Graham Gooch has paid tribute to Alastair Cook as “the rock of England’s batting” and a “great person as well as a great cricketer”.
Cook, who has announced his impending international retirement after this week’s Oval Test, was the Gooch protege who went on to far surpass even his revered mentor’s record run-making achievements.
Four-time Ashes-winner Cook passed Gooch’s historical high of 8,900 Test runs just before regaining the urn as England captain four years ago, on the way to the 12,000-plus he has racked up in his 12-year, 160-match career.
For almost the duration, since Cook first moved on to the playing staff at their county Essex, Gooch has been a guiding force in his fellow opener’s unmatched career.
Gooch said: “Alastair has been the rock of England’s batting for the last 12 years since he made his debut – and while we are all sad to see him retire, we must rejoice in what he has done for our country.
“He is a genuine legend of English cricket.
READ MORE: Alastair Cook retires from England duty
“He is a legend not only because of his performances, but because of his attitude, his sacrifices, the way he has carried himself and the example he has set.
“Alastair is a perfect role model and is the image of the game we want to project.
“He is a great ambassador for his sport; he is a great person as well as a great cricketer.”
Gooch was speaking in his role as Professional Cricketers’ Association president.
In the tribute statement, the 65-year-old added: “His record is unsurpassed in terms of runs and the commitment he has showed for every team he has played for, and has been a beacon for our sport as a person and as a cricketer.
“He has been his own man all the way through.
“He has his own views and he knows what he wants to achieve and what he wants to get – and he has pursued that all the way through his career.”
Gooch was impressed by Cook from the outset.
He said: “It was evident from the very first time I met him when he came to Essex that he was a smart lad – and he knew how he could play, he knew how he could manage his game, even at a young age.
“Throughout his career, he has developed his game to improve, and the results are there for all to see.
“To achieve what he has in playing 160 Test Matches, scoring over 12,000 runs and 32 centuries is an incredibly special achievement from a special person.
“It all stems from being strong of mind, being committed to hard work on his game and focusing on what’s in front of him.
“He has accepted every challenge and has achieved everything he wanted to achieve – so we have to be sad that he will no longer be representing our country, but we must rejoice in the fact he has been a rock for us for 12 years.”
Gooch points out that graft, as well as ability, is necessary to succeed at the highest level.
He said: “To be a successful sportsman it is not just about the skills or talent – it is about hard work, commitment and desire.
“All of those parts complete the make-up of you as a person and help you be successful, and he has been determined … stubborn sometimes but always somebody you can depend on, and always the first name on the team sheet.”
Cook has indicated he intends to play on for his county next summer, and Gooch said: “For Essex it is a dream come true.
“Knowing Alastair like I do, he will give the same commitment as he did for England.
“He has decided he has run his race at international level, and I can understand that as he has done it for 12 years.”