Alastair Cook on retirement, career, Kevin Pietersen sacking and Ashes highshttps://indianexpress.com/article/sports/cricket/alastair-cook-retirement-bbc-tms-india-vs-england-fifth-test-5343870/

Alastair Cook on retirement, career, Kevin Pietersen sacking and Ashes highs

Alastair Cook will be bowing out from international cricket at the end of the fifth Test against India at The Oval after 161 Tests and over 12,000 runs.

England's Alastair Cook during nets
Alastair Cook will bid adieu in the fifth Test against India. (Source: Reuters)

Alastair Cook will call time on his illustrious career with the fifth Test match against India at The Oval that gets underway on Friday. The legend of the game reflected on his career where he played 160 Test matches (161st at The Oval), scored 12,254 runs (more to come) to become England’s highest scorer and one with most matches played. In the BBC Test Match Special that will air at Lunch on day one of the Test, Cook talks about his career, the controversial period where Kevin Pietersen was removed and the big moments in the Ashes. Excerpts from the interview:

On retirement: “I feel quite calm and as if a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. It’s been nagging at me for the past six months or so and then there were a couple of moments where the decision made itself. Even if I had scored more runs in this series against India, I’m not sure I would have carried on playing.”

“There’s just something there that made retiring feel right. Like the captaincy, it is a big thing to give away. My heart is saying ‘go on, play a bit longer’, but my head is so clearly saying that I’m making the right decision.”

“Things do accentuate when you don’t score as many runs as you would like, but it just feels right at this moment in time. Naturally, I’m sad that it will be my last game, because it’s been such an amazing journey over the past 12 years – not just for me, but for some of the people closest to me. My wife Alice’s dad said he’d been on about 10 trips abroad to watch me play and my dad would never have gone to somewhere like India if it wasn’t for me playing there. He went all around the country on the train. Stuff like that you really appreciate.”

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“It’s not just me playing cricket, everyone that has been associated with me is the reason why I have been able to do it. Yes, I sacrificed a lot, but people sacrificed a lot to allow me to go and play.”

On Kevin Pietersen: “I was involved in the decision at first, but the England captain doesn’t have the final say on hiring and firing. I agreed with it, but I said ‘why don’t we give him some time off, we can go away and maybe KP can come back later on’.”

“Paul Downton (the England director of cricket) wanted clarity, a clean break, because people would always be asking when is he coming back. You had to back his decisions because that’s what his job was. The fallout was pretty nasty and I don’t think the ECB handled it well or appreciated how social media worked very well then. I bore a lot of the brunt of it.”

“I would refute anyone saying that I was the one that chucked him down the stairs, but I was involved in the decision and I believed it was right at that time. Looking back, I can safely say all the decisions I made were done for the best of the England cricket team at that time. On that one, there were a lot of other people, way above my head, also involved in it. I felt like I was being left alone as the captain.”

“I haven’t spoken to him (Pietersen) since that day, but I think time is a great healer. We spent a lot of time together and created some amazing memories. The thing is, we never fell out. Since then, the internet has fallen out for us. As two blokes, if you take cricket out of it, we have never fallen out. He will have a different opinion, I’m sure.”

PREVIEW: India eye consolation win in Alastair Cook’s farewell Test  

Alastair Cook during nets. (Source: Reuters)

On career highs: “From a purely selfish, batting point of view, I couldn’t bat any better than the 2010-11 Ashes and then in India in 2012. That was as good as I could play. To score a lot of runs and be man of the series in those two big away wins gives a real satisfaction. The pure emotion of winning the Ashes as captain in 2015, after what had happened before, was incredible.”

“Having a beer in the dressing room in Sydney in 2011 is a treasured memory. I’d scored some runs and we had done what we had set out to achieve. We talked and everyone had their favourite moment. I said to everyone that if they want to take anything from it, it was to never give up. Six months beforehand I had been one innings from getting dropped and there I was after getting more than 700 runs in a series.”

“The one thing I know I will miss is the dressing room experience. Experiencing so many things with a group of people has been absolutely amazing.”

On Graham Gooch’s sacking: “I used to watch Graham play and once queued for his autograph. There was my hero – Goochie, Essex and England. If you fast-forward 12 years, he was there at eight in the morning, throwing at me for an hour. After what he achieved in the game, to then be prepared to put the hours into me and be there for me through the good and bad times, just trying to make me a better player, went above and beyond.”

Alastair Cook reveals how he broke his retirement news to teammates

“We were doing extra sessions all the time. I will always be in debt for that because without that extra bit I would never have become the player I did.”

“Telling him that he was no longer going to be the batting coach wasn’t great from me, even if I believed it was the right decision. Andy Flower had just left and, because he and Graham were so close, if we still had the same sort of message coming through, I didn’t think we’d move forward.”

“I thought we needed a fresh start. Even though I thought it was right, I don’t think I should have been the one to tell Goochie that we didn’t want him as coach – that will be a major regret.”

“It was over a phone call because we kept trying to meet up but couldn’t. It was sad and I should never have allowed it to happen that way. Now, I probably wouldn’t have done, but it’s the sort of thing that happens when you’re growing up as a captain. It’s possibly not the captain’s job, but I can only blame myself for doing it.”

The Cookie crumbles: Alastair Cook announces international retirement

“On the personal batting side, after 10 years of constantly doing something, it was time for a change. He actually threw the idea into my brain. He asked how I thought we were going and if it was time for a change of voice. On that side, I have no regrets.”

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“Our relationship is fine now and he’s still an absolute legend. We have seen each other less over the past two or three years, but I’m sure that when I have settled back down into playing for Essex we’ll be spending a lot more time together and it will be back to the old days.”