The feeling is yet to sink in: Cook
Kolkata, Dec 9: Alastair Cook is having a perfect tour. He’s scoring runs by the tons in tough conditions and his runs are helping his team win Test matches in India. With a seven-wicket win in Kolkata, England have taken a 2-1 lead in the series with one Test to go. Cook was obviously elated and admitted that he “cannot praise the boys enough”.
“Our bowlers were fantastic in this match, especially in restricting them to 316 on that wicket in the first innings. And then to put a knot on them when they were 86 for 0 in the second innings and taking six wickets in a session was highly skilled bowling. In all, we have played to our potential in the last couple of games and that’s why we’ve won,” he said.
The captain had special words of praise for his pace attack comprising James Anderson and Steven Finn. “It was an outstanding performance by the seamers. We know what quality Jimmy possesses. Finny’s come back from a hard few days of injury without much match practice and he’s been hitting his mark straight away. His 17-18 overs for 40 odd runs and three wickets were very hard to score off. Credit to their fitness that they could keep going and the heart they showed – even if it gets tough for them, they keep running in for me and as a captain that’s all you can ask for,” a happy captain said.
England’s dominance in this series has surprised even their most ardent supporters. The poor record of their batsmen against quality spinners in the subcontinent was a bane that came between them and the tag of world beaters. But that seems to be a thing of past now.
“The first thing was the realisation of a problem of playing spin. It was probably not as big as it was made out but all of us as a batting unit had to have a look at our technique against spin and work out a method that suits each player individually,” Cook said.
He also revealed that the batsmen came to India with a simple plan, of not giving their wicket away. “We just spoke about batting long periods of time,” he said. “There are not many batsmen in the world who can come to India and dominate the bowling the whole day. Kevin did it in Mumbai but that’s not the norm. The norm is to accumulate and be prepared to bat the whole day. We spoke about it and have managed to deliver that in these last couple of games.”
While the batsmen have cracked the code, the spinners too have succeeded in beating the Indians at their own game. Cook credits England’s spin coach Mushtaq Ahmed and Andy Flower for the turnaround.
“We’re very lucky that we’ve got someone like Mushy in our backroom staff. His experience in these conditions is great, obviously, growing up in Pakistan and having played in these conditions all the time. He’s passed on the kind of advice to the spinners that one gains only with experience. He also understands batting here very well and Andy Flower’s record here has been phenomenal. We’ve got two very good people we constantly have to learn from,” Cook said.
The series has been particularly sweet for Cook personally. In his first full series as England’s captain, he has achieved milestones that no England batsman has managed before. With three centuries in as many Tests, Cook has become the youngest to score 7,000 Test runs and has more Test tons than any England batsmen.
“To score the 23rd hundred was a very good moment for me. It probably hasn’t really sunk in yet as it’s been pretty stressful last couple of days. It’s great to have contributed to an amazing couple of games. My batting has gone really well on this tour and hopefully I can do it one more time,” he said.
Stereotyped as an accumulator, Cook has also shown a different side of his Test batting in this series by taking the attack to the bowlers. He credits the time spent playing limited overs cricket at Essex for his newfound confidence while attempting big shots.
“When I got left out of the England ODI side I played a lot of One-day and T20 cricket for Essex, which forces you to expand your game. That’s when I played some of the shots and realised that I could play them but didn’t have the confidence to play them in the longer format. I’ve worked very hard alongside Goochie [Graham Gooch]. I was pretty surprised myself when a few of them went for six the other day,” he said.
England go to Nagpur for the fourth and final Test of the series with an invincible 2-1 lead. While a draw would suffice for them to clinch a historic series win in India, Cook insists the team will go in with the intent to win.
“I’d take a draw if offered. But that’s not the mentality with which you go into a Test match. We’ll go to Nagpur with the intention of doing exactly what we have done in the last two Tests,” the England skipper said.