x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Alastair Cook crosses first of many frontiers with India victory

The England captain has done what no predecessor could do for the past 28 years – win a Test series in India – and he is only getting started, writes Paul Radley.

Alastair Cook has been understated but brutally effective. Gareth Copley / Getty Images
Alastair Cook has been understated but brutally effective. Gareth Copley / Getty Images

It must have been a long time since England last won in India. For a start, Sachin Tendulkar had not even begun playing Test cricket back then, that is how long ago it was.

Foreigner were No 1 in the UK's popular music charts with I Want to Know What Love Is. A duo of ice dancers, Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, shared the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year award. Text messaging had yet to come in to being. And it was a five-match Test series. Archaic, or what?

Much has clearly changed in those 28 years, but the fact remains that 1984 was a great year for English sport. Mainly because Alastair Cook was born. More precisely, he was born that Christmas Day.

At that moment in time an England cricket team with a prolific left-handed batsmen (David Gower) as captain were midway through a come-from-behind 2-1 series win in India.

It feels like forever since Cook has become the gift that keeps on giving to English cricket.

"When you leave the shores of India you will go as master chef Cook," were the words Ravi Shastri, the Indian Test player-turned-television personality, signed off with at today's trophy presentation.

Which was, somewhat bizarrely, the highest praise he could summon. Cook took the spurious compliment in typically modest and understated fashion.

Given his total lack of showiness, either in what he says or his method at the crease, the Essex batsman is not necessarily an exact fit for the Indian cricket landscape.

Put another way, he is never likely to be invited to play Indian Premier League cricket.

And yet the record he has accrued by this stage of his international cricket career suggests he was born to play there.

He averages 61 in Tests in India. He made a century on his debut there in 2006, despite being laid low by a stomach bug and having flown in straight from the West Indies before the match.

This time around his 568 runs, which included three hundreds, defined the series.

And he did it all while saddled with the captaincy.

"When you go in you want to prove captaincy is not a burden," Cook said in a televised interview today.

"To get runs straight away is a big monkey off your back. If it gave other people a lot of confidence, then that is obviously even more pleasing."

So how will history remember England's 2-1 series win of 2012?

In some ways it will be a little less graphically memorable than in 1984/85, thanks to the photography blackout in the series that emanated from a dispute with the controlling board concerning inhibitions on the media.

Maybe the Indian cricket board could feel a sense of foreboding, knew its team were going to struggle in this series against the spin of Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar - and thus orchestrated the row, so less people saw it, or could remember it in the years ahead.

And yet in other ways this triumph was more visual than ever before.

England's players today celebrated their success by singing Christmas songs, taking pictures of each other on their smartphones, then tweeting them.

Neither will they have had to wait on the congratulatory messages being held up in the pre-Christmas rush, as they might have 28 years ago.

Straight after their success in Nagpur, David Cameron, the primer minister, took a break from running the country to tweet his congratulations to them.

Success in India is often regarded as the final frontier for Test cricket teams.

Was it England's? Surely it cannot be. This was Cook's first assignment in full-time charge. He has only just begun.

pradley@thenational.ae

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