Hail to the Chef

The Chef, playing his trademark agricultural hoik over mid-wicket.

I’ll be honest here. I am mainly writing this post as I thought up the headline and loved it. But I also have a huge man crush on Alastair Cook. I had the tremendous pleasure of watching the great man up close during four Tests of the last victorious Ashes series down under (I missed Brissie as five weeks off work felt decadent enough). Despite all the column inches filled up with analysis of his achievements in recording 766 runs in that series, and his subsequent performances for England, I still don’t think he’s eulogised nearly enough.

The man is a phenomenon and should be heralded as such. I watched the TV in awe as he made his debut against India at Nagpur in 2006, flying in at short notice from the Caribbean and coolly recording 60 and 104 in the match. An incredible achievement but most of the plaudits seemed to go to Panesar for claiming Tendulkar as his maiden wicket in that match. That was one ball; Cook sweated (no wait, he doesn’t sweat, does he?) through 243 deliveries in alien conditions to bring up his ton. As a medium-paced trundler who can’t hold a bat I by no means subscribe to the Batsman’s Club either.

Even now, with the mountain of Test runs under his belt, and a soaring ODI average and strike-rate, Cook is often passed over for attention for the likes of Ian Bell (a fascinating creature; part smooth lioness, part timid domesticated cat), Stuart Broad (would love to be the next Botham) and even Jonathan Trott (coming over here, stealing our runs…). This man will be the next England Test captain for Pete’s sake! If he was Australian he’d be a hero to his nation (and not just because he’s the anti-Michael Clarke).

Perhaps it’s because he’s so unassuming that he continues to fly under the radar. His humility is a quintessentially English cricket trait, especially when fused with a steely inner determination. Everyone knows how the British media love to knock brash high achievers off their perch. The likes of KP, and even Ian Botham, have been cut down to size due to their ability to elicit such strong reactions from those on the sidelines. In that sense, Cook’s profile amongst the cricketing public is a benefit to him.

Although very different players stylistically, the case of Marcus Trescothick may hold some comparisons. Tresco similarly piled on the runs at the top of the order but his quiet nature meant he was more comfortable away from the limelight. Now he’s no longer part of the England set-up it feels as though his talents and achievements are more appreciated. This can’t be because there’s an obvious case for the current team lacking batting strength; I suspect it’s more to do with a considered reanalysis of what he brought to the side when he was there. I’m convinced we’ll feel the same about Chef when he’s retired, by which time he will be far and away England’s leading Test centurion.

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