Alastair Cook preaches patience. Around him, in a workshop of mess and chaos, artisans are busy sharpening shoulders and refining faces.
Cook is no stranger to their end product. Gray-Nicolls bats were, after all, his favorite weapon during a record-breaking test career. Fortunately, the former captain of England understands the power of the process.
As he repeatedly showed in the middle: “It takes a long time to get the hang of things.”
Sir Alastair Cook praised the progress of Joe Root as England’s test captain this winter
The Yorkshireman led England to an impressive series victory against South Africa
Even retired, Cook is measured in the same way – in Jofra Archer and the struggle of England to solve the joker puzzle in their pack; on the yo-yo fortune of his successor Joe Root.
Next week England will go to Sri Lanka for a two-test series. There is wind in their sails after they have conquered illness and injury to win the victory in South Africa – the first milestone in Chris Silverwood’s reign as head coach.
“The character that the boys from England showed as a side, as a team and all management, was brilliant,” says Cook.
But Archer still takes care of the elbow injury that has hampered his short test career. Worries are already in abundance: is England the biggest weapon overloaded? Do they even know how to use it?
“You can see why you always turn to him,” Cook admits.
Kevin Pietersen was particularly apocalyptic, suggesting that England could lose the 24-year-old without better care. Archer rejected that and every question mark about his commitment.
Cook says: ‘I think the guys on that side are actually doing pretty well.
‘I have heard nothing of the kind that Jofra does not like to play for England, does not enjoy the line-up, does not enjoy it, does not enjoy it. I heard he fits pretty well in it. “
Cook does not mention Pietersen, but adds: ‘It’s just someone’s opinion about a slightly different player. He was injured and tried to play. Suddenly people say he should be treated like this. “
Cook handed the English captain to Root in 2017 before he retired in 2018
Cook insisted that fast bowler Jofra Archer would be fine despite a large number of injury problems
Pietersen did not mention Cook either. But his message when he speaks Sportsmail in South Africa it was clear: the way he was treated caused some fractures that extended throughout his career in England. Pietersen warned that cracks were already appearing around Archer.
But Cook, the captain when KP was fired, insists: “We have to look at this in a slightly different way, I believe. Jofra is so new to international cricket, it’s so new to everything that goes with it. Yes, he played in high-pressure franchise tournaments, Twenty20. It is another beast, Test cricket and international cricket.
‘With the stress and the tensions, every training is a bit more intense; five day test cricket – it takes a while for your body to be matchhard.
“He had an elbow injury, he tried to fight through it, there was no hiding place, he still had a lot of guts and determination to get out and try to play for England.
“So I think it is a bit of a mountain out of a molehill in the way people talked about it. He is a fast bowler, he breaks down … he already has three five-strong ones (in seven tests) so he knows what he is doing! “
Despite countless injury issues, Mark Wood has proven his importance for England
On the slower decks of Sri Lanka, the responsibility for sprinkling the England attack with gunpowder falls on Mark Wood’s fragile frame.
“I think the way Joe Root dealt with that series in South Africa was brilliant and he definitely bowed exceptionally well,” Cook says. “You suddenly get character strength and depth in those two fast bowling slots.”
For once there is also competition on the other side.
Since Cook has retired, England has been scribbling around for openers who are able and willing to bat for a long time. In Rory Burns and Dom Sibley, it seemed that they had found a partnership of promise. Then Burns hurt his ankle while playing soccer and he opened the door for Zak Crawley. Both he and Joe Denly played with gravel in South Africa, where Cook believes the Silverwood regime was starting to take shape.
Since Cook’s retirement, Rory Burns has emerged as a quality lead-off hitter
The internationally renowned cricket bat manufacturer Gray-Nicolls has launched a new initiative to make their company more environmentally friendly.
The Gray-Nicolls Tree Legacy program sees a new willow planted for every international century scored by a Gray-Nicolls ambassador, with a different tree of every species planted locally to compensate for the willow’s loss when it is turned around for bats harvested 20 years.
The Tree Legacy program begins on February 21, 2020 (Friday) when the former English captain and Gray-Nicolls legend Sir Alastair Cook visits Robertsbridge – home of the brand – to plant 33 willows – one for each of his test centuries .
Not only will two trees be planted after every century, but each individual player who scores an international century can nominate a school to receive £ 250 in Gray-Nicolls cricket set.
Cook said: ‘It’s great to be involved in the launch of this campaign.
“It’s growing willow for a game I’ve always played, for a brand I’ve always used, so I’m very excited about it. As we become more aware of the need to care for the planet, sustainability initiatives such as these will become absolutely crucial. “
Cook is planting a tree for the Gray-Nicolls initiative
“You saw the progression,” he says. “A slightly different way of thinking about how important bat time is at the top and good old-fashioned Test cricket.”
Now, Cook claims, England has a nice dilemma to fit in four in three slots.
“I think Burns deserved the right to be in pole position the way he played,” he adds. “Certainly after the test competition in Ireland (last summer) when nobody gave him a chance.
“That character, that power of mind and the weight of the runs he had scored for Surrey … I think we see a guy who has a great future for England there.”
Some approval of the most productive run-getter in English history. On this day, Cook is at Gray-Nicolls’ home in East Sussex and is planning 33 willows – one for each of his test centuries – to launch the manufacturer’s Tree Legacy program.
About 5,400 miles away, the job for England’s openers will be to provide a platform for people like Root, Ben Stokes and the thriving Ollie Pope. Moeen Ali was soon able to return to the mix after he seemed to end his self-imposed exile of Test cricket.
“The only thing that is unique about our game is how long it is – you have long periods of playing under pressure,” says Cook, who was in charge when Jonathan Trott struggled with his mental health.
“I think people are now aware of how powerful the mind is and sometimes a break is very good and what you need. Moeen actually burned out. He was the man where England played in different roles to different positions, but played all three forms for a long time. “
Moeen played international cricket for the first time in six months and hit no fewer than 39 of the 11 balls in the second T20 against South Africa.
“He’s a freak talent,” Cook adds. “England has – or would like it – back for all three forms because it adds strength, depth and a great character to that arrangement.”
Great Britain also labeled Moeen Ali as a ‘freak talent’ and welcomed a test refund
In Sri Lanka, however, Root has to manage without the all-rounder in a series that promises to be a new rigorous test.
“Things change very quickly with the English captain,” says Cook. ‘If you lose cricket matches or don’t play as well as you want, it’s the leader who gets it. He understands the nature of that beast. “
Cook adds, “Suddenly people say he’s the thing, he probably hasn’t changed much!”
The soil around Root has moved instead. He has a new coach, a new bowling weapon and new questions to answer.
“It’s going well,” Cook laughs. “Even if we lose in Sri Lanka, he is still the right man to lead that way. He does well in testing times. “