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The ugly runs that make a champion
The two celebrations told the whole story so perfectly. One, notably muted and appreciative of the crowd. The other celebration was of pure elation, with fist pumping and jumping clear to see. Of course, I am talking about the moment when Alastair Cook crunched the ball past Jackson Bird to reach his double century. Stuart Broad played the part of an excited school kid when he saw “Chef” reach that magnificent milestone. These celebrations have been characteristic of Cook’s career, others genuinely seem happier than him when he reaches a landmark. However, even with others’ happiness, there is a sense that the mild mannered boy from Gloucester has never got the credit he deserved. His playing style, self admitted, is not the prettiest sight in the world and seeing hard work make runs is not as appealing as flair and grace. But determination and courage has its own beauty when seen its most pure form. There has been no greater exponent of those two qualities in the modern game than England’s leading run scorer in test cricket.
Why has he not received the admiration that his colleagues or contemporaries have received? Firstly, for the majority of his career, the English media has very sparingly celebrated the glories of the athletes they cover. Whether it was the nation’s love in football, or Sir Andy Murray’s numerous attempts to win a major, the media was always ready to swing the axe when they failed. In this process, Cook’s performances were extraordinary but never got the love. His sensational century in his debut test match in Nagpur made the cricket faithful realise that England had a star in their sheds. Almost every series that he was a part of saw him raise his bat to the crowd in acknowledgement of a century. Just as the media realised that part of their role is to also celebrate English success, Cook was still delivering but the limelight was stolen. Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell and Matt Prior were lauded highly for their star performances but the glue that kept the batting lineup together was taken for granted. With this double century, there is the hope that the public will understand that they are watching a genius at work, just not the type of genius they are expecting. Yet, it will only take one more bad run of form from Cook for the people to get on his back once again. Grow up media, please.
Furthermore, the perception of Cook in England will always be scarred due to a tempestuous situation he never asked for. The sacking of Pietersen at the end of a disastrous Ashes tour put English cricket under a cloud for 18 months. “How could England’s best player be sacked when he scored the most runs?” This was the question on the lips of most fans, and Piers Morgan. Cook was portrayed as one of the villains in this sacking and moreover, he was going through a run of bad form which lasted an astonishing two year period. The suffocation he was being put under was nothing short of pathetic and journalists were ready to write his obituary at the end of the 2015 Ashes series. England were expected to lose heavily due to their whitewash defeat 18 months previously and the supposed “loss” of their best player. While Cook did not reach three figures in the series (he scored 96 and several fifties), this was the biggest victory of his career. A 3-2 series victory ended in Michael Clarke’s retirement from the game, not the boy who plays for Essex. Therefore, when the team has its back against the wall, you can always count on Cook to deliver at some point.
Several champion articles have been written today in tribute of Cook, but if we really want to show our appreciation for him, we simply need to do this. Never ever discount him, this is most mentally tough cricketer in the history of the game.