England’s leading Test run-scorer Alastair Cook reckons the cutting mental edge that had defined his 12-year-old career has gone.
Cook, who announced his retirement from International cricket this past Monday addressed the media for the first time since the event. He discussed how he knew his time was up, and reflecting on a career glittered with riveting highs and soul-searching lows.
“You ask people about it [the decision to retire] along the way and they say ‘you know’ and I think that’s so true – for me anyway. I’ve been mentally incredibly tough and had that edge to everything I’ve done and that edge had kind of gone. That stuff which I found easy before just wasn’t quite there and that was the biggest sign.
“Over the last six months there’s been signs in my mind that this was going to happen and so I told Rooty [Joe Root] before the [fourth Test] and then told Trevor [Bayliss] during the game.” reckoned England’s all-time leading Test run-getter.
“I was a couple of beers in, which I needed to be, otherwise I would have cried more than I actually did [when he told his teammates he was retiring] I managed to hold it together. At the end of the game I just said it might be sad for some it might be happy for others but it’s time. And I’ve done my bit and if picked then the next one’s going to be my last game.
“There was a bit of silence for a bit and then I think Mo said something and everyone laughed and everyone just gone on with it, we had a nice evening in the changing room.” on how he brojke the news in front of his teammates.
Ever since Cook announced his retirement, tributes have poured in both from the English public and cricket fraternity around the world. “It’s been a bit surreal,” he said, dwelling on the reaction he’s received after announcing his retirement. “One of my friends rang me to see if I was still alive, everyone was talking as if I’d died. Obviously, it is nice when you hear so many nice words said about you. The last couple of days I’ve been back at home so I didn’t see a lot of it until last night – I let myself have a little look [at what had been said] last night.
It means a lot. For example, someone stopped me when I was driving in and made me wind down the window and said ‘thank you very much.’ That was a nice moment. Hopefully this week I can score some runs and then go.”
In a career bloated with scintillating highs and soul-crushing lows, Cook reckoned his finest hour truly arrived in England’s triumphant tours of Australia (2010-11) and India (2012-13).
“You can’t really look too far past those two away series when obviously I was the man of the series and we won in Australia and India. That was the best I could play. And in my career as a whole, I can look back and say I became the best player that I could become. And that actually means quite a lot to me. I have never been the most talented cricketer and I won’t pretend I was but I definitely think I got everything out of my ability.”
He also admitted that his lowest moment of cricketing life came in the midst of the 2014 summer where England lost to Sri Lanks (0-1) and then proceeded to lose to England at Lord’s in the five-match series against the backdrop of 0-5 Ashes drubbing during the Winter and preposterous sacking of Kevin Pieterson.
“The KP affair was a tough year, absolutely no doubt about that,” he said. “The fallout of that wasn’t good for English cricket or for me, but I was involved in that decision without being the bloke that made the final decision.
“I think that’s when it was real tough but I didn’t throw the towel in,” he added. “I still believe I was the best man for the job and the right man to be England captain at that time. I could have taken the easy option and thrown the towel in, but I didn’t, and the team got the reward with the Ashes in 2015.”
Besides scoring 12,254 Test runs Cook also happened to notch up a Test wicket, for which he had a tongue-in-cheek reply for Ishant Sharma, his only victim in Test cricket.“I regret getting Ishant Sharma out as my [only Test] wicket because he’s got his revenge constantly over the last couple of series.”
Cook will have his swansong at the Oval but he reckons had India scored those remaining 60 runs at Southampton, no one in the world would have known that the Oval Test would be last International outing. “If it was 2-2 then I would have kept my mouth shut but once you’ve made that decision in your mind it’s always playing on your mind and as soon as you’ve told people you feel a bit more of a release.”
The most endearing quality that stood out from Alastair Cook was his remarkable mental strength and tenacity under hostile conditions and whatever happens at the Oval, his place in the pantheon of greatest openers in Test match cricket is secured.