Wednesday 15 February 2012

MasterChef bucking the trend...

Admittedly, the finished product is more beans on toast, perhaps with a sprinkle of Lea & Perrins, than the comparative basque piparade likely to be served up by many of his opposite numbers, but this chef’s dish of choice requires only a small glug of water to help it down before you realise that it satisfies every bit as much.

In the age of the swashbuckling, gun slinging limited overs opening batsman, the appointment of Alastair Cook as England One Day International captain was met with a fair degree of scepticism by a number of fans, members of the media and former players alike. Not only was Cook too much of a plodder himself, at that time averaging a shade over 30 with a ponderous strike rate of 68, but the thought of a mid-powerplay partnership involving he and Jonathan Trott was considered to be akin to a sign of impending apocalypse; the type of dreary bore fest that may even see one Geoffrey Boycott calling for a switch hit.
Cook has adapted to the ODI game

With significant onus on ‘Chef’ to prove them wrong, the Essex opener has proceeded to do so in a manner that even the most ardent of Cook aficionados could never have envisaged.

Disparate to football, the garb of a cricket captain sees no embellishment of rank, yet the physical and mental changes wrought in Cook’s limited overs batting since presiding over the ODI captaincy have revealed abundantly more than a mere gesture of status ever could. Most importantly, his statistics whilst captain show a far more impressive average of 55.93, with an adventurous strike rate comfortably in excess of 90 runs per 100 balls. Secondly, Cook has shown that the crash bang wallop model of opening batsmanship, a prerequisite for Twenty20 cricket, is not necessarily applicable to the 50 over format. Knowing your strengths, subtly manoeuvring the field and playing risk free strokes can still lead to success, it would seem.

On his way to becoming the first England captain to score successive ODI centuries whilst plundering 102 runs against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi today, a fixture which England won by 20 runs to take an unassailable 2-0 series lead, Alastair Cook must surely now have silenced those rather more vocal doubters. Showing that there is still most definitely room for the more classical opener in ODI cricket, Captain Cook will have pleased a few purists along the way.

Thankfully for England, the side in world cricket most notorious for their failure to clear the ropes inside the first ten overs of an ODI powerplay, that old adage of building a platform before hitting out late on with wickets in hand can perhaps still prove to be a successful strategy, particularly with a batsman of Alastair Cook’s considerable class at the helm.

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