Alastair Cook ended a magnificent career in just the way he started — slamming a century. It was a day full of emotion as a near-packed Oval crowd, backed by the Barmy Army, egged on every run he made and stroke he played.
Totally overwhelmed by the support, Cook, addressing the media on Monday evening after a typically grinding 147, said this is perhaps the best week he experienced in his life.
“It's just been the most surreal four days of my life really. It's incredible because there's a few of my friends here as well. For that all to happen today and every reception I've had over the last four days, it's just been incredible. Even that last couple of overs, when the whole crowd were singing my Barmy Army song, it was incredibly special.
“From a purely selfish point of view, I couldn't have asked for a better week. But there have been bigger things, in more important games, which have meant more. On a purely emotional level, with a lot of my friends and family here, Alice's (wife) granddad here, my mum and dad, Alice's mum and dad, most of the farmers from Bedfordshire as well. In one way, everybody said the pressure will be off. But it's been one of those weeks where every reception I've got, then not to go and get nought, get out early, it has brought a different kind of pressure. To perform and have a day like that, after 160 other games, it's a nice way to go.”
Cook’s decision to call it quits evoked mixed feelings from the time he made it public. While some felt time was right given the 33-year-old’s his recent struggles for form, some felt he could have hung on to guide a rebuilding England side. England was struggling to find a stable young opening partner for Cook and now they have the envious task of finding a pair. Batting positions in the middle order have been going through several rounds of musical chairs with no end in sight.
Cook, however, ruled out on turning back his decision. “It (retirement) absolutely confirms it. This is not just the culmination of three or four low scores, bad games in a Test series. It's been something that's been coming for 12-18 months, not just a bit of bad form. That's happened to me a number of times in my career. It's just time. It's time for me, its time for my family. It's always nice people wanting a little bit more than trying to kick you out, and to go on your own terms makes it even better.
“I don’t know how I’ve managed it to be brutally honest. But it is nice that it’s happened. I’ve seen a few people go out not on their own terms and it’s obviously special. But to go out on your own terms when your last ever innings for England was a hundred. It’s all draining out of me now. There’s probably 30 drunk farmers that want to say hello later on so I need to get some energy for them and top off a very special day.”
Cook though said he’ll miss wearing the England jersey, which meant a lot for him. “Over the last 12-18 months, things have started to creep into my mind. Losing that edge which has definitely happened in training — that decision was made for me. But it was obviously a big decision because chasing your dreams and playing for England it’s all I’ve really known, really. I’ve spent all my life trying to play for England so then to give it up is obviously a big thing. But, it’s a bit like the captaincy, when you know it’s right, it’s right. This is just the icing on the cake, this final little bit, the last four days were unbelievable. But obviously, it’s a bit different when you know it’s your last.”