Salmon's Soapbox: Alastair Cook's records may stand test of time
Few could argue that Alastair Cook has picked the right moment to call time on his England cricket career.
The opening batsman – who is the Three Lions’ all-time leading run-scorer – has decided that the fifth and final Test against India, which gets under way on Friday, will be his international swansong.
It is never a nice sight, no matter what the sport, to see one of the world’s great players becoming a shadow of their former selves.
But sadly that has certainly been the case with the former England skipper, who has struggled for form and runs in recent times.
A few memorable knocks such as his 263 against Pakistan at Abu Dhabi in 2016, a score of 243 against the West Indies at Birmingham and an unbeaten 244 versus Australia in Melbourne, have papered over Cook’s decline as a top-level batsman over the past couple of years or so.
Indeed, he has averaged less than 20 during the present series against India this summer.
When he is named in the team at the Oval it will be his 161st Test – the most played by an Englishman – and the frightening thing is he is only 33-years-old.
Perhaps his long international career, which began at the age of 21 in 2006, has contributed to his decision to retire. It certainly look as though the Essex man has been suffering from burn-out.
Having said all that, there is no doubt that Cook has been a giant of the sport and his record speaks volumes for his ability, mental application and longevity.
His 12,225 runs is a record for an England batsman and puts him sixth on the all-time list, with only Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Jacques Kallis, Rahul Dravid and Kumar Sangakkara above him.
The 2010-11 Ashes series is a particular highlight for me as England finally won on Australian soil after 25 long and barren years.
His 776 runs from just seven innings, with an average of 127, had the Aussies running scared and was the biggest single reason why the urn finally returned to these shores.
Cook was arguably not the most talented batsman – indeed I would rank Kevin Pietersen and even present-day captain Joe Root as more pleasing to the eye –but his England records may stand the test of time, especially as the future of Test cricket remains uncertain.
Despite his indifferent form, Cook’s departure will create a huge void at the top of the order.
Considering England’s well-documented batting problems this summer – the absence of Cook will be another headache for Root and coach Trevor Bayliss.