Farewell to England’s humble cricketing hero

Captain fantastic: Alistair Cook captained his country in a record 59 Test matches.

Should we all be more like Alastair Cook? This week, the record-breaking cricketer will play one last game for England. Some say we can all learn something from the great batsman.

“I have achieved more than I could have ever imagined,” said Alastair Cook, as he announced his retirement from international cricket this week. It was a characteristically modest assessment from one of the greatest English sportsmen ever.

The statistics speak for themselves. Across a glittering Test match career he scored 12,254 runs — over 3,000 more than the next best Englishman. His 32 centuries (another England record) include hundreds against every single opponent he faced, and he played more consecutive matches than anybody in history.

But there is more to his story than numbers. Consider the qualities of his play. As an opening batsman, Cook must stare down the world’s fastest bowlers while the ball is at its hardest and most dangerous. Only the patient, mentally tough, and bravest openers survive.

Then there is his limited technique. Cook is not the most naturally gifted batsman. But dedication and hours of training have turned this limitations into assets. “He’s probably the most driven person I’ve ever met,” says teammate James Anderson.

This week fans will see these qualities in action for the last time as Cook prepares to play his last England match on Friday.

His retirement was met with tributes from across the cricketing world. Sachin Tendulkar said Cook was “one of the finest batsmen to have represented England and his conduct, on-field and off it, has been impeccable.”

Cook’s virtues as a person, not just a cricketer, have been a recurring theme. Former England captain Michael Vaughan lauded him as the “perfect role model”.

Indeed, he has a reputation for good manners and humility. In some ways, he is still the cherubic choirboy he once was at school.

His personal life is humble too: shunning the celebrity spotlight of international sport to spend time working on his family farm. He purposefully avoids social media and has never been linked to scandals of loutish drunkenness that have blighted English cricket in recent years.

Should we all be more like Alastair Cook?

Drive

Not necessarily, some argue. Cook is cautious on the pitch and self-deprecating off it. Life often rewards more flamboyant characters who take risks or speak up for themselves. The modern world is fast-paced, competitive and cosmopolitan. Venerating an old-fashioned style cricketer like Cook is just nostalgia for a time that is long gone.

Not so fast, others respond. His greatest qualities transcend the sport. We can all transfer his steely determination into our work and studies. Furthermore, his modesty and the dedication he shows to his teammates is refreshing in a world that grows ever more individualistic. Alastair Cook is a role model to us all.

You Decide

  1. Is modesty a virtue?
  2. Can sport teach us anything about how to live good lives?

Activities

  1. Think about the people in your own life that you look up to. If you could name one person who is your role model, who would it be? What makes that person admirable? How does their example help you in your own life? Share your ideas with a partner.
  2. In small groups or pairs discuss the qualities that you think people need to have in order to lead a fulfilling and happy life. Write down what you think are the five most important characteristics. Share them with the class. Are there any characteristics that you have all written down, or is there some disagreement? As a class can you agree on a definitive list?

Some People Say...

“I tend to think that cricket is the greatest thing that God ever created on earth.”

Harold Pinter

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
This week’s Test match against India will be Cook’s 161st for England, leaving him as the most capped England player. Cook is retiring at the relatively young age of 33, with his career shaped by early achievements. He was only 21 when he made his first century for England (also on his debut). He subsequently became the youngest player in the world to reach 6,000, 7,000, 8,000, 9,000, 10,000, 11,000 and 12,000 runs in Test cricket.
What do we not know?
How long his county cricket career will continue. He has stated that we wants to carry on playing for Essex in the seasons to come. We also do not know who his replacement will be. England have struggled to find other opening batsmen of his class and calibre for several years.

Word Watch

Test match
The longest form of cricket. In a Test match both teams bat twice, and the game can last up to five days. Shorter formats of the game can take one day, or just a few hours.
Consecutive
Since 2006, Cook has played 158 times for England without missing a match.
Opening batsman
The two batsmen who are sent out first to face the opposition team. Opening batsmen tend to score less runs then other players as it is normally more difficult to bat at the start of the innings.
Sachin Tendulkar
Tendulkar has scored over 15,000 Test match runs for India: more than any other player in history. His nickname is the “Little Master”.
Humility
Having a modest or low view of one’s importance.
Cherubic
Being innocent in appearance or manner.
Drunkenness
A recent case involved England cricketer Ben Stokes. He was involved in a street brawl in Bristol and was charged by police with affray. However, in the subsequent trial he was found not guilty.