Sir Alastair Cook has said that there would still be room for a conventional player such as himself in England’s current Test side under Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum.
Cook, who retired from Test cricket in 2018 and then from first-class cricket last year, is England’s highest run-scorer in the five-day game. He accumulated 12,472 runs at an average of 45.35 during a magnificent Test career, but was often renowned for his adhesive style, batting with a strike rate of just 47 in his career.
Last year, Stokes said that for all his admiration of Cook’s qualities, he would not pick the left-hander if he was available today. “In this day and age and while I’m captain and Baz is coach that is not something we’re looking for,” Stokes said. “Right here and now it’s pretty obvious the sort of players we want and how they can get noticed.”
But Cook, who is working as a pundit on TNT Sports for the second Test, which begins on Friday, believes that anyone scoring enough runs in county cricket could still break into the England Test side, even if they bat at a more traditional tempo.
“I’ll sit and watch him – just remember who gave him his debut and all that kind of stuff,” Cook joked.
“Ultimately, volume of runs makes a big impact. If you go back to when I first started as a 21-year-old, I scored quite a lot of runs to force my way in. And if a 20, 21-year-old does that there’s something about him. The selectors will definitely look at it.”
Dom Sibley and Haseeb Hameed are England top-order players who appeared in the recent past before Stokes took over as full-time captain in May 2022. Neither have played since. England’s current opening pair, Zak Crawley and Ben Duckett, have strike rates of 78 and 89 respectively under the current regime, with their rapid scoring against the new ball influential in the remarkable come-from-behind victory against India in the opening Test in Hyderabad.
“Those two have formed a brilliant partnership and it’s great to see the confidence a settled top order can give to the rest,” Cook said, hailing the opening pair. “Ideally, you want two very different players at the top of the order. In general, the right- and left-hander theory makes more sense, bowlers have got to switch round. Then there is short, large, all that kind of stuff, different strengths.”
Cook, who captained England to a 2-1 series win in India in 2012 – the last series that India have lost at home – backed James Anderson, his close friend, to make an impact upon the series if recalled for the second Test in Vizag. Anderson has a fine record in India, with 34 wickets at 29.3 in 13 Tests, and was instrumental both in the 2012 series win and in the victory in Chennai on the 2021 tour.
“Absolutely, I think that is a very viable option,” Cook said. “It’s nice to have an option of 690 Test wickets to come in if you want it.”
Cook also praised England’s victory in Hyderabad, after overturning a deficit of 190 runs on first innings.
“I think it’s probably one of the greatest away wins, or wins anywhere, considering where they found themselves at the end of day two. But also just in general to beat an Indian side like that in their home conditions, we know how hard it is. It was a brilliant effort.”
Cook believes that India struggled to respond to the aggression from England’s batsmen, led by Ollie Pope, whose second-innings 196 has been lauded as one of the country’s finest innings away from home.
“They didn’t know they were going to chase that fourth innings or tactically stop that England onslaught so they did look a little bit all at sea. I think it shook them. I think when you’re 200 runs ahead and they’re so used to winning games – they’ve only lost three Test matches out of 40-odd at home – suddenly [India thought], ‘Oh god, oh this won’t happen for much longer’.
“I said before the series it would be very interesting to see how India cope with the willingness to attack spin that the England batsmen will show. We knew it was going to happen and it is confrontational as a captain because there’s not much you can do. Halfway through day three they weren’t sure where to turn or what to do.”
Cook believes that England should continue to attack India’s spinners in a similar vein over the next four Tests.
“This England side and the talent they have in that batting line-up, it could be one of four or five who could play an innings like that,” the former captain said. “It will give England a lot of confidence.”
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