In the world of modern cricket, where change is the only common currency and all batsmen seem to be one game away from the drop, Alistair Cook has been cricket’s constant. But following a tough winter in Australia and New Zealand and another lean summer by his very standards, Cook has decided to walk away from international cricket over 12 years after his remarkable debut, citing ‘nothing left in the tank’.
He has scored over 12,000 test match runs, ranking 6th in the list of all time greats, with 32 test match hundreds to his name. To exemplify how impressive his longevity has been in modern cricket, the next-nearest batsman who made their test debut after Cook is Ross Taylor of New Zealand, with just over half the amount of runs and 17 test match hundreds. His career includes proving himself in all continents and all situations, including 104 not out on debut in India aged just 21, while nobody can forget the career defining Ashes series down under in 2010-11 (766 runs at an average of 127.6). Cook’s career also included 4 years of captaining England between 2012 and 2016, managing a difficult transition for what was the end of a test side that will be remembered as one of cricket’s best, with notable successes including Ashes victories and a famous away win in India while acting with grace and dignity to step aside to allow the bright prospect Joe Root his opportunity to shine.
But despite this sparkling career, all good things must come to an end and for Cook, with opposition teams seemingly having worked out his simplified technique and his run-scoring has become increasingly inconsistent. A dominant 244* in an otherwise forgettable Ashes 2017-2018 tour gave hope that a return to his peak was possible, but Cook has found runs difficult to come by this summer, averaging in the teens in the series against India.
Timing will be a common theme when Cook looks back on his illustrious career. Amid all the highs there were some deep lows, with his batting often representing feast or famine. On numerous occasions Cook looked one game away from being dropped, only to pull out a gritty hundred to cement his place once more. Not always pretty, but reflective of a unique mental toughness that will be hard to replicate in future generations. While nobody would have doubted Cook’s ability to once again pull a rabbit out of the hat, it appears Cook may have once again demonstrated exemplary timing by walking away at this stage and on his own accord. By doing so, Cook will protect his legacy as one of test cricket’s finest ever players, will be able to devote more hours to a young family after years of service and sacrifice, while his vacancy provides successors the opportunity to fill some of the biggest shoes in English cricket with a 2019 home Ashes series on the horizon.