The moment Jonathan Agnew tweeted about a major announcement, it was obvious what the story was going to be – that Cook would retire from Test cricket, but would get one more Test before departing the scene. The timing is probably right, for although his form has declined precipitously over the last couple of years (in particular), it was always the case that he remained the best opener available for England. His struggles this series brought that into question. Cook has had many a technical battle throughout his career, but this looked different – his technique didn’t appear particularly off, he was just getting out consistently to deliveries that he wouldn’t have when at his best.
In his statement he admitted that there was nothing left in the tank, and he’s probably correct. It is the right time for him, and the right time for England.
As for his career, he’s England’s highest Test run scorer and one of England’s best openers in modern history and the most capped Test cricketer for England. His record is deserving of respect and admiration on its own terms, and excessively hagiographical coverage of him over the last few years shouldn’t detract from his success as a player, nor his position in England cricketing history. His batting in Australia in 2010/11 remains a memory for all England fans, as do his performances in India in a rare Test series win there. At his best, he was the rock upon which a powerful England batting line up was founded, and his ability to bat time and demonstrate extraordinary powers of concentrations is a forgotten art in the current side.
Cook has been a fine batsman, and if the “Greatest of All Time” narrative became tiresome, that wasn’t his fault. Respect given for a terrific career, and he will deserve the recognition he will doubtless be accorded by spectators at the Oval. Freed from the pressure of struggling with his game, who knows, a sign off century might be possible. As a way to celebrate his career as whole, it would be thoroughly fitting.
Full post to follow, but for now, comments below.