England in India 2012-13

Gooch predicts Cook's best still to come

George Dobell

December 10, 2012

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Alastair Cook batted fluently and scored 97, Haryana v England XI, 1st day, Ahmedabad, November 8, 2012
Graham Gooch thinks the best time in a player's career is between 27 and 35 when they know their game well © Getty Images
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As if the last couple of weeks have not contained enough bad news for India, Graham Gooch had a little more for them: as far as Gooch is concerned, the best of Alastair Cook is yet to come.

Cook's batting has been one of the major differences between the teams this series. In three Tests, he has contributed three centuries and his tally of runs - 548 at an average of 109.60 - is more than Sachin Tendulkar, MS Dhoni, Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh combined.

But Gooch feels Cook, who will be 28 on Christmas Day, has not yet reached his peak and will inevitably break Gooch's own record as England's top run-scorer in Test cricket. Gooch scored 8,900 Test runs, while Cook currently has 7,103. Only Kevin Pietersen, of current England players, has more with 7,335.

"In my opinion," Gooch said, "the years between 27 to 35 are the best years for a batsman because you have honed your knowledge and you know your game. I think he's got his best years in front of him. He's got to stay fit and motivated but nothing at the moment would suggest to me that that won't happen. I hope to hang on in this job until he goes past my record."

Few know Cook as a cricketer as well as Gooch. Not only do the pair of them, as Essex and England opening batsmen and captain, have much in common, but Gooch was the batting coach at Essex as Cook was developing and now performs the same role with England. He has watched Cook at close quarters throughout his career and, while Gooch admits Cook has never been the most eye-catching player, the skills that have served him so well at the top level were apparent very early.

"Alastair was on the Essex Academy and it was pretty obvious he was going to be a good player," Gooch said. "I can't remember the first time I saw him but I do remember him keeping wicket and batting for our Board XI against Essex in a proper match."

That match was a Cheltenham and Gloucester Trophy game from 2003. Cook, opening the batting and keeping wicket for Essex Cricket Board against Essex, only scored 27 in the match, but his maturity stuck in Gooch's mind.

 
 
"He tends to get on the front foot now a bit more later in his innings and he plays a very resolute game outside off stump. He's worked very hard over the years." Graham Gooch on how Cook's technique has developed
 

"My early memories of him as a person were that he was very mature for his age and very balanced and considered. He went about his cricket in a methodical sort of way and you can still see that now. The priceless ability he had when he was young, and again you can see this now, is that he knows exactly what he can and can't do. He puts that in place and into practice and doesn't step outside that.

"You know the old saying? It's not how, it's how many. He knows the way to play. Often young players coming up have talent and ability to strike the ball but they don't quite know how to manage their ability. Sometimes it dawns on them later in life and sometimes it doesn't dawn on them at all but this lad had it from the beginning. He knew how he could operate.

"He applies a certain type of game in Test cricket that works. When he came into the one-day side a lot of people said he didn't have the game for it but smart players find a way. And he plays a different sort of game in one-day cricket. He's not a power player but he keeps it moving and his runs-per-balls ratio is very good. That shows the skill of the man in being able to adapt.

"He tends to get on the front foot now a bit more later in his innings and he plays a very resolute game outside off stump. He's worked very hard over the years. He practices the sweep and hitting the ball over the top and it's good to see him showing confidence in selective sweeping against the turning ball. He's had success with that and also has the confidence to use his feet and come down the wicket. He's starting to enhance his game.

"Maybe he's thinking back to the Pakistan series in 2010 when he had a bit of a nightmare and thinking 'I'm going to get every run I can now because it's working for me'. I'm in good form and I'll cash in."

Gooch is also impressed by Cook's leadership since being appointed Test captain. Not only has Cook set a record - centuries in each of his first five Tests as captain - but has led England to a 2-1 series lead in conditions in which many expected them to struggle.

"Captaincy has enhanced his run scoring already," Gooch said. "It's difficult to look into a crystal ball and say whether it will affect him down the line but all the opportunities are there for him. He's mentally strong, that's his greatest asset, and he could achieve a lot of things. There's a lot of cricket in front of him and that can affect you but I'd like to think he will go all the way. He'll certainly go past my record in the not too distant future the way it's going and good on him because he'll deserve that. He's mastered his art to a degree and is always looking to improve. If he delivers, England win matches.

