Goodbye Alastair Cook as a cricket legend departs the international scene
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Alastair Cook is what is now regarded as a rare breed, a traditional Test match opener in a world now dominated by T20 franchise cricket. It is unlikely we will ever see a player like him ever again, particularly from England. A stalwart of the English team since his surprise debut in India in 2006. 161 Tests later (a record) he has now left the international arena for the final time following England's fifth Test and overall series victory over one of the world's best Test side's, India, cementing his place as one of the all-time greats in the process. Being an opening batsman in Test cricket is probably one of the hardest jobs in the whole of the sport, facing fast bowlers looking to capitalise with the new, hard red ball. It can be lonely and mentally tough. As an opener, you have to be prepared to work hard for your runs while ensuring you get your team off to the best start possible. To do that for 13 years is some achievement, and to set the records he has done is nothing short of remarkable. He will be sorely missed by English cricket and we are definitely in a worse position without him. Naturally, there have been highs and lows like any sportsman's career. Career high points include two Ashes wins as captain in addition to a remarkable victory in India. Low points include the series whitewash against Australia in 2013 and the Kevin Pietersen saga which has come back to bite English cricket in various ways. Yet the highs comfortably outweigh the lows. A modest man, even following victory in the final test he refuses to recognise himself as the greatest cricketer England has produced, rather giving the title to his best friend and teammate Jimmy Anderson, who himself became the leading seam bowling wicket taker ever as he broke Glenn McGrath's record. In an interview with Sky
Sports this modesty was epitomised: "I was never going to be the best player the world has ever seen but one thing I can be proud of is that I genuinely believe I have become the best player that I could have become".
Yet he does leave the field as a great and most defintely one of the greatest ever.
He leaves the Test arena as not only Englands highest ever leading run scorer, but as fifth in the all-time list and the number one opener in terms of runs.
hundreds and 57 hundreds. What a way to finish his career, scoring 147 runs in the second innings against the same team he scored his maiden test ton 13 years prior on debut.
In the coming months, there will be definitely questions around whether he has left the game too early, but the timing is most definitely right.
Cook has nothing left to prove or give to English cricket having already sacrificed so much. He has most definitely earnt the right to call time of his career.
The question now arises of where England go now?
Since Andrew Strauss' retirement in 2013, we have not been able to produce just one opener yet alone two at once.
Keaton Jennings has continually struggled, yet due to Cook's retirement, he seems to have earned a reprieve and will most definitely be on the plane to Sri Lanka over the winter.
But who goes with him?
There are very few standout openers in first-class cricket at the moment, and as various players have proved over the last five years the gap between first-class cricket and Test Matches is huge.
One name I would like to see on the team sheet over the winter is Rory Burns.
One would argue his call-up has been long overdue with him scoring over 1000 runs in his past four seasons at the top of the order.
Hopefully, he will now be given a chance. But one thing is for sure, he has got massive shoes to fill.
Media Credit - Flickr Commons. ECB.
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