Cook ready for fresh test
Chelmsford on a chilly spring day is a far cry from Sydney in the midst of the Australian summer, something not lost on Alastair Cook.
The opening batsman has kept a relatively low profile since his man-of-the-series exploits during England’s Ashes triumph Down Under this winter.
Having missed out on the one-day series in Australia and the World Cup, Cook has had time to rest and prepare for the domestic campaign - unlike every winter since his first Ashes series in 2006-07.
His pre-season build-up included an appearance at Essex’s press day yesterday in conditions alien to those in which the left-hander struck his third hundred of the 2010-11 Ashes, taking his run tally to 766.
Naturally, Cook was the centre of attention yesterday, which involved him waiting on the outfield after the obligatory photographs to answer a barrage of questions. Asked if it is easy staying grounded despite his Ashes heroics, he joked: “It is standing here in the cold.
“Look, cricket is a game that you can’t take lightly at any stage. My feet have hopefully been firmly on the ground from the moment I came back from Australia.
“I feel really good. I was desperately disappointed not to be in the one-dayers being in as good form as I was, but it gave me a chance to get away from cricket for a month, do something different and then get back in the gym in February and work as hard as I could on my game as well. I feel as though I’m ready to go.”
Of the contrast between the climax of a victorious Test campaign and the beginning of a domestic one, he added: “It is very different and that is a challenge.
“Self-motivation to do that is important because you can’t just turn it on when you want to turn it on. You’ve got to try and turn it on if you can. It is difficult for sure but that’s part of the challenge I’ve got this year.”
The ECB has made Cook available to Essex for all fixtures until May 23, a period prior the England’s build-up for the npower Test series against Sri Lanka.
The 26-year-old, who scored a first-class century versus Cambridge MCCU on Monday, is determined to carry on where he left off in the Ashes when competitive action resumes on Friday with Kent’s visit in Division Two of the LV= County Championship.
“It’s a great time to try and find some form get used to those English conditions, to try and continue what I did in Australia,” he said.
“It was nice to spend some time in the middle after the first innings [at Fenner's]. A first-class hundred is a first-class hundred. I enjoyed it.”
Cook’s ton this week bodes well for this summer, but he is realistic enough to admit it will not be easy to maintain an average in three figures as it was in the Ashes.
“The amount of runs I scored in Australia, it’s almost impossible to keep that up,” he said.
“A lot of things went my way; you’ve got to appreciate that, but the challenge is to try get my skill levels to get my best opportunity.”
Having conceded that fortune played its part in him amassing the second-highest Ashes run haul by an England player after Wally Hammond, Cook pinpointed being caught off a no-ball on 46 and rightly reprieved on 99 en route to 189 in England’s third innings victory.
“It’s just a combination of a lot of hard work - you don’t get anywhere without working hard - and I got lucky as well,” he added.
“There’s a couple of those decisions where I was given out and I referred and then not out, and the no-ball in Sydney.
“Things were going my way a bit and it was important that I cashed in. Luckily I did.”
The upshot of Cook’s amazing success with the bat Down Under, which he revealed surprised him, is being subject of a more intense focus in the media spotlight.
It is far from something he craves, but he is determined it will not have an adverse effect on his game.
“It kind of comes with the territory in one way,” he said. “I don’t particularly enjoy it - I won’t lie to you - but when you play for England in a county press day people want to speak to you.
“Talking to the media shouldn’t affect your cricket because anyone can get you out and you can’t get too big-headed because people want to talk to you.”