Captain Cook revels under pressure

Captain Cook revels under pressure

Captain Cook revels under pressure

As the fourth day of the first Test began to move on, it became clear that it was a battle between India and Alastair Cook.

This is not to belittle the contribution of Matt Prior, but without Cook and his staunchness, England wouldn’t have survived the day after conceding a 330-run first innings lead. Such a massive lead would have been enough to trample the spirit of any player, particularly if he’s the captain of a team reeling under the weight of tons of runs.

But Cook is cut from different cloth. He loves to lead by example, and a man who knows the Essex left-hander offered some insight into him.

“Alastair  led from the front. I think that was as good an innings as I’ve seen him play because he was under great pressure after a poor first innings performance from the team. “He can do it because he is one of the best players in the world. It is not just physical skill I'm talking about, but you need skill between the ears as well,” said Graham Gooch, mentor of Cook and the batting coach of England.

Gooch underlined the significance of having the right temperament to tackle the conditions in India. He added that Cook has loads of it. “This lad has had a great temperament from when he first started. He had even then (during his debut in India) the priceless skill of knowing how to play. From the outset he knew what he could do and what he couldn't do and he still has that skill today.”

That precisely was the hallmark of Cook’s innings on Sunday, tackling each bowler and each delivery on merit, rather than adopting a blind approach like some of his team-mates.

A look at the stats will reveal that. The highlight of his innings was the way he negated the Indian spinners – R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha. There was no flamboyance in his approach against them, but cold-minded practicality dictates it.

Cook milked 43 runs off the 80 balls (strike rate 53.75) Ojha bowled at him, while he mustered 61 runs off Ashwin’s 130 balls at a strike rate of 46.92. It was as clinical a dismantling of spin as a batsman ever had done in India.

“The skill of scoring runs is being adaptable, you can't score the same way every time. You have to tailor the way you play to the conditions. That is what stands one player out from another. Cook did just that today,” Gooch further offered.

That Cook is the captain of the England side, and has been on his first tour as full-time leader only added the pressure on him after that paltry effort in the first innings when India skittled out the visitors for 191.

But the 27-year old made a solid 41 in the first essay, and now has remained unbeaten on 168, making a mockery of the pressures of captaincy. Gooch was elated to see his ward blossoming into a true leader.  

“He's a young captain. His opportunities have been limited. He is still finding his way; he will develop as a captain. He will make mistakes along the way but making mistakes is part of learning and you come back stronger. Some players blossom under the captaincy as a performer, and Cook has certainly blossomed under that responsibility today,” he noted.

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