Sky's the limit! Cook will waltz past my record for Test runs, says old master Gooch
22:54 GMT, 10 December 2012
Graham Gooch, fresh from a game of tennis with his regular opponent Andy Flower, sat back and almost purred with pleasure as he discussed the extraordinary impact Alastair Cook has had here in India.
Not only has Cook followed an identical route to the top as Gooch via Essex to the England captaincy, but the pair are cut from similar hard-working, no-frills cloth.
Gooch, who has been with Cook all the way with county and now country, is thoroughly enjoying his protege’s journey.
Captain marvel: Alastair Cook has led England to the brink of victory in India
The man who is now England’s batting coach still likes a good battle — ‘It’s pretty even with Andy at tennis and I’m pleased about that because I am giving him 15 years. We both like to win’ — and appreciates the qualities that have taken Cook to the brink of a historic triumph in his first series as full-time captain.
They are the same qualities that made Gooch England’s record run scorer.
‘My early memories of Alastair are that he was mature for his age and very balanced and considered. He went about his cricket in a methodical way and you can still see that. The priceless ability he had, and again you can see this now, is that he knows exactly what he can do and what he can’t. He puts that into practice and doesn’t step outside that.
‘He applies a certain type of game in Test cricket that works. When he came into the one-day side a lot of people said he didn’t have the game for it but smart players find a way. And he plays a different sort of game in one-day cricket.
‘He’s not a power player but he keeps
it moving and his runs-per-balls ratio is very good. That shows the
skill of the man in being able to adapt.’
Mentor: Graham Gooch is now Cook's batting coach in the England set-up
It is impossible not to feed off Gooch’s enthusiasm, still strong at 59. The man who was a colossus as England captain is perfectly qualified to judge the man who has made a colossal start to his own reign.
How far can Cook go Here in Kolkata he became the youngest to reach 7,000 Test runs and broke the England Test century record with his 23rd. A tally of at least 10,000 runs looks guaranteed, probably nearer 15,000. And how about 40 hundreds
Gooch, understandably, did not want to burden Cook with too many targets. ‘I hope to hang on in this job until he goes past my record,’ smiled the man with 8,900 Test runs. ‘In my opinion 27 to 35 are the best years for a batsman because you have honed your knowledge and know your game. Alastair is 28 on Christmas Day and I think he’s got his best years in front of him. He’s got to stay fit and motivated but nothing at the moment would suggest to me that won’t happen.
‘Captaincy has enhanced his runscoring already. He’s mentally strong, that’s his greatest asset, and he could achieve a lot of the things you’re talking about. I’d like to think he will go all the way.
‘He’ll certainly go past my record in
the not-too-distant future and good on him because he’ll deserve that.
He’s mastered his art to a degree and is always looking to improve. If
he delivers, England win matches.’
The man to beat: Gooch is England's highest Test runscorer with 8,900
Cook is not, of course, a classicist. He will never thrill the way Kevin Pietersen in his pomp does. But he is becoming more expansive, as well as mightily effective. Again, Gooch is effusive in his admiration.
‘He tends to get on the front foot a bit more later in his innings now and he plays a very resolute game outside off stump.
‘He’s worked very hard over the years. He practises the sweep and hitting the ball over the top and it’s good to see him showing confidence in selective sweeping against the turning ball.
‘He’s had success with that and also has the confidence to use his feet and come down the wicket. He’s starting to enhance his game.
‘He’s not the most eye-catching player, but he gets the job done. You know the old saying It’s not how, it’s how many.
‘Often young players coming up have talent and ability to strike the ball but they don’t quite know how to manage it. Sometimes it dawns on them later in life and sometimes it doesn’t at all, but this lad had it from the beginning.’
And, typically, Cook is learning the art of captaincy, too. ‘I think we’ve seen already in the dressing room that he’s prepared to make his own decisions,’ said Gooch. ‘Alastair doesn’t always take the coaches’ advice in that he wants to do it his own way.
‘He’ll make mistakes and he won’t get it right every time. You have to grow into that job, the way you get the best out of people, counsel them, and make tactical decisions. All those things come into it. I don’t see any reason why he won’t be a good captain and leader of men.’
Cook is already well on the way. And the old master will enjoy every minute of watching the captain overtake him as England’s greatest batsman.