How would one judge a great innings? Is it by the conditions or by its sheer impact on the result? Whatever be the criteria, Alistair Cook’s unbeaten 168 conforms to all, that knocks of such intensity or enormity aren’t an everyday occurrence. The daunting factor was the context. Burdened by a gargantuan deficit of 330 runs on a fourth-day subcontinent wicket with the opponents cushioned with two days for a forthright win. Batting out time can be as gruesome as an improbable chase.
In such a suffocating backdrop, Cook, factor in the brunt of captaincy, constructed an innings of such circumstantial merit that it would count as among his best. And the person mentioned is not a novice but a war-worn campaigner of 84 Tests and having played many an innings of substance in adversity.
His batting coach Graham Gooch certainly picks this among Cook’s better efforts. “This is as great as any he has played under great pressure after a poor first innings effort and the opposition have so much time to get you out. But Cook showed what he is capable of,” he observed.
Right from his Test debut—wherein he was pitchforked from an A tour to fill in for Marcus Trescothick and knocked off a hundred in his second innings — his sense of assessing situation seems intuitive. “Right from his first Test, he has showed a sense of the situation. It’s a priceless skill and he had that right from the onset. He has that in abundance,” commented Gooch, a former captain and a veteran of 118 Tests himself.
His endurance and technical quality was as much self-evident as dryness of the pitch. Anything loose was remorselessly put away—mostly cuts and pulls—while the better ones were effectively dealt with. His technique to spinners was interesting as he made a conscious effort to move his feet adjacently as opposed to moving it back and across against the pacers.
“The concentration he exhibited was phenomenal so to say he scored only 92 runs on Sunday. It’s all about trusting your skills and your training. Sometimes you just go there, get in and get a hundred. But today he showed a lot of resolve and good judgment,” opined Gooch.
If Cook’s transition to international cricket was seamless, so seems his evolution initiation to England captaincy. “He is still finding his way and I’m sure he will make mistakes in the process. But I tell you, he will learn from those too. He’s blossomed under the responsibility,” he said. This, in all likelihood, might be the defining aspect of his already prolific career.