The elegant Kevin Pietersen arrived in India just one short of equaling the record of highest number of Test centuries scored by an English player. Ahead of him were Wally Hammond, Colin Cowdrey and Geoff Boycott with 22 centuries each. The stylish right-hander didn’t have to wait for long as he became the only current player with the highest number of Test centuries for England (22) as he smashed an impressive 186 against India in the second Test in Mumbai.
Pietersen had made his comeback after settling the dust of controversies with the England Cricket Board. Little did he know that his celebration wouldn’t last long, and Alastair Cook would surpass his record in the next five innings with three consecutive tons. When Cook reached his century in the first innings of Kolkata Test, a glimpse of the English dressing room had Pietersen applauding to his skipper’s incredible form with an expression that read, “Unbelievable. Tremendous form!”
Whenever a team has toured India in the past, a left-hander has always stood tall, making India sweat for most of the series. From Jimmy Adams, Andy Flower, Mathew Hayden to Alastair Cook, someone or the other has been a hero for his side. But none of them had been as good as the English skipper, who seems to be in an incredible form.
When we compare Cook’s 23 Test centuries to Tendulkar’s 51, it doesn’t look a big deal. But for English fans, it’s a massive achievement. Moreover, when Cook has been accumulating runs at an astonishing speed across the world. And he is just 27. Cook has led England in only 5 Test matches, and he has scored a ton in all of them, making his run-feast all the more special.
Cook, who is relishing his batting as a skipper, has been the tormentor for India. The Essex left-hander made his Test debut against India at Nagpur where he scored an unbeaten 104. When India toured England last year, Cook smashed his highest Test score (294) against India at Edgbaston after scoring just 19 runs in the four innings of the first two Tests. And we all have seen how toothless has been the Indian bowling against him in the ongoing series.
Cook has led from the front throughout the series. The Indian spinners dominated in the first innings of the first Test match. Pragyan Ojha seemed unplayable at times. The simple strategy would have been to disturb Ojha’s rhythm in the second innings. It is easy for a skipper to ask his boys follow a strategy. It is impressive when the skipper himself executes it. When Ojha came to bowl in the second innings, Cook soon charged down the track, not once but on a number of occasions, to unsettle Ojha. Later on, Ojha gained his rhythm, but it was good to see Cook leading by example with courage on that occasion.
Just like Michael Clarke, Cook is not an elegant batsman to watch. But for cricket, Alastair Cook is a true gem. The England skipper became the tenth batsman to cross 7,000 runs in Test cricket for England. At 27 years 347 days, Cook also became the youngest ever to achieve the feat, beating Sachin Tendulkar`s record of reaching 7000 runs in 28 years 193 days.
It is difficult to remember when was the last occasion India looked so clueless in a home series. Cook alone has created enormous pressure for the hosts and his monumental contribution with the bat has boosted his teammates to deliver with the bat as well. Slowly but steadily Nick Compton has gained form. Trott, who has had a forgettable series by his standards so far, got back his rhythm at Eden Gardens. The stars of Team India have almost surrendered before Cook’s determination and temperament.
Gone are the days when India were almost invincible under home conditions. All MS Dhoni and his men are experiencing at the moment is enormous ‘stress’. Considering his purple patch, Cook will continue to take his form to all parts of the world. The Master ‘Chef’ can hold his head high and the bat higher in the coming future.