England batsman Alastair Cook will retire from international cricket after this week’s test against India, saying Monday there is “nothing left in the tank” after 12 record-breaking years in the team.
An elegant and gritty left-handed opener, Cook is leaving the international game holding a slew of national records in tests: most runs (12,254), most appearances (160), most centuries (32) and most tests at captain (59). He played in 158 straight tests _ a world record _ and captained England from 2012-17, during which the team won back-to-back home Ashes series and a first series victory in India in 27 years.
“The thought of not sharing the dressing room again with some of my teammates was the hardest part of my decision,” the 33-year-old Cook said, “but I know the timing is right.”
Cook has endured a lean summer at the top of the order for England, averaging only 15.57 in seven innings against India. But he stands sixth in the all-time list of leading test run-scorers, just above West Indies great Brian Lara, and needs 147 at The Oval to move past Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara in fifth place.
“He’s probably not the most naturally gifted cricketer,” former England captain Alec Stewart said, “there will be others with far more natural talent that haven’t got the mental strength.
“The combination of what Cook has, both talent and mental strength, has meant he’s played for a very long time and has broken every single record going.”
Cook, who will play next summer for English county Essex, made his test debut in March 2006 as a late replacement for Michael Vaughan and made an unbeaten 104 in the second innings. He missed the third test of that series because of illness but hasn’t missed one since.
He will be remembered, among other things, for the graceful way he often tucked the ball off his hips for a single. He had a rare ability to bat for long periods _ he has five double-centuries in tests _ without losing focus and concentration whatever the conditions. And he almost always pulled out a big score when it was most needed, for the team and also for himself to get over dips in form.
Cook surpassed his own mentor, Graham Gooch, when he exceeded 8,900 test runs three years ago and that meant so much. As a 7-year-old, Cook lined up to get Gooch’s autograph outside Essex’s ground and they went on to become close friends.
“Graham was my sounding board, especially in the early years of my career, spending hour after hour throwing balls at me with his dog stick,” Cook said. “He made me realize you always need to keep improving, whatever you are trying to achieve.”
England now faces the tough task of finding a replacement at the top of the batting order, with Cook having had 12 opening partners since Andrew Strauss’ retirement in 2012.
“Alastair’s selfless dedication to the England cause and his desire to succeed are an object lesson to any professional cricketer,” ECB chairman Colin Graves said. “He fully deserves to be remembered as one of England’s greatest ever cricketers.”