Cook 'as good as anyone, barring Bradman' - McCullum
Brendon McCullum, the New Zealand captain, has heaped the ultimate praise on his opposite number Alastair Cook saying, on current form, he is as good as anyone who has played after Donald Bradman. Cook, who scored his 24th Test hundred in Dunedin, laughed off the shock comparison.
The century at University Oval was Cook's fourth hundred in five overseas Tests during the 2012-13 season, following a monumental series against India. But while his feats have rightly been acknowledged as putting him on the path to being labelled a great, it is rare to be uttered in the same sentence as Bradman who ended his career with the immortal average of 99.94. The next best on the list is Graeme Pollock (60.97), then George Headley (60.83). The highest average for a current player is Kumar Sangakkara's at 56.54.
McCullum, though, did not hold back his praise after being asked a question about how New Zealand planned to quell Cook's run-scoring feats. "He's obviously a genius batsman, his record is testament to that," McCullum said. "Where he is at in his career at the moment, he's as good as anyone who has played the game, probably barring Bradman."
Cook's response, after being taken aback by the comparison, was: "It's very nice of him to say that. I'm not quite sure where he's got that from." There was also plenty of mutual respect as Cook acknowledged McCullum's recent form. The New Zealand captain has scored five half-centuries in seven innings across all formats against England, including 74 off 59 balls in Dunedin. "You could talk about his genius batting. The way he hits the ball sometimes," Cook said.
Cook's current Test average of 49.60 places him 40th on the averages list, currently sat between Inzamam-ul-Haq and Denis Compton. Current contemporaries above him include AB de Villiers, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Younis Khan, Michael Clarke, Jacques Kallis and Sachin Tendulkar. Purely as a comparison, if you take the point from after last year's World Twenty20 when Test cricket resumed, Cook's average of 76.44 places him third, behind Cheteshwar Pujara and Clarke among batsmen who have played at least five innings.
Cook, though, remains modest about his achievements. "You never quite feel on top of the game," he said. "What was pleasing for me was, after a few starts in the one-dayers here and in India, but [with] no match-winning score, I managed to get that bigger one in the first Test. I seemed to hit the ball okay." A modest oulook from a man compared to the immortal Bradman.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo