England v South Africa, 2nd Investec Test, Trent Bridge July 12, 2017

Cook gets acquainted to life back in England's ranks

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Cook hopeful that captaincy questions will come to an end

Alastair Cook insists he has no regrets after giving up the England captaincy, but admitted there were just a couple of moments during the Lord's Test when he felt a pang for a special job he knows he'll "never do again".

While Cook, England captain from late 2012 to the start of 2017, described himself as "happy with the decision" to move back into the ranks, he confessed the sight of his successor, Joe Root, walking down the Lord's steps to take the toss did bring home to him the realisation of everything he had given up.

And, later in the Test, when he was moved in the field by Ben Stokes - Root's vice-captain - it again brought home to him his new place in the England hierarchy.

"I am happy with my decision," Cook said. "The only bit was seeing Rooty walk down the stairs in his blazer and working out you will never do that again.

"The shock was when Ben Stokes told me to move fielding positions. That was when I realised that life was different. He told me to swap with Jimmy because he thought Jimmy would be better in that position. So not only did I have Jimmy gloating at me but Ben Stokes telling me where to move.

"It was different. More the first couple of days of preparation, having spent three or four years being the focal point of decisions. Even when the 12-man squad was announced, I forgot the thought and effort that went into that. It is very different to being captain.

"But I have done my bit. I gave everything to the role and I move on from it. Let's get behind Joe."

Cook feels the gap between making the decision, at the end of the Test tour of India in December, and the resumption of England's Test schedule, was crucial in giving him adequate time to adjust mentally. But while he can look back on his time as Test captain with pride and satisfaction, he admits there is an element of regret over his period in charge of the ODI side.

"It would have been very strange if I had gone straight from not having the captaincy to playing a Test match two weeks later," he said. "I was pretty clear coming back from India I wasn't going to be captain. Those two weeks when I was 'making the decision' didn't change it.

"The constant decision-making takes its effect. I don't miss the media commitments. But I don't want to sound negative.

"And it was a bit strange when it was announced. I don't want to say I was in mourning as that's not quite the right word, but it wasn't relief I felt. It was sadness.

"I don't have many regrets but the way my one-day career finished with England was one. That last 12 months when I couldn't score a run was not a true indication of my one-day game.

"People will remember that period but, for that first 18 months when we got to No.1 in the rankings, I was averaging 50 and striking at over 100. Or something like that, anyway. I played well in the period when I first took over as captain."

In the end, the simple pleasure of playing cricket again proved key to Cook recovering his enthusiasm and his form. He has already made six centuries for Essex in the county season and, on a deteriorating pitch, made the highest score in the third innings of the first Investec Test at Lord's.

"The period in February I had off I didn't bat at all," he said. "I was on the farm.

"As soon as I got on that plane to go on Essex's pre-season tour, the challenge of scoring runs and mucking in with the lads made sure any thoughts about the captaincy were quickly forgotten.

"I quite like playing cricket, actually. It is an amazing thing what we do and, yes, there are tough times and hard moments along the way.

"But you know the thought of playing here on Friday in front of a full house… That opportunity is not going to be around forever so that's what kind of motivates me."

While Cook reckoned Root was uncharacteristically nervous at the start of England's training programme ahead of the Lord's Test, he felt he soon settled.

"I thought he was really calm all week," Cook said. "In that first net session I don't think I have seen him bat as badly. Normally he hits lots of balls but he said 'OK, that is it' and came back the next day and was fine.

"Clearly if you get a score like he did, that settles a lot of talk about the captaincy. Often captains come in and think they have to change everything. But we haven't done too much different. He was really calm all week. It was a very impressive first week from him as a captain and leader."

Investec is the title sponsor of Test match cricket in England. For Out of the Ordinary thinking visit investec.com/cricket

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • GAURAV on July 17, 2017, 21:36 GMT

    Tendulkar also scored 18000 runs in ODIs while playing test cricket. 34000 international runs vs 14000. people trying to compare should be ashamed of their stupidity. Cook won't get a place in Australian team of 1990-2007 as well as all time England XI. playing 15 tests a year doesn't equate to talent or greatness.

