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Friday, 17 February 2012

The Accumulator Returns

Alastair Cook has expanded his comfort zone. Despite an up and down relationship, he has now taken the one day game by the collar and made it his own. Not in the style of a Sehwag or a Warner, but with his characteristic powers of application and concentration. Cook, the tireless accumulator of runs in test match cricket, undoubtedly the best of the present era, has now turned it on in the 50 over format. 

English selectors memorably excluded Cook from the World Cup 2011 squad, despite his unbelievable exploits Down Under in the preceding Ashes test series. After a mixed showing in the tournament, the selectors reinstated Cook back into the ODI team, and as the skipper this time. This certainly was a strange decision at the time, particularly in the context of his World Cup exclusion and the justifications offered, his relatively low strike rate and inability to play the big shots. The obvious intention of Alastair Cook's reinstatement as skipper of the ODI team was to provide him a grooming platform as the potential successor to Andrew Strauss. And Cook has not disappointed.

At age 27, Cook has played only 43 ODIs so far, having led England in 20 of these. To put this in some context, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma, who are considered upcoming Indian talent, have each played more than 70 ODIs already. Cook avergages just over 41 runs per innings in ODIs, with a strike rate of 80 runs per 100 balls faced, having produced 14 innings of 50 plus runs in his 43 outings. Notably, his average when batting as the skipper is above 55 runs, with a strike rate of 92. He has scored 3 out of his 4 one-day centuries as England captain. In the two recent, rather convincing, ODI victories over Pakistan, Cook led from the front, completely turning around England's dismal tour of the UAE. He is now the only England captain to have scored back to back centuries in the ODI format. Strong evidence that he enjoys the added responsibility of leading the side. 

Worth a mention here that the legend Sir Ian "Beefy" Botham had excluded Alastair Cook, the skipper, from his prefered eleven for the one dayers, while tweeting on the last day of the test series when Pakistan completed the England whitewash.

What stands out is Cook's ability to apply himself to the task. He has shown yet again that not being the quintessential elegant left handed batsman does not get in the way of being most effective. He works on his technique to minimize the risks in the context of the conditions and the attack. He plays within his limitations, works on his scoring shots, rotates the strike and does not miss many scoring opportunities. His ability to play long innings is already legendary. Make no mistake, this determined cricketer will sunset many a record before he calls it a day.   
He chose to drive away from the Church in a farm tractor with his new bride, but that's Alastair Cook for you. Not flamboyant, but effective! 

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