Cook Hailed By England Batting Heroes As He Looks To Make History

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Alastair Cook will become the first Englishman in Test cricket history (and the youngest from any country) to reach 10,000 runs if he gets to 36 against Sri Lanka at Headingley on Thursday.
Here, England's batting heroes of the recent past pay tribute to the Essex run machine.
Alastair Cook could become the first Englishman and the youngest from any country to reach 10,000 runs
Cook began his international career as he meant to go on, scoring a century on his England debut in Nagpur

  Nasser Hussain (96 Tests, 5764 runs)
Imagine if Alastair Cook was Indian. His face would be on every billboard.

He would feature in every advert. He would be a global superstar and an iconic cricketer. His achievement in becoming the youngest man to reach 10,000 runs, which he must do in this series against Sri Lanka, makes him better at this stage of his career than even Sachin Tendulkar.
But as the England captain is English he is good old Alastair Cook, the run accumulator who nips off to his farm when he can enjoy the peace, quiet and anonymity that would never be afforded an Indian counterpart.
I don't think he would have it any other way because that time on the farm, usually helping with the lambing season, gives Cook perspective and gives him valuable space from the pressures of the job.
Nasser Hussain believes the lack of attention paid to Cook, who owns a farm, allowed him to hit great heights
Hussain (right) is convinced that Cook shows you do not have to have the best technique to be the best
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Cook is testament to the fact that being the best at international level does not have to be about looking good or having the best technique.
It is more about character and mental strength and Cook is the toughest cricketer English cricket has ever produced, make no mistake about that.

However he needs to do it, he will get a job done and if he is doubted in any way he will go out to prove people wrong and will invariably do just that.
Cook has a stubborn streak and that has served him well in the difficult times, like when he needed that century against Pakistan at the Oval ahead of Andrew Strauss's Australia tour and, more recently, that wonderful hundred in Barbados.
Those are times when your character at the highest level is seriously tested and Cook always finds a way to come through with flying colours.
What I like about Cook is that he hasn't changed right from the very beginning when I played a game with him for the Essex second team during one of the many times I was out of form and couldn't buy a run.
We were at Colchester and I must confess he was not exactly eye-catching.

I walked around the boundary with Keith Fletcher during the game and the great guru pointed to Cook and said to me ‘never mind your batting, that lad is going to be a superstar.' I looked at this tall, stiff-legged, heavy-headed batsman and said ‘are you sure Fletch?' But as usual the great man of Essex cricket was right.
Then, a bit later, I was in the indoor nets at Chelmsford when a local TV presenter and a young Cook, just picked for England Under 19s, stopped me on my way out to ask if I would do something for Look East about him.
I looked at both of them and, wrapped up in my own game and problems, just said ‘not now mate' and walked out of the door.

It's something Alastair reminds me of whenever I try to interview him for Sky now.
He's the same lad now he was then, really, but he has achieved what he has done in the game with an incredible work ethic behind the scenes.

The sacrifices he makes are extraordinary. He works so hard on both his game and conditioning to the point where he is one of the fittest in the England team.
Cook has a huge presence about him but no ego and there's a big difference between those two.

He would never try to tell you how good a player he is. But having watched him all these years I now know how seriously good he is. In fact I think he is one of the best players ever of a cricket ball delivered waist-high.
He has never looked a natural player against spin but just look at the phenomenal record against it ever since he flew from the Caribbean to Nagpur and made a century on Test debut against India 10 years ago.
Maybe Alastair is just one of the last old-fashioned, over-my-dead-body, I'll-get-a-hundred-however-long-it-takes player.

So much of the modern game now is about power and clearing the ropes but going into battle you'd have him in your team any day of the week.
Cook could have easily walked away from the captaincy during that very difficult period after the last Ashes tour but it is where that stubborn streak came in again and he has never taken the easy option. He wanted to prove he could captain England and captain them well and he has done that now.
Not only has he led them well but, unlike a lot of England captains, he has been able to maintain his form while in charge.

As captain in 45 Tests he averages 46.88 and as just a player in 81 Tests he averages 46.36. It has to be one of the hardest things in cricket to captain the team and open the batting and the fact he's been able to do that is another sign of his extreme mental toughness.
The England captain is in a good place now and, like his mentor Graham Gooch, could go on for some considerable time to come.

