Alastair Cook wants to bow out of cricket with minimal fuss
Alastair Cook wants to bow out of cricket with minimal fuss, ideally with another County Championship with Essex next week… and then head for his farm
- Alastair Cook is aiming for one last hurrah before bowing quietly out of cricket
- Aged 38, he is still as fit as ever and one of the best batsmen in the country
- It has not always been plain sailing but he stands as one of England’s true greats
It says everything about Alastair Cook that he has already played on for Essex far longer than he planned when he bade farewell to England with a fairytale century in his last Test.
At that stage, five years ago after those unforgettable scenes against India at the Oval, he envisaged having one or two years giving back to his county before concentrating on the family farm that means so much to him.
That he is only now coming to the end of the line, still as fit as ever at 38, is a measure of how much Cook has enjoyed being back in the county rank and file and the enduring quality that sees him still one of the best opening batsmen in the country.
It does look certain this is it —even though when MailOnline broke news of Cook’s impending retirement yesterday, Essex released a statement saying the future of one of England’s greatest batsmen would only be decided at the end of the season.
In truth, the decision already looks to have been made. Cook wants to bow out, without any fuss, in the not exactly glamorous surroundings of Wantage Road against Northants next week, ideally with another County Championship title under his belt.
Alastair Cook wants to bow out of cricket with minimal fuss – ideally with a County Championship under his belt with Essex next week
He now wants to concentrate on his family farm which means so much to him
For that to happen, Essex still have to upset the odds — a win against Hampshire on Friday coupled with a defeat or draw for Surrey against Northants at the Oval would make for a thrilling final round — but whatever happens Cook has already achieved it all.
When he walked off at the Oval in 2018 to the warmest of ovations Cook had become England’s record run-scorer, had made 33 Test centuries, captained England to two Ashes wins and had dominated with the bat in the biggest modern triumph against Australia of them all, under Andrew Strauss in 2010-11.
And all in an old-fashioned, almost limited style that would be anathema to today’s Bazball-era England team. He might not even have made the Test side in the first place had he emerged today, but Cook was talented and determined enough to have adapted should he have needed to in order to catch Brendon McCullum’s eye.
It has not always been plain-sailing. The worst times of Cook’s career came after England had been thrashed 5-0 in Australia in 2013-14 under his captaincy and he was instrumental in the decision to jettison Kevin Pietersen as the rebuilding process began.
For a while it looked certain, with high-profile figures like Shane Warne and Michael Vaughan firmly in Pietersen’s corner, that Cook would quickly follow, particularly after a defeat by Sri Lanka at Headingley that came with pressure on him at its most intense.
That he hung on, regained the Ashes in 2015 before handing the captaincy over to Joe Root and then enjoyed a last hurrah back in the ranks, was a tribute to Cook’s stubbornness and sheer determination not to be hounded out by all the noise.
One of England’s greatest batsman retired from the international game in 2018 but has enjoyed county cricket since then
There is no question he could carry on into his 40s at Chelmsford if he wanted to
He deserved to carry on in 2014 and he throroughly deserved that dream finale four years later when the English cricketing public made it perfectly clear what they thought of him. They told him he was one of the most popular and significant figures in the game.
Cook won a Championship with Essex in 2017 but it came when he was mostly away with England and his decision to play on in county cricket, unlike so many top players when they are done with England, was made partly to pursue more domestic honours.
They came in 2019 when he dramatically batted Essex to the title against their biggest rivals Somerset at Taunton on the final day of the season and in the Bob Willis Trophy the following Covid-hit year. Another title would be the icing on Cook’s cake.
There is no question he could carry on into his 40s at Chelmsford like his mentor Graham Gooch did after his outstanding England career. He looks the same supremely fit figure as when he emerged to make a double century for Essex against Australia in 2005 and then a century on Test debut in India in 2006.
But Cook will not want to outstay his welcome, and has a bright future on screen, radio and working hard on his farm. But first there is the small matter of one more Championship title to win.
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