Wednesday 19 September, 2018

Loss of mental edge led to Cook retirement

England's Alastair Cook.

England's Alastair Cook.

A loss of a mental edge led Alastair Cook to call time on his international cricket career, the England opener having considered his future for the past six months.

Cook announced on Monday that the fifth Test between England and India, which starts on Friday at The Oval, will be his last.

The opener will bring the curtain down on a glittering career that has seen him become England's highest Test run scorer and win four Ashes series, two as captain of the side.

Cook is famed for a mental fortitude that has enabled him to occupy the crease for long periods and carve out crucial innings, recording 32 centuries in his 12 years on the Test scene.

But in a recent slump of form that has seen him not reach three figures since his double-hundred in the fourth Ashes Test in Melbourne, Cook believes some of the inner strength that led to his success has left him.

Speaking at a media conference, Cook said: "Over the last six months there's been signs in my mind that this was going to happen. I told Rooty [Joe Root] before the game [fourth Test with India] and told Trevor [Bayliss] during the game.

"I've always been mentally tough and had that edge to everything I've done. That edge has kind of gone, that stuff I found easy before wasn't quite there. To me that was the biggest sign.

"In this day and age it's very hard to keep anything quiet and, if it was 2-2 then I would have had to have kept my mouth shut.

"When you've made that decision in your mind it's always playing on the back of your mind and as soon as I told people you feel a bit more of a release."

Asked about how he revealed the news to his England team-mates, Cook replied: "I was couple of beers in and I needed to be, otherwise I would have cried more than I actually did. I managed to hold it together.

"There was a bit of silence for a little bit and I think Mo [Moeen Ali] said something and everyone laughed and we kind of got on with it."

Asked for the highlight and lowlight of his career, Cook pointed to the Player of the Series awards he won in away series victories over Australia and India as his best moments in the game, while describing 2014, a year in which the ECB decided to end Kevin Pietersen's international career after an Ashes whitewash, as a low point.

"You can't really look past those two away series where I was Man of the Series and we won in Australia and India," Cook added. "That's the best I could play, and probably as a career as a whole, I can look back and say I became the best player that I could become. That actually means quite a lot to me, I've never been the most talented cricketer and I don't pretend I was but I definitely think I got everything out of my ability.

"Clearly the KP affair was a tough year, there's absolutely no doubt about that. The fall out of that wasn't great for English cricket and wasn't great for me. I was involved in that decision without being the bloke who actually made the final decision. The fall out for English cricket and the effect it had for 12 months wasn't great."