Cow Corner

Record-breaking Cook has only just begun

Cow Corner

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As Alastair Cook lifted his helmet, raised his bat and took the plaudits for the 23rd time in his Test career, Cowers briefly found himself wondering whether the England skipper ever got tired.

A quick look at the left-hander later, still not sweating after another five hours of batting in the Indian and sunshine quickly dispelled the notion.

Like Sachin Tendulkar on the opposing side, any visit to the crease for Cook from now on is likely to bring with an assault on the record books. In fact, one of the landmarks Cook eclipsed today belonged to the Little Master - the youngest batsman with 7,000 Test runs, reached just before his 28th birthday, rather than merely just after, as Sachin managed.

Later there followed his 23rd Test century - already no England player can match that number.

If Cook were not so disarmingly calm, he might find himself overwhelmed as he stares from the summit of the records he has already broken and up to those he will surely pass.

As Kevin Pietersen, England's most naturally-talented player and - for now at least - the only active player still ahead of Cook in the list of England run-scorers, put it: "Cooky is a magnificent player. He'll break every England record."

Indeed he will. He has played Test cricket since 2006, and may not even be halfway into his career.

His mentor Graham Gooch's leading mark of 8900 Test runs for England will fall - at this rate before Cook has even turned 30. Thereafter there is 10,000 Test runs, every century along the way a new yardstick for future generations of cricketers to commit to memory and try to beat.

Beyond that, there will be an assault on world records. He will pass great names. One day it will be Steve Waugh, another Brian Lara. Will Jacques Kallis, Rahul Dravid, and Ricky Ponting follow? Could even Sachin Tendulkar's Test numbers be under threat? Put it this way - it says something that the suggestion can even be made without it sounding impossible.

England batsmen are glaring absentees from batting's record table - in ODI cricket, for instance, there is no England batsman even close to the top 50 run-scorers in history, while in Tests Gooch sits 12th on the list of all-time runs scored.

Cook will venture into that territory, and though he could retire tomorrow with a glowing career and yet stands on the brink of something far greater. His promise is fulfilled and yet in some senses only half-realised.

Enjoy it while it happens. You can enjoy it, too - Cook is no longer the grafter who scratched through what Cowers branded one of the worst Test centuries he had ever seen (a streaky, chance-ridden 105 against Pakistan at Lord's in 2006). He arrived a ready-made Test player at the age of 21 because of his temperament, not necessarily his raw talent - he has blossomed, not wilted, as a cricketer under the harsh spotlight of Test cricket. His pulling and hooking has come on leaps and bounds during his career. Today, he hits the cover drive with finesse rather than efficiency. He has even learned how to move his feet to spinners and hit them over the top. Cook has only hit nine sixes in his 86-match Test career - but four of them have come since the summer. He is continually evolving and improving.

And again, if he stopped to think about what more could come, the possibility might be more than he could fully grasp. But when the cricket is over, Cook returns to a life which grounds him. He married at the turn of the year, and helps run the family farm when he is not on England duty.

Perhaps when he one day calls time on his career, that is the life to which he will retreat. Which of the sport's records will he take to the farm with him?

A better question might be which ones won't he take?

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