Ed Kemp speculates on what’s causing Alastair Cook’s opening partners to fail.
Mark Stoneman will be Alastair Cook’s 12th opening partner since the retirement of Andrew Strauss in 2012. Many fine players have tried but none have managed to make the position their own. One by one they’ve been picked, they’ve struggled and they’ve been dispensed with.
Each of these pretenders shares one common denominator: the presence of Cook up the other end. A few innings with Chef and confident, in-form run-machines become fragile figures of fun who barely know which end to hold.
In short, England’s record run-scorer has blood on his hands.
So what could it be that makes Cook such a devastating partner? Here are some possible explanations.
Unburdened by the responsibility of captaincy and finally fed up with welcoming new partners, Cook has now taken to whispering patronising remarks on the way out to bat. “Word of advice,” he murmured with grim sincerity to Ben Duckett in Bangladesh, “try not to get bowled. Because you will be out if you do. Mark my words.”
NO GOOD ADVICE
Any young player would seek counsel from an all-timer like Cook, but what is he giving them? In the nets, unnamed sources have overheard him telling Stoneman, “I find that in Test cricket it’s very important to change your technique fundamentally from what you’ve been doing for your county. And, as far as possible, ignore the ball. Contrary to popular belief the ball is largely a distraction.”
OUT OF TUNE
A keen fan of late 70s post-punk, Cook amuses himself in the middle by singing Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart between overs. Keaton Jennings, for one – who had never heard the track – was thrown into a paralysed confusion on hearing Cook’s gentle baritone.
Cook doesn’t sweat, you know. But he should, it’s an essential bodily function. Maybe his famously unproductive pores are just giving his partners the willies. Difficult to concentrate with an unprecedented biological phenomenon leaning on his bat 20 yards away.
FISTS OF AGE
The mid-pitch fist-bump is a staple of the modern batting partnership and the unnaturally powerful forearms that have made Cook a run-monster are now serving to injure the hands of his opening partners, leaving them unable to hold the bat properly. In fact, all 12 of those who’ve sought to replace Strauss have required wrist surgery to recover from Cook’s deceptively destructive glove-punch. Unless the Essex man can rein in that well-disguised power we could be searching for his perfect partner for some time yet.