Circa 2006. Alastair Cook was having a ball on a sun-kissed beach in Antigua when he received an SOS. The left-hander, then only 21 and the ‘A’ team’s mainstay, set off for an arduous journey across three continents to reach Nagpur in time for the first Test.
Reach he did, fuelled by several plastic meals but drained by various time zones. However, he displayed none of that supposed lethargy on debut. With a 60 and an unbeaten 104, Cook announced himself big time. Needless to say, he overshadowed the other newcomers — Monty Panesar and Ian Blackwell — by some distance.
After six years, 82 Tests, 146 innings and a honeymoon with wife Alice in Argentina, Cook has amassed a handsome 6,391 with 20 hundreds and 29 fifties. He still possesses that boyish charm, something that had earned him a marriage proposal on a placard from a damsel in the stands in the ‘Orange City’. On Monday, Cook & Co trooped into these shores with great expectations but a greater burden. That an English side hasn’t won a series in India since David Gower’s Class of 1984-85 is plain truth, but Cook has a lot of faith in his side. “It’s a great place to play cricket,” he said with an unmistakable smile.
To put it simply, England couldn’t have asked for a better replacement for Andrew Strauss. Other than being prolific run-getters, the southpaws are known to be admirable managers of men. And post-SMSgate, Cook may well have to bring to the fore his nurturant-task quality. “As I said, it is great to have Kev (Pietersen) back and like any batter in the team he is there to score runs, and off the field to pass some of the experience he has got to the rest of the lads,” Cook said of his “reintegrated” teammate.
Finally, how can an England skipper not face questions on spin, especially in India? Truth is England faced quite a few spinners — James Tredwell, Scott Borthwick, Simon Kerrigan and Azeem Rafiq — during their three-day camp in Dubai. No wonder Cook is delighted.