Captain Cook’s Mission Impossible

Against all odds, Alastair Cook led his men to a memorable series victory over India after drawing in Nagpur. assesses how this under pressure England side delivered the most defining moment of English cricket since 1984

Captain Alastair Cook in full flight for Essex, Image: Quality Gate 5b via flickr Creative Commons

Captain Alastair Cook in full flight for Essex, Image: Quality Gate 5b via flickr Creative Commons

Wherever you are right now, bear in mind to remember the date the 17th of December 2012. No, I’m not talking about Bradley Wiggins winning Sports Personality of the Year, or that Team GB and Lord Sebastian Coe reigned supreme in the ExCel arena. I’m talking about remembering that a long way away in Nagpur, England’s men’s cricketers had just wrapped up a series victory in India for the first time in 28 years.

28 years ago, as David Gower’s England were attempting a similar fight back after going one nil down; a boy was born on Christmas day in Essex who would later become England’s greatest ever batsman.

Yes, 28 years ago, Alastair Cook was born at the same time England were winning in India, a tour they should never had won but did. It was fate.

Even if you are not a cricket fan, it can be easily noted that this is an unprecedented achievement. English teams simply don’t waltz into India, go one nil down in Ahmedabad and then win the series 2-1. This was English cricket’s finest hour.

Admittedly, they did not ‘waltz’ into India, they shuffled in with the resignation of the brilliant Captain Strauss still raw and the Kevin Pietersen text message saga still a bitter taste in their mouths. It was a general consensus among journalists that England could not play spin, and the low, turning pitches they would face in India would be their undoing.

To put it bluntly, they didn’t have a prayer of beating India. As a matter of fact, I personally thought a draw would have made a pretty successful tour.

But Alastair Cook did what Alastair Cook has been doing his whole career. He’s been proving us wrong. Two years ago he went into the Ashes series down under as the most under fire batsman in the ranks. With only one (questionable) test hundred from the English summer, there were calls from him to be dropped coming from all sides.

Five test matches later he was just putting the finishes touches to a whopping 766 runs and picking up the man of the series award along the way. He is a remarkable young man with a very cool, calm head on his shoulders. He took the captaincy in his stride and along the way became the best English batsman in history by magnificently reaching 23 career test match centuries in Kolkata.

It wasn’t just the Captain Cook show though, in Kolkata and Nagpur, it also became the Jimmy Anderson show. All of sudden Anderson was showing the Indians why he lays claim to the title of best pace bowler in the world when he was getting the ball to reverse swing. In the words of Indian captain MS Dhoni, Jimmy Anderson was the difference between the two sides. He too reached a milestone, taking his 528th international wicket for England, and in doing so, drew level with the great Ian Botham. Just like Cook can now be called England’s greatest batsman, in one wicket’s time, Anderson can very easily be called England’s greatest bowler.

The stats from the series are clear; England out-bowled, out-batted and out-fielded India in three out of four tests. Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann made India’s much lauded spinners look like club cricketers. Kevin Pietersen exploded back into the side in a manner that suggested his ‘reintegration’ was very much complete. Matt Prior proved that he really is the best wicket keeper batsman in the world and all the stars aligned when Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell made centuries in Nagpur after a lean spell with the bat.

So it was a complete performance from England, the batsmen did their job and the bowlers did their job. So what next? Well, it’s 2013 soon and the Aussies are gracing us with their presence for the first of the back to back Ashes series. Very soon Captain Clarke and his merry men will be traipsing back to the scene of their 2009 series loss. And you know what? I think Captain Cook and his team are more than up for the challenge.

They called winning in India Mission Impossible.

In that case…mission complete.

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