Many criticised Alastair Cook during the early part of his career. He made a name for himself smashing a double century against Australia in a tour match as a teenager at Essex and ever since he made his debut for England against India in Nagpur in 2006 he has never looked back.
He sits at the top of the list of leading century scorers for England and considering what he has had to go through, he could be considered the best batsman England have ever had. He has 23 centuries, made in six years, and he is still only 27-years-old. There can be little doubt that he is going to end up as one of the greatest ever Test match batsmen, not just a great England player.
The striking thing about watching Cook play is the way he deals with pressure and the way he plays when his country are right up against it. People started questioning his place in the side when he struggle against Pakistan in the summer of 2010 but he went away, worked on the problems he had and came back as a better player.
It does not matter to Cook one bit if a fast bowler is running in, bowling bounces, spitting, sledging him, his girlfriend, his family, none of it matters. He gets his head down and makes big scores and big scores more often than not win matches.
He was also voted the player that most England fans would have batting for their lives during the 2011 summer series against India. When he is sent into bat in the cauldrons of Australia, South Africa, India, wherever it is, he comes up trumps and leads from the front.
His best innings have to be some of the knocks he has produced against the Aussies and the Indians. The way he batted against Australia during the 2010/2011 Test series in Australia has been described by some former England players as the best example of how to bat under pressure against a natural enemy.
It all leads to the question of what happens now because he is going to face some big challenges in the remainder of his Test career. He is the youngest player in the history of the game to have gone beyond the 7,000 run mark. He achieved this feat one year faster than Sachin Tendulkar and two years faster than Jacques Kallis.
There were concerns that he would not be able to handle opening the batting and leading the side in the say way as Andrew Strauss before him. These questions were re-examined when England were turned over in the first Test of the current series against India. How did he respond? Three back-to-back centuries.
He has been helped by the fact that Graham Gooch has been such a close figure to Cook throughout his time as an Essex player because Gooch was the batting coach at Essex before he took his full-time role with England which allowed Cook to go back to his home county and work on his game between Tests or international matches.
There will be very few people that will bet against him making at least 40 Test match centuries and going past Ricky Ponting who has just retired from the game. He has a good eight years of cricket left ahead of him and possibly even more than that if he follows the example of Tendulkar and heads well towards his 40s.
If he does end up playing until he is 40 or older then he will have scored more hundreds than anyone in the game. Ever. Of that there can be little doubt.
By the way, this isn’t even taking into account his One Day International or First Class Twenty 20 records; five ODI centuries and one T20 centuries. He’s also already scored 41 first class centuries in total.
Phenomenal, simply phenomenal.
image: © gareth1953