English cricket waves farewell to the ever-present Alastair Cook

I must admit there was a part of me that was disappointed to see Alastair Cook put on 147 runs in his final innings as an England cricketer earlier this month.
This disappointment was purely selfish; I wanted to be able to say that I had witnessed Cook’s last ever Test century on English soil (I was at Edgbaston to see him put on 243 against the West Indies last summer).
Instead of being able to say I was part of that special moment, my subscription to Sky Sports had to make do for that final Test at the Oval as I realised that an era had come to an end.
Alastair Cook, whilst never flashy, has for so long been England’s stalwart opening batsman. Over his twelve years batting for England, he played with fifteen different opening partners – twelve of them coming in the last six years.
Indeed, as the selectors have for so long fished around for a suitable partner for Cook – going through the likes of Mark Stoneman, Ben Duckett, Alex Hales and Michael Carberry to name just a few – for many England fans and selectors alike, it has been a case of thank goodness Cook is there.
He was both literally and metaphorically the first name on the team sheet.
England’s record run-scorer has more Test caps than any other Englishman and more Test centuries than any other Englishman.
But there is one statistic that shows his remarkable influence better than any other. Cook played in 158 consecutive Test matches for England, which is again more than anyone else.
I realised the significance of this fact when I watched the farewell video released by the Professional Cricketer’s Association upon Cook’s retirement, which included brief messages from every single player to play for England with Cook.
I lost count of how many of them commented on how they had known no different – for all their Test careers, Alastair Cook has been in the dressing room.
And this is why Cook’s influence cannot be doubted. The likes of Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali and Jonny Bairstow will have to deal with the absence of the no longer ever-present Cook – something that no England cricketer has had to comprehend for over a decade.
Since Andrew Strauss retired in 2012, it has always been a case of ‘who will open with Cook?’. As England prepare for a winter in the sub-continent, there is the rather more daunting question of ‘who will open?’.
Cook’s ability to score runs as a young man early on in his Test career, securing a place in the team, is precisely what England have lacked since Joe Root arrived on the scene.
And what of his captaincy? The two Ashes series victories were perhaps the highlights, but it is also worth noting that Cook captained the side for 59 Test matches – more than any other England captain.
He survived calls to resign as captain before the Ashes series victory of 2015. He put a two-year century drought behind him to become the highest run-scorer in Test match cricket for the 2015 calendar year.
From the 294 at Edgbaston in 2011 to the famous 235 in Australia in 2010, Alastair Cook’s highlights reel is longer than that of any other England batsmen.
His ability to spend time at the crease seems to be a virtue of increasing value as batsmen cannot comprehend that leaving the ball is a sure route to success.
The tenacious Cook will be sorely missed.
After the disappointment I vented earlier at Cook’s impressive final innings, I have now realised that I can say I witnessed Alastair Cook’s last ever double-century on English soil. The fear of not having an ‘I was there’ moment for England’s greatest ever batsman has thankfully subsided.

Image: Ben Sutherland via Flickr

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