"I think we've seen already in the dressing room that he's prepared to make his own decisions. He doesn't always take the coaches advice in that he wants to do it his own way. He'll make mistakes and he won't get it right every time. You have to grow into that job, the way you get the best out of people, counsel them, and make tactical decisions. All those things come into it. He's in his infancy but I don't see any reason why he won't be a good captain and leader of men."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Chris_P on (December 13, 2012, 0:52 GMT)

@Atul Srivatsan, No matter what you think of England, no one with an ounce of cricket knowledge would deny Cook's form at the moment placing him at such a level. Even though I am a huge Clarke & Amla admirer, Cook's deeds this series has been defining, much, much more than Amla's & Clarke's recent efforts. Perhaps when Clarke & Amla emulate Cook's efforts In India some measure of comparison might be even more reasonable, but really, to dismiss what he has done shows poor judgement IMHO. His biggest hurdle ahead of him is maintaining this form over a prolonged period, something that has challenged every batsman to date.

Posted by hhillbumper on (December 12, 2012, 22:35 GMT)

Cook is not bad so far but you have the feeling there is more to come. He does seem to score better abroad and in different conditions.

Posted by JG2704 on (December 12, 2012, 17:45 GMT)

@ Cpt.Meanster on (December 11 2012, 22:35 PM GMT) If you read his post he says SOME (not MOST) of the jokers who play IPL and he doesn't specify Indian cricketers either. Having said that , it's nothing (criticsing the effect IPL has had on test cricket) that many fellow Indian fans have not said before and during this series. Sorry bud , as I know you are a big IPL fan but maybe it is hurting the test side and maybe it is developing a culture of players who are playing for the money rather than the pride of playing for your country. There are some English cheerleaders/trashtalkers on these threads but JB is certainly not one of them and is one of the first to criticise England when they play poorly

Posted by JG2704 on (December 12, 2012, 17:45 GMT)

@subbass on (December 12 2012, 02:21 AM GMT) Personally I think Kholi is a potentially great test player and is just going through a lean patch at the moment. He was a one man show on the 2nd half of their Aus tour

@ Atul Srivatsan on (December 12 2012, 08:54 AM GMT) Does it actually say he's the best in the world right now in the article? Personally I'd rate Clarke above Amla , because Amla ii surrounded by proven quality players like Smith,Petersen,Kallis etc whereas Clarke doesn't have so much quality above/around him and often comes in when Aus are in dire trouble. He also has the captain's responsibility to deal with.

Posted by phoenixsteve on (December 12, 2012, 16:42 GMT)

@del84..... you are either new to cricket and have no knowledge or an Indian with selective memory or crazy! Just ask the likes Kapil Dev and Gavaskar (you've heard of these ... right?) and they'll tell you about 333 memories of Goochies ability in just one innings! COME ON ENGLAND!!!

Posted by stormy16 on (December 12, 2012, 16:10 GMT)

Cook is nothing short of an absolute sensation since 'that' Ashes tour. He only just made tour after a shocker summer but a late 100 saved his skin and since then he has been a sensation. Runs all over the world in all conditions since leaves no debates about the man's ability and at 28, the guy could break all records but Sachins will be a hard one - specially opeing in Eng each year.

Posted by   on (December 12, 2012, 8:54 GMT)

wat a joke ..... if he is in such good form what was he doing when the world's best team came to england and beat them hands down ..... apart for the century in the first innings philander had his number .... Hashim Amla is the world's best batsman right now by a margin ....second is Clarke .... thirs comes Cook ....

Posted by MinusZero on (December 12, 2012, 4:22 GMT)

Given the years he has left, i can see Cook pushing Sachin's runs total before he retires

Posted by subbass on (December 12, 2012, 2:21 GMT)

" Indian batsman Kohli is a phenomenal player. "

---

In ODI's/T-20's maybe, but seen nothing at all of late to prove that in Tests - a.k.a. the ultimate form of the game - to convince me. Dravid, Laxman and Sachin at his best(not the poor and in truth too old version we have seen this series), are the best Indian batsmen I have ever witnessed Maybe Mo. Azza also, but I was only small when I first saw him play.

Posted by subbass on (December 12, 2012, 1:54 GMT)

Could not care too much about which records he breaks. Only thing I truly care about is him smashing Aussie bowlers all round the park in Ashes series. Oh ok then, he'll score more tons than the truly great Ricky Ponting.

Sachin's record is hard to judge as he has scored 50% of his runs on flat as you like wickets, whereas in England the ball seams/swings a lot for openers..Either way Cooky will score plenty by the time his bat is hung up.

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