Ex-England captain predicts Cook could be all-time great July 14, 2007

Fletcher surprised at Cook's progress

Could Cook be one of England's all-time greats? Keith Fletcher thinks so © Getty Images

Keith Fletcher, the former England captain, admits he's surprised with the progress made by Alastair Cook, England's opening batsman, and predicts he could end up as one of the "all-time greats". Having played a vital role in Cook's formative years in Essex, Fletcher sent out a clear warning to India's bowlers ahead of the forthcoming Test series.

"He's done better than what I thought," Fletcher told Cricinfo on the sidelines of the Indians' tour game against England Lions at Chelmsford. "I always thought he'll be a good Test player but he's got there quicker than I thought he would. He began playing for England at the right time but I didn't think he'd have quite the success that he'd have.

"It's a phenomenal start - six hundreds - and he's just 21. So if he keeps on getting better, which he should do, there's not reason why he shouldn't be one of the all-time greats. He's good between the ears."

Fletcher was instrumental in Cook's development as a cricketer, calling him "just about the best young batsman I have ever seen", and recalled watching him smash club bowlers in Essex. "I used to go and watch him play club cricket. I just saw the way he moved and the way he could destroy club bowling and was so impressed. And he was 16 then.

"I saw him score 170 against quite a good attack with overseas players playing. He doesn't seem like a batsman who can destroy but he used to really get after them. And that's when I thought he could be an absolute crackerjack."

Fletcher reckoned that the forthcoming Test series, starting on Thursday at Lord's, could end up being a high-scoring one. "I'll be very surprised if [Rahul] Dravid doesn't get a couple of hundreds in the Tests, [Sachin] Tendulkar too. The bat might dominate the ball, which will be nice. I think it will be a hard-fought close series.

"I think it depends on the wickets - Lord's we've had a lot of rain, but is usually a good batting wicket. England may have a slight advantage at The Oval - it has pace. It may come down to our seamers against India's batters."

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan assistant editor of Cricinfo