The one day international career of Andrew Strauss can be defined in two distinct halves. Prior to assuming the captaincy in the Caribbean in March 2009, he was in the wilderness having not played a single 50 over game for nearly two years. This was hardly a surprise as his record up to then was modest with an average of just 32 from 78 matches at a fairly pedestrian strike rate of 76.
Many argued that Strauss didn’t have the game for the 50 over format, but whether emboldened by the captaincy or determined to prove the snipers wrong, Strauss successfully reinvented his game to enjoy a second coming that yielded an average of 41 from 49 games at a healthy strike rate of 88. Moreover, he also produced perhaps the finest one day international innings ever by an Englishman when he struck a masterful 158 off 145 balls against India in last year’s World Cup match in Bangalore.
Strauss’s reinvention was such that by the time he relinquished the captaincy and retired from limited overs internationals, England had lost its premier batsman in the format.
Alastair Cook’s story is strikingly similar. Not many (including this blog) were exactly rolling in the aisles when Cook was anointed as Strauss’s successor. He could only trundle along in first or second gear it was argued. He didn’t have the range of shots required to flourish in the critical powerplay overs it was claimed. Like Strauss, Cook had been in the one day wilderness prior to ascending to the throne, and also like Strauss his record hardly boded well with an average of 33 and strike rate of 71 from his 26 games.
Cook is no Chris Gayle or Virender Sehwag. He is never going to batter an opposition attack into submission, but using Strauss as his alma mater, Cook has also reinvented his game and inexplicably emerged as England’s best one day batsman. His brilliant 137 off 145 balls against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi yesterday was almost the equal of Strauss’s Bangalore masterpiece especially when considering Ravi Bopara’s 50 was the next highest score in the game. Cook’s record since his appointment as skipper now reads as 737 runs at 53 with an electrifying strike rate of 94.
Cook’s captaincy may still be a work in progress, but at least his leadership has inspired him to batting feats that even he probably didn’t think were within the realm of his capabilities.
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