Cook has already accomplished what some England players have strived for throughout their entire careers
England batting coach Graham Gooch believes that captain Alastair Cook is still yet to have his best days after having almost single-handedly humiliated India in front of their home fans.
Cook has already become the youngest batsman to reach 7,000 Test runs and has already established himself as England’s highest Test century maker with 23 next to his name already.
During the four-Test series against India, Cook scored a century in each of the first three Tests and ended up with a total amount of 548 runs with an average of 109.60, which is more than Sachin Tendulkar, Mahendra Singh Dhoni Dhoni, Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh combined.
However, Gooch believes that Cook, who is jsut 28, will go much further and will easily surpass his own record as England’s top run scorer in Test cricket.
Gooch scored a total of 8,900 Test runs, while Cook is currently on 7,117 runs with plenty of years still left on his international career.
“In my opinion, the years between 27 to 35 are the best years for a batsman because you have honed your knowledge and you know your game,” Gooch said. “I think he’s got his best years in front of him. He’s got to stay fit and motivated but nothing at the moment would suggest to me that that won’t happen. I hope to hang on in this job until he goes past my record.”
Gooch noted that he was the batting coach of Essex when Cook joined the county side and despite never being the most eye-catching player while at the crease, his skills and shot selection got him noticed almost immediately.
“Alastair was on the Essex Academy and it was pretty obvious he was going to be a good player,” Gooch said. “I can’t remember the first time I saw him but I do remember him keeping wicket and batting for our Board XI against Essex in a proper match.”
The match Gooch was talking about happened in 2003 when Cook was playing for the Essex Cricket Board against Essex and only managed to score 27 runs before getting out, but the England captain’s maturity and calmness at the crease was something that has stuck with Gooch even till now.
“My early memories of him as a person were that he was very mature for his age and very balanced and considered,” Gooch added. “He went about his cricket in a methodical sort of way and you can still see that now. The priceless ability he had when he was young, and again you can see this now, is that he knows exactly what he can and can’t do. He puts that in place and into practice and doesn’t step outside that.
“You know the old saying? It’s not how, it’s how many. He knows the way to play. Often young players coming up have talent and ability to strike the ball but they don’t quite know how to manage their ability. Sometimes it dawns on them later in life and sometimes it doesn’t dawn on them at all but this lad had it from the beginning. He knew how he could operate.
“He applies a certain type of game in Test cricket that works. When he came into the one-day side a lot of people said he didn’t have the game for it but smart players find a way. And he plays a different sort of game in one-day cricket. He’s not a power player but he keeps it moving and his runs-per-balls ratio is very good. That shows the skill of the man in being able to adapt.
“He tends to get on the front foot now a bit more later in his innings and he plays a very resolute game outside off stump. He’s worked very hard over the years. He practices the sweep and hitting the ball over the top and it’s good to see him showing confidence in selective sweeping against the turning ball. He’s had success with that and also has the confidence to use his feet and come down the wicket. He’s starting to enhance his game.
“Maybe he’s thinking back to the Pakistan series in 2010 when he had a bit of a nightmare and thinking ‘I’m going to get every run I can now because it’s working for me’. I’m in good form and I’ll cash in.”
Gooch was impressed by how Cook led by example during his first Test series as captain and also the way he used the conditions to his favour, which helped him end England’s 27-year losing streak in India.
“Captaincy has enhanced his run scoring already,” Gooch said. “It’s difficult to look into a crystal ball and say whether it will affect him down the line but all the opportunities are there for him. He’s mentally strong, that’s his greatest asset, and he could achieve a lot of things. There’s a lot of cricket in front of him and that can affect you but I’d like to think he will go all the way. He’ll certainly go past my record in the not too distant future the way it’s going and good on him because he’ll deserve that. He’s mastered his art to a degree and is always looking to improve. If he delivers, England win matches.
“I think we’ve seen already in the dressing room that he’s prepared to make his own decisions. He doesn’t always take the coaches advice in that he wants to do it his own way. He’ll make mistakes and he won’t get it right every time. You have to grow into that job, the way you get the best out of people, counsel them, and make tactical decisions. All those things come into it. He’s in his infancy but I don’t see any reason why he won’t be a good captain and leader of men.”