some from India, would want him to finish on a high at the Oval.

 

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