This really wasn’t the way it was supposed to go was it, that is if you were one of the pie-eyed masses who believed the highly skewed rhetoric coming from our administrators and from our chums in the media in the wake of 4 years ago. This was meant to be the redemption tour, even more so, the Cook redemption tour where our glorious past leader threw off the shackles of captaincy and put the Aussies to the sword as England romped home victorious. Except miracles don’t happen like that, there may be those that chose to believe this rhetoric more through blind hope than realism, totally immune to the fact that Cook has struggled for the past few years; however the rest of us (or the Anti-Cook brigade as many of us have been listed) were scolded for daring to question the darling of the media and applying a more leveled view of the former Captain’s situation. I hate to say I told you so, but…well you can work out the rest.
I deliberately haven’t gone all guns blazing on Cook in the past (even though it’s a chime that is often leveled against me) as although I still believe he was complicit in the forced removal of England’s former South African born batsman, it was more the administrator and media cover up that made me particularly angry rather than Cook’s antics. All the talk of Cook being the best batsman the world has ever seen, the endless hagiography’s, the whispering campaigns and Cook’s own stubborn refusal to believe that he should have been dropped for the 2015 World Cup seriously got my goat; however my own personal view is that Cook is just a little bit thick, a little bit dull and way in over his head more than he ever believed. He was a terrible captain, unable to either raise the troops or with enough acumen to make a serious difference in the field, hence why the term ‘let it drift’ will be synonymous with a picture of dear Cookie in years to come.
This however, is not about my personal opinions on Cook the person or Cook the captain, this is purely about Cook the batsman. I was casually searching for a few stats on Cook the other day and some of the stats surprised even me (though they might not surprise some of the more avid followers on the site):
- Cook’s last match winning century: 243 vs. West Indies at Edgbaston, August 2017
- Cook’s last match winning century against either SA, Australia or India: 190 vs. India at Eden Gardens, December 2012
- Cook’s last century against Australia: 189 vs Australia, at SCG, December 2011
- 7 Century’s in the last 107 innings
- Current average in this Ashes series: 13.85
No doubt I will be accused by some of ‘Cook Maths’ and yes, I have cherry picked certain stats, but the case remains that Cook hasn’t scored a match winning century against one of the big 3 (SA included) for over 5 years. England’s so called best player and rock, who has seen off more opening partners than I’ve had hot dinners, is nothing but a flat track bully. He reminds me of why the Aussies used to call John Crawley ‘2nd innings Charlie’, always there to score slightly meaningless runs but disappears off the radar once tough runs need to be scored. This is where 2013 was so important. Cook by and large, apart from the very odd drop off in form, was England’s premier player, scorer of centuries and obstinate rock at the top of the order before 2013. It could be argued back then that he was a world class player. 2013 changed this though, as the Australian attack blunted Cook firstly in the Ashes series over in England and then blew him apart in the return leg some 4 months later. It was Mitchell Johnson, who got many of the plaudits for that series, but it was Ryan Harris that provided the blueprint for every single bowler in International cricket to follow and in the end it was a pretty simple plan to follow. Keep the ball pitched up on and around off stump with the odd variation outwards for it to swing and inwards to catch him LBW. Short balls are occasionally permitted, but they need to be quick and straight and provide him with no opportunity to free his arms. Leg side half volleys were definitely off the agenda.
It was a mantra that everyone bar the weakest of international bowling attacks have managed to follow, negating Cook’s strengths against seam bowling and leaving him desperately reliant on slow, dead pitches such as the one in Abu Dhabi to post a serious score. As Chris mentioned in his last article, it seems that the press have belatedly woken up to the fact that Cook is no more than an excellent county pro and mediocre international and has been for the past 4 years. We have yet to see the whispering campaigns such as his eyes have gone or his heart has gone as Ian Bell had to endure recently, particularly from a rather bitter ex-Chief Correspondent (KP kindly leant with that angle in the build up to the last Test), but the odd one or two have delicately mentioned that this series could and probably should be his last; though naturally we have the odd dinosaur still beating the drum:
The truth is that there was never going to be a Cook redemption tour. The supporting cast are simply not good enough and Cook’s form and inability to change his game against the set bowling plans that have been his downfall in the past has seen his form dip from ‘worrying’ to ‘terminal decline’. It’s true that even the very best get worked out from time to time, but the very best adapt. Cook neither has the aptitude or willingness to do such a thing. He no longer has the media hagiography’s supporting him, though he does always seem to be pretty immune from criticism (remember it was Malan’s fault for not scoring 300 in the last Test or digging out Joe Root for being an inexperienced captain), but for how long this will continue, that no-one can be sure. There is going to be fallout from this series, even more should we capitulate to a 5-0 defeat and we no longer have a useful idiot (KP) or a useless idiot (Downton) to protect Cook from some of the rightful criticism that will come his way. Will he walk away? Who knows, but surely the media can’t be as complicit as they were 4 years ago.
This tour, apart from being decidedly predictable, has confirmed what many of us had seen through our own eyes (and not through the rose-tinted spectacles many had chosen to view things as). Cook was a great international batsman, a scorer of a plethora of centuries, the rock of the 2010 Ashes victory in Australia; however that was more than 4 years ago and father time waits for no-one, certainly not one who would most certainly have been dropped if he didn’t have his past record to fall back on (let’s just say that had Stoneman had performed like Cook, he would be spending his winter elsewhere).
The SCG should be the place where Cook retires from International cricket and sails off into the sunset. There will still be a lot of soul searching after this series but at least by this point we might be able to put to bed one of the ghosts that have haunted English cricket for the past four years. How the cricket world views Cook in 5 years time could be very interesting to see.