Is The End Nigh For Alastair Cook?

Alastair Cook

Is The End Nigh For Alastair Cook?

What comes to your mind as soon as you hear the name Alastair Cook? Stoic, dodgy, tough, fight, resilience. Are these the words that cross your mind? And what about the visuals? Every time the name Alastair Cook comes up, the discussion would be batting for long hours, blunting out attacks, defending and blocking the life out of bowlers before cashing in and making hay.

However, in the recent past, Cook has faltered again and again. His failures have brought up one question. Are Alastair Cook’s days numbered now? Is the end nigh for him?

Every time there’s been a doubt, he has responded with a big knock. Take for instance the 95 against India at Southampton in 2014 or the two double he scored in 2017. Cook’s scores in the lead up to those knocks were not great and his critics had written him off and he shut them up in style. No wonder Root came out in full support of his former captain and after England’s loss at Trent Bridge, he said,

“Alastair Cook is a world-class performer. He’s proven that time and time again. I’d like you to write him off because every time he’s written off he comes back and scores a double-hundred.”

However, this time it feels different. In 2018, Cook has played 9 Tests and 16 innings but he has scored only 298 runs at a poor average of 18.62. In fact, he has just one score in excess of 50 and just three scores in excess of 30. And after his recent failures at Southampton in the fourth Test, his Test average has dropped below 45 for the first time since 2010. It was in his 60th Test that his average was under 45.

Make no mistake, Cook is one of the finest openers of this generation. 160 matches, 12254 runs, 32 hundreds and an average of 44.88. These are some really good numbers for an opener whose career has spanned for more than 12 years (and still counting). In fact, no player has scored more runs than Cook as an opener in the history of Test cricket. He is only second to Sunil Gavaskar on the most number of hundreds (30) list by an opener in Test cricket.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 01: India captain Virat Kohli celebrates as England batsman Alastair Cook is caught at slip during day three of the 4th Specsavers Test between England and India at The Ageas Bowl on September 1, 2018 in Southampton, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

But the dip has been pretty significant in recent times. England can’t have their most experienced batsman averaging in the teens over a span of 15-16 innings. Yes, England have struggled to find Cook a fixed opening partner. The 33-year-old veteran has had 12 opening partners since the retirement of Andrew Strauss. Not one of those 12 opening partners have cemented their place nor have they given any kind of assurance.

What’s been a worrying factor for England has been the way Cook has been getting out. His feet don’t seem to be moving a lot and they look like they are stuck to the crease. He has suddenly got this tendency to hang his bat and poke at deliveries. He isn’t exactly committing himself to all his shots. Hence, he looks vulnerable. Swing, seam and lately, spin, everything has troubled him.

In this series against India, two of his biggest nemesis, Ishant Sharma (thrice) and Ravichandran Ashwin (twice) have accounted for him 5 times in 7 innings. Against Ishant Sharma, his dismissals have all been similar. No feet movement, poking at away-swingers and edging to the cordon behind. Ashwin got him twice and both times in identical fashion (bowled). He has scored just 109 runs in 7 innings at an average of 15.57 and hasn’t gone past the 30-run mark even once.

Cook’s dip has been alarming and now that is a cause of concern for England. They were in search of Cook’s partner and now, their premier opener’s form has also been a big worry. It was only about 18 months ago, there were talks about Cook threatening Sachin Tendulkar’s Test record for the most runs. However, that now seems quite a bit away.

Cook is vital for England. Every time he scores runs, England are in a good position. In fact, in the last 11 hundreds Cook has scored, England have lost just once. Since the start of 2017, every time Cook has got in excess of 50, England have never lost. Hence, Cook is absolutely vital for England as it gives them the results.

Cook has come back from these situations. For now, except Rory Burns who has now scored over 1000 runs in County cricket for 5 consecutive years, the 160-Test veteran seems to be England’s best bet at the top of the order. He can certainly turn things around and he has shown that he can.

However, for now, the debate remains. Is Alastair Cook coming to an end? Let’s wait and see.

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