Nasser Hussain: Fletch told me 'This lad will be a great…' I just couldn't see it!
21:08 GMT, 6 December 2012
The first time I saw Alastair Cook was
during one of my many spells when I was struggling to score runs as
England captain. I wanted to clear my head, get back to basics, so I
asked my former coach Keith Fletcher if I could play for Essex seconds.
I turned up at Colchester and was
quickly dismissed so I went for a walk round the boundary edge with
Fletch, the wise old ‘Gnome’, to ask him what I could do to get my game
right. Suddenly Keith stopped, pointed to the middle and said: ‘That lad
is going to be one of the greats.’
I couldn’t see it to be honest. All I
saw was a left-hander whose head fell over when he played his shots and
was full of nudges and nurdles. His name was Alastair Cook and
he scored his 23rd Test hundred, more than any other Englishman. At the
time I just said to Keith: ‘That’s all very well, Fletch, but I’m
worried about my game here, not him!’
Eye on the ball: Alastair Cook takes a catch at the launch of the Under 15 World Cup at Lord's in 2000
That reminded me of the time a
young off-spinning opponent of ours walked into the England dressing
room after taking a few wickets for KwaZulu Natal in a tour match in
Durban and plonked himself down next to me, asking if I knew of any
English teams he could play for.
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thought he meant club cricket and almost gave him my brother’s number
and told him to try Fives and Heronians but it turned out he had bigger
ambitions than that. His name was Kevin Pietersen and in the second Test
he scored his 22nd Test hundred for England. All of which goes to show
how much I know about spotting a good young player.
forward a few months after my first meeting with Cook and I bumped into
him again when I went to the indoor school in Chelmsford for a bit of
practice —yes, you’ve guessed it, I was searching for form as England
When I got there, Cook, who had just
been named England Under 19 skipper, was with a local TV crew, I think
they might have been from Look East.
interviewer saw me and asked if the England captain might like to say a
few words about this young star from my county. I looked at Cook, back
at the interviewer and said, ‘Not now, son’, before going off to the
reminds me of that one every time I speak to him. There are plenty of
words to say about him now. He was brilliant here, brilliant in
scoring his record hundred, brilliant in reaching 7,000 Test runs
younger than anyone in history and brilliant in scoring his fifth
century in five Tests as captain.
Truly, this innings has to be right up there with his best. It is as good if not better than all those hundreds he made in Australia and the 294 he scored against India at Edgbaston. It was special because Cook was so fluent.
Ever since Cook scored that potentially career-saving hundred against Pakistan at The Oval in 2010, he has been an absolute run machine. And what really impresses me is that he has worked so hard on improving the areas of his game that, a couple of years ago, weren’t his best. He has never said: ‘This is how I play, it works for me.’ He has kept his strengths and improved his weaknesses.
Special innings: Cook answered his critics at The Oval with a gutsy 110
Not too long ago Cook relied heavily on his cut, pull and nudge off his hips. But now he is playing far more shots down the ground and is sweeping much more effectively. He may not have the flair of Pietersen or the shot selection of Graham Gooch, but he is becoming almost a complete batsman.
Cook keeps himself so well grounded. A lot of players might have been tempted to be a bit flashy after scoring hundreds in the last two Tests but he plays every innings with the same application as the last and at the same tempo. And how mentally strong must he be to score each of those hundreds after he has lost the toss and spent all that time in the field as a young and inexperienced captain
It’s good, too, that he has interests outside the game, in particular the family farm. /12/06/article-0-14214923000005DC-331_634x414.jpg” width=”634″ height=”414″ alt=”Hot on his heels: Kevin Pietersen (right) will be keen to match Cook's milestone” class=”blkBorder” />
Hot on his heels: Kevin Pietersen (right) will be keen to match Cook's milestone
I’m sure Cook’s team-mates will be inspired by him. Pietersen will want to quickly catch him up after falling one Test century behind him and Jonathan Trott will have been prodded after a relatively lean spell of his own. What will please Cook most of all is that his hundred has put his team in a potentially decisive position in this third Test and the series.
India were not very good on the second day, even though I cannot fault the effort of their four bowlers. They were flat and looked an old side in the field. If England can run them ragged they really will be on the verge of something special.