He doesn't play one-day cricket now, which has helped him enormously, and gets regular rest periods.
The tally of 10,000 Test runs could just be a stepping stone to where he is going to finish up and that is an exciting thought for Cook and England supporters.
He is the rock of the England team and long may that continue. We have a dignified, unspoilt captain we can be very proud of.
Keith Fletcher, one of the icons of Essex cricket, pointed Cook out to Hussain at a very early point in his career
Hussain would not do a piece for the local media about Cook, something the 31-year-old remembers to this day
  Andrew Strauss (100 Tests, 7037 runs)
The thing I remember most is Alastair coming into the team at the last minute for the first Test against India in Nagpur 10 years ago.

This was a really young guy and there was a perception in the England team that when you're 21, you're not ready for international cricket.
Andrew Strauss (left) was surprised by how confident Cook was from the moment he joined the England set-up
It belied beliefs that 21 years old was too young for someone to make their international debut for England
I remember how confident he was talking in front of us.

We had the likes of Flintoff and Harmison and Vaughan - really high-profile cricketers - and you could see he thought he was ready and then I distinctly remember being at the other end and his first scoring shot. Zaheer Khan bounced him and he nailed it for four.
That entire game he was absolutely clear on his method. He couldn't sweep and he didn't try one the whole way through and got a hundred second innings.
COOK VERSUS SACHIN TENDULKAR Sachin Tendulkar was 31 years and 10 months when he reached 10,000 Test runs.

Alastair Cook is 31 years and five months, so has time to beat the Indian legend's record.


From that moment on he hasn't changed. He's always stuck to his method, he hasn't gone up through the gears, he's been a very calm and consistent presence at the crease. That is the secret to greatness.
He's already a great and he will become greater with every series he plays. He's still relatively young, played some top-quality cricket in the last 12 months, looks in good form and I think 10,000 runs is not the end by any means.
Strauss believes that Cook could even beat the test run record of 15,921 belonging to Sachin Tendulkar, right
Cook ranks 12th in the world's leading Test run scorers but Strauss thinks he could top leader Tendulkar
You could see him beating Sachin Tendulkar's record [of 15,921 Test runs] - it's definitely within the realms of possibility.

What that will come down to is hunger and how much drive he has to play the game but he looks incredibly motivated, physically in great shape and I think he's really enjoying this slightly different environment with the England team and is at peace with himself as a captain as well.
It all bodes really well.
  Graham Gooch (118 Tests, 8900 runs)
The first recollection was probably when he kept wicket for the Essex Cricket Board XI versus Essex in a one-day match in 2003.

He was an opening batsman and he did a bit of keeping as well!
He's been a tremendous, determined cricketer ever since and he's had to work hard because there are more natural players.
Graham Gooch remembers watching Cook, who he feels is not the most natural cricketer, for Essex in 2003
Gooch, left, worked with Cook on his batting, and feels the reward for the effort would be getting to 10,000 runs
Getting to 10,000 runs is just reward for the time, effort and commitment he's put into his game.

No-one sees the work he puts in but that has made him the player he is. He's put in thousands of hours and pushed himself to places where it's unpalatable and uncomfortable.
Alastair doesn't have any problems with accepting a challenge, he'll just get on with it.
He doesn't whinge. Being in the farming community it's not an issue him getting up early but we've practised at times in the past where other people are still in bed and not waking up for a couple of hours.
When you start your career you're just happy to get off the mark.

But to reach 10,000 runs is not something you contemplate. You contemplate the next innings, the next ball, the next over. He's gone about his cricket that way, been a student of the game and I can only give him credit for the way he's developed into the player you see.
  Alec Stewart (133 Tests, 8463 runs)
There's no doubting Alastair's quality and he's almost Graham Gooch-like in the way he gets his runs - you can tell the influence he's had on him from a young age at Essex.
He must now go down as one of the greats of the game, particularly getting to this landmark as an opener.

It's hard enough to bat for a decade at international level in any position. But to do it at the top of the order as he has is remarkable. Look at that list of people who've got 10,000 Test runs and only Sunil Gavaskar has opened the batting and he didn't do it for his whole career.
Alec Stewart, right, pointed out that only Sunil Gavaskar has hit 10,000 Test runs as an opening batsman
It's a reward for the consistency and character Alastair's shown over the years and it's something England have needed.
I really can't remember the first time I saw him bat - it must have been Essex against Surrey at some point.

