Cooking up a storm
With so much cricket played these days it is often difficult to keep track of who is who and what they are doing. In this weekly feature Cricinfo will take a look at one player who is making the news, whether at the highest level or an aspiring talent, and tell you what they are all about. This week, it's the turn of England's brand new opener, Alastair Cook
England's recent history of unearthing successful Test openers is impressive. In 2000, Marcus Trescothick moved in easily alongside Mike Atherton. In 2002, Michael Vaughan made the move from the middle order to the top with stunning success, and in 2004 Andrew Strauss made a Test debut that left you wondering where he had been for so long. Now, in the midst of the injury-ravaged tour of India, another opening star has emerged.
There were high expectations for Alastair Cook - you don't blitz an Australian attack for 214 as he did for Essex without causing a stir - and it was only a matter of time before he found a place in the England team. However, that time appeared to be a while away yet with the top order being settled. Suddenly, though, Vaughan and Trescothick were hot-footing back to the UK for different reasons and Cook was building up his frequent-flyer miles on a marathon trek from Antigua to Nagpur via London.
Then, 48 hours after arriving he walks out to open the batting with Strauss, swings his fifth ball to the long-leg boundary for four and proceeds to notch 60 in a manner that says, "What's all the fuss been about?" He had little to lose - no one would have blamed him for struggling - but now he has laid down his marker and also left the selectors with some thinking to do when the full complement of batsmen are back.
Cook certainly has plenty going for him as he aims to build a career as a Test opener. His mentor is Graham Gooch - not a bad person to learn from when it comes to facing the new ball - and he has impressed at each England age-group level from Under-15 to the Academy. He has worked on his technique and last season hit nearly 1500 first-class runs, pushing him to the forefront of the selectors' thoughts. There is a long way to go to make a fulfilling career, but the situation surrounding his Test debut was as tough as they come and he passed it with flying colours.
1999-2002 Scores 19 centuries for Bedford School and breaks all batting records
July 2000 Plays for England Under-15
September 2003 Essex debut aged 18 and scores an unbeaten 69 against Nottinghamshire
February 2004 Captains England Under-19 at World Cup in Bangladesh. Makes scores of 108, 108 and 87 as they reach the semi-finals
May 2004 Makes maiden first-class century, 126, against Leicestershire and adds 265 for the first wicket with Will Jefferson
March 2005 Tours Sri Lanka with England A
April 2005 Scores 120 and 97 for MCC against Warwickshire at Lord's
August 2005 Named the Cricket Writers' Young Player of the Year...
August 2005 ...and next day hits 214 against the Australians, adding 270 for the second wicket with Ravi Bopara
November 2005 Called up as cover for Michael Vaughan on the tour of Pakistan
February 2006 Part of the England A squad to tour West Indies
February 2006 Summoned back to the senior squad when Vaughan's knee goes again
March 2006 Scores 60 on debut at Nagpur
In between the hours spent sitting on airplanes he found time to begin the tour of West Indies with a confident 101 against an Antiguan XI, but was dismissed for six in the first innings of the Test against West Indies A before leaving for India.
Made 1466 runs at 52 during the 2005 season, a total that didn't include his 214 against Australia as that was a two-day match and not considered first-class.
What he says - After his journey half-way around the world
"If you are playing for England and making your Test debut you will be up for anything. It has been a bit of a trek and I'm a bit jet-lagged from all the travel but once the day comes I'll be fine."
What they say about him No. 1- Peter Moores, England A coach
"Cooky is a very impressive young man. You can look at him as a player and be impressed by the way he stands tall, plays it off his legs and accumulates runs without you noticing. When you get to know him a little better you are more impressed, because he acts and behaves like an England player."
What they about him No. 2 - Stuart MacGill, who was bowling to Cook
during his 214
"He has got the best technique of any young player in county cricket, as his innings against Australia proved. He is equally comfortable against pace and spin, and he puts the bad balls away. I actually think he is a better player than some batsmen who have played for England in recent years."
What you may not know
His birthday is Christmas Day, the same as Marcus Trescothick, whose departure from India resulted in a call-up.
Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of Cricinfo.