  • Jason on July 14, 2017, 7:53 GMT

    *Correction* People are cherry picking stats about cook and his average, especially against Australia, which in Australia is 49.5 over 5 tests

    Should read People are cherry picking stats about cook and his average, especially against Australia, which in Australia is 49.5 over 15 tests (27 Innings) so not a flash in the pan.

  • Jason on July 14, 2017, 7:13 GMT

    People are cherry picking stats about cook and his average, especially against Australia, which in Australia is 49.5 over 5 tests, which is pretty good, what brings his average down against them is his home performances vs Australia.

    It is well documented that he has a problem with lateral movement especially when the ball is new and bowlers are fresh, hence why he doesn't do well in NZ and SA where the ball is more likely to seam and swing.

    A few years ago we were told that you weren't great until you could succeed in the sub continent, and he has done that, where his average is 53,and taking out BD its 51, as he has averages of 51 in India, 55 in the UAE and 48 in SL.

    He is also one of the few batsmen who does better away from home, which surely is the mark of an exceptional batsman, especially an opener, does that make him a great, maybe not but it puts him up there with English greats like Hobbs, Sutcliffe, Boycott, and Hutton.

  • Mohan on July 14, 2017, 2:44 GMT

    The introspection he shared is a rare insight. The way he has conducted himself through out and subsequent to giving up captaincy, all bear signs of a very mature personality. I wish him all the best ahead. I feel he will recover those averages against Aus an SA which people are pointing at now that he does not carry the load of being a captain. A thought on the opposites of players like Cook (and another favorite - Dravid) --- While flashy personalities are attractive, I feel individuals who portray such, beyond a certain level, do a disservice to the game as they usually end up performing well below their potential. So, new upcoming cricketers would do well to try and emulate players like Cook.

  • Gursharan on July 13, 2017, 17:59 GMT

    For any English batsman, two biggest yardsticks to measure his greatness would be performance against Aus, and performance in Sub-continent. Cook has easily ticked the 2nd box. His avg of 36 against Aus is not too great, but it's not that bad for an opener if the horrors of 2013-14 ashes are removed. He's still got at least 2 more ashes in him to turn things around. He's at a stage of his career where he can be at peace with himself, and can bat according to the situation. His snail-paced 69 in 2nd innings against SA in 1st test came on in a situation when most other English and SA batsman struggled to go past 30 runs. Yet this subtle but important contribution which are normally a hallmark of his batting often get ignored because he usually starts when scorecard reads 0/0, and not when it's 50/3

  • David on July 13, 2017, 13:17 GMT

    Cook needs to concentrate on his batting and forget about the captaincy. South Africa is not going to just lay down, they will bounce back hard! Not having a consistent partner on the other end, I am sure makes it much more difficult for him.

  • guyajw5204138 on July 13, 2017, 12:43 GMT

    Being a bit harsh on Cook there. He averages a tick under 40 against Aus. Average against SA is poor at 35. Most players will struggle against a team or two. Hayden averaged 33 against BD and 36 against NZ. Even the great Gavaskar who averaged a whopping 65 against WI only averaged 38 against England. Gavaskar himself said Cook was a great when the latter passed 10k. I'd rank Cook as a great simply because of his longevity and the fact that he has spent virtually all his career at the top, unlike some. His average at #3 in 7 matches leaps to 52! Most Australians will not rank Cook as an all-time great; many English will - he is undoubtedly the best opener in the game currently, especially when you consider that over half of his hundreds were made away from home. I think Warner only has 3 overseas 100s and 2 were made in SA which is Australia-lite.

  • Edwin on July 13, 2017, 11:59 GMT

    People writing here about how Cook is one of the opening greats - no chance. You judge the greats on their performance against the best teams - his average against the best two teams over his career i.e. Australia and South Africa - is average - around 36, and that includes the 2010/11 series against a very poor Australian side.

  • Clifford on July 13, 2017, 11:45 GMT

    Now that Cook's not captain he needs to work on his bowling in order to justify his place.

  • Francis on July 13, 2017, 11:45 GMT

    I don't agree with the criticism of Cook's captaincy. He had plenty of successes, and the length of his time as captain is a testament to how good he was in the role. He had the full respect of his team - you can't ask more. Joe Root has a tough act to follow. Cook's batting achievements speak for themselves, and he still has several possible years left as an England player. Give the man his due - and he's not dim!!

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