Maldon Cricket Club knew Alastair Cook was destined for big things from the moment he made his men’s debut aged 11
- Credit: PA
From the moment an 11-year-old Alastair Cook stepped forward and scored 64 on his men’s debut, everyone at Maldon Cricket Club knew they had a talent destined for big things.
Cook, 30, became England’s leading Test record run scorer of all time on Saturday, his knock of 75 seeing him surpass Essex mentor Graham Gooch’s 20-year record of 8.900.
It’s a record – like so many he has set along the way – which could stand for a very long time indeed. And it was a moment which once again caused much nostalgic talk in the Drapers Farm clubhouse, out by the Essex coast, over the weekend.
Long-serving Maldon all-rounder Ian Elliott, 42, recalls: “It’s a tale that has been told many times during Alastair’s rise to England captain but we never tire of recounting it.
“The third team, as was not uncommon, were short of players and so the captain turned up at the junior practice session the night before to see who he could recruit. Alastair, who was only 11, said ‘I’ll play’.
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“He ended up opening the batting and scoring 64 that day and suddenly everyone was talking about this boy.”
That was in 1997. Cook was already in the Essex youth set-up, but he continued to turn out for his local club and quickly made it into the first team.
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“We made it to the East Anglian Premier League, which is a pretty good standard, and Alastair was batting high up the order at the age of 16,” said Elliott.
“Nowadays he looks a bit stodgy, defensive, not very flowing, but my memory of him is that anything short was ruthlessly punished.
“The moment that sticks out for me personally was when we were playing against Bury St Edmunds. Justin Bishop (then a First Class player for Essex) had got both myself and Rob Barber out, but then Cooky came in at three and absolutely destroyed him. He ended up with an unbeaten century.
“I think the Essex guys were there watching him that day and that probably elevated him in their thoughts.”
Any mention of Cook at Maldon is accompanied by talk of David Randall. The latter, born in the same year as Cook, was every bit as talented a batsmen and the precocious duo used to strike fear into seasoned bowlers.
Randall, tragically, died of bowl cancer aged just 27 in 2012.
“When David passed away it hit us all hard,” said Elliott. “Alastair made a sizeable donation to his trust and that just sums him up.
“He’s never forgotten his roots and has always stayed in touch. His father still coaches the ladies’ team and his brothers played here too.
“People say he’s a nice guy and he really is. He’s loyal and, while he might not be a ranter and raver, he leads by example.
“He listens to everybody’s opinions, he doesn’t ask anybody to do anything he wouldn’t do himself, but he can also be single-minded when required.
“The biggest thing for me was his focus and dedication. That’s what all the best elite athletes have.
“I know his captaincy has come in for a lot of criticism in recent times, but he’s learnt on the job. He could have another good four or five years in him yet and that’s frightening considering the records he has already set.”