About a year ago, Graeme Swann, in one of his cheekier moods, claimed watching Alastair Cook bat puts him to sleep. A few months earlier, the England off-spinner had said Cook was "as ugly as sin as a batsman".
"He might be a handsome man with those dark smouldering looks but, when he straps on his pads, he is horrible to watch," Swann said.
There is probably a lot of truth in what Swann said, but Cook's prolific scoring abilities make up for the lack of flamboyance, and he is fast emerging as the best batsman of his generation. It would be unfair to compare him to the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, but once the Indian master decides to call it a day, there will be few batsmen around to challenge Cook for the highest honours.
Age is on his side. Cook is 27 and has already scored 20 Test centuries. Only four Englishmen have scored more hundreds in five day cricket: Andrew Strauss (21) and Geoff Boycott, Wally Hammond and Colin Cowdrey (22 each). He will certainly overtake these in the coming months.
Cook already has a few milestones to his credit. He is the second-youngest batsman, after Tendulkar, to reach 5,000 runs in Test cricket and he has already batted for the most minutes in a five-Test series.
Patience has been his hallmark, setting him apart from the others of his generation. Hashim Amla, 29, is the only other batsmen in that age group - 25 to 30 - you could mention in the same vein as Cook. Like Brian Lara and Tendulkar, there should be a dazzling rivalry between these two in the coming years.
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