But in the nicest way Alastair's not a memorable player. One thing is for sure, though, and that's when he's gone we'll miss him. Maybe we'll only truly appreciate him when he's gone. But when that time comes, and I hope it's not for a long time, we'll really appreciate what a player he has been.
  David Gower (117 Tests, 8231 runs)
You get the feeling that he is never satisfied, which might have been inculcated by Mr Gooch over the years.

But it has certainly served him very well because he has nailed the art of making the most of every single opportunity.
I am someone that says the stars of any generation would have been the stars in any other generation because their talent would have allowed them to adapt to the requirement of the time.

He has the batting talent and mental strength to have prospered in any era.
David Gower (right) thinks Cook's mental strength means he would have been a great in any era of cricket
Cook's critics, Gower believes, could say he is a limited player but fans would say he works within those limits
COOK'S ENGLAND TEST STATSDebut - 1 March 2006 v India
Matches - 126
Runs scored - 9,964
Batting average - 46.56
Top score - 294 
The only downside, if there is one with him, is that you judge players on their natural gifts to excel in any form of the game.

For Alastair, his way of playing suits Test cricket, he has made almost 10,000 runs and he will make a lot more than 10,000 runs, which is streets ahead of anyone else in the English game.
Critics will say he's limited but his supporters will say that to know your limitations is a strength.

He has some trademark shots and one of his outstanding attributes for Test cricket is that he is good against the short ball by and large. All sorts of people have been found out against the short ball in this game over the years, and it is what makes Test cricket more important, more of a Test.
The debut was obviously a good start.

Whenever someone has a debut like that, it is quite natural to be cautious. "Give him a year or two, and see if he cracks on." The truth is he has cracked on year after year. Yes, he has had some low points, he's re-examined his technique more than once, but he's always come back with stacks of runs.

  Marcus Trescothick (76 Tests, 5825 runs)
When you think of the other players that have knocked on that door of 10,000 runs and gone past it, it is amazing he has done so well so fast.

How many can he go on and get? That's the big question.
With age you get more confident because you have a lot of history behind you. Into your 30s you know you have come through ups and downs.
You have experience of knowing how it's going to work. Concentrating has always been something he has been good at. He has always made big scores. Even at the start of this season he has been consistent in that and it's because he has the ability to bat such long periods of time.

You get that with age.
Marcus Trescothick (right) highlighted Cook's concentration as a reason behind his sustained batting success
Trescothick also thinks that Cook's character, which is similar to that of Strauss, has made him successful
With Alastair it was very similar to Andrew Strauss when he came into the team.

And this goes for quite a number of players - you almost sense that it's the character more than anything that makes them successful at the top level. They fit into the mould of being an international player straight away. 
They don't need any teaching about what to do, or how to conduct themselves.

They have that natural manner about how they play the game. They take to it so quickly because they can cope with the pressure, cope with the big occasion, and score runs. You get a sense that character is such a big part of it. You knew Alastair had it the minute he came into the game.
It's what made him so special.
We have always been a little bit under-stated about our players' achievements. When he passed Graham Gooch it was a great achievement. Then you look around the world at Brian Lara, Tendulkar, Sangakkara, Rahul Dravid, all these people who have passed 10,000, and they are some of the best players to have ever played.

Alastair Cook is so close to five figures at such a young age that he could go on to outweigh a lot of those we talk about in such revered terms. That is what sets him apart as an English batsman - that he could potentially become the leading Test run scorer of all time.
  Paul Collingwood (68 Tests, 4259 runs)
Getting to 10,000 Test runs is huge.

He's always had his knockers but you have got to put everything in perspective of what he's actually achieved. He's going to be one of the greats it's as simple as that.
I remember on his debut at Nagpur when he scored his first hundred, it was actually my first hundred as well for England in that game.

I was nervous, he wasn't and he's always done that - gone out and proved he can do the business for England.
If anyone ever doubts him he just wants to prove them wrong. He's real stubborn in his technique and approach to the game and that really showed when he flew in late, played that first game and just looked accustomed to Test cricket.

It was if he was born to play Test cricket.
Cook (right) and Collingwood (left) scored their first Test centuries in the same game in Nagpur, Cook's debut

He's broken a lot of records and I'm not saying he's an ugly batsman but when you're a run-getter in the side it doesn't matter what you look like.

That's his job and he's been fantastic doing that for England.
He's one of the best players of the short ball and fast bowling and when people said he couldn't play spin he went out to India and scored hundreds.

He's great around the dressing-room and easy going but when it comes to batting nobody wants to bat longer than Alastair Cook.
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