Alastair Cook — An Appreciation

Written by  //  December 6, 2012  //  Sport  //  1 Comment

Watching Alastair Cook bat can be tiresome and fun in equal measure. Tiresome because his modus operandi—usually—is to wear the bowlers down, and pick them off when they err, in a punctilious, efficient manner rather than with any flash or bluster. Fun because his batting is a personification of control and balance, a lesson in tranquility and thoroughness. He hardly ever hits a ball in anger, except perhaps when he’s cutting behind point, yet at the end of the day the score next to his name represents a colossus. There is nothing lumbering about his batting, bar a jerky back-lift, but neither is there a standout stroke—no shot that screams out at you for its elegance or for its bravado. On Thursday, he was steadfast, as he has been for much of the last 18 months, coolly skipping past such giants of the game, Boycott, Cowdrey, his own teammate Pietersen and, most notably, the mythical Wally Hammond in cracking his twenty third test century, and becoming the youngest, at 27, to scale 7000 Test runs.

Gideon Haigh in writing recently about Jacques Kallis made reference to Amarillo Slim’s advice to players of Texas Hold’ Em: “play fast in a slow game, slow in a fast game”. As is the case with Kallis, Cook’s career strikerate has never crossed 50 once, constantly hovering around the 48 mark, at which it presently finds itself. There are sessions of play when Cook’s batting can seem dour and obstinate, but to accuse it of lacking inspiration would be tantamount to questioning the very pursuit of excellence.

Cook’s 136 (not-out at the time of writing) in the ongoing Eden Gardens Test was once more a statement of purpose and industry, an outstanding example of batsmanship. The pitch admittedly looked placid, but when you consider that India had floundered its way to a relatively meager 316, Cook’s innings stands out even more as a pillar of majesty. Coming as it did on the back of hundreds in consecutive test matches (a fighting effort in vain in Ahmadabad and a match-winning display in Mumbai) there was a feeling of inevitability about this innings—as though it had been foreordained almost. But it was none the poorer for that.

When he’s at his best, Cook’s footwork is a real treat to watch. Not from an aesthetic standpoint, as it can be with, say, Michael Clarke, but through a measure of its effectiveness. It’s staggering, for instance, as Sanjay Manjrekar pointed out in commentary, how deep Cook can go into the crease when playing strokes square of the wicket. There is a minimalism about his footwork, but he is rarely found wanting because of it. He doesn’t plunk his front foot forward nor does he remain utterly still. The only quirk is in his hands, when he lifts his bat backwards in a jerk, but for the most part his batting is a perfect riposte to the ball that is bowled. And the tempo of his batting means that you can zone in and out of the Test, as he moves along like a serene stream.

But every now and then Cook will shock you. Sport, as with any other form of art, is at its best when it catches you by surprise. And what I’ll remember most from his century on Thursday was a six that he hit off Ashwin shortly after lunch—a little hop down the pitch was followed by a wonderfully clean and straight hit that cleared the boundary with ease. It struck the eye at the time, and it continues to resonate even now.


About the Author

Suhrith Parthasarathy is a journalist currently living and writing in New York. Suhrith grew up in Chennai, India and studied law at the National University of Juridical Sciences in Kolkata. He practiced as an attorney for two years before giving up the law for journalism. He is presently studying for his masters at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. You can find him on Twitter (@suhrith) or on Facebook (

View all posts by

One Comment on "Alastair Cook — An Appreciation"

  1. Rajasekaran December 8, 2012 at 9:14 am ·

    hats off to cook who cooks not chickens,but chicken-hearted Indian spinners who get real dressing down from him.if Clarke yells for 43 years old Warne to save from Amla”s heroic antics,it is high time Dhonie called for Anil Kumble to put him in soup.

Comments are now closed for this article.