Spectator Sport: Roger Alton

By Alton, Roger | The Spectator, August 22, 2015 | Go to article overview

Spectator Sport: Roger Alton


Alton, Roger, The Spectator


The roar of the Premier League is beginning to drown out everything else in sport (there's even Friday night football now: another blissful resting place occupied. Shouldn't we ring-fence some time -- greenbelt-style -- that football can't colonise, say 2 a.m. on a Monday, that's preserved from football's endless development?)

But while there's a chance, let's not lose sight of a great Englishman and a great English achievement. This Ashes series has not been a good contest; they often aren't. But with his modesty, determination and resilience, it has been a personal triumph for the captain Alastair Cook. Not long ago, a chorus of self-appointed cricket 'legends' in the media was calling for his head: 'Bring back KP -- Cook out.' Barely a week went by without the message being rammed home. You don't hear it so much now, do you?

Cook is a fundamentally decent man who proves that good guys can come first. He is also extremely tough, even if he looks like he's popped in from choir practice and has to show his ID to get a drink. After the 5-0 thrashing in the 2013-14 Ashes down under, he returned not with his head down but more determined than ever to build a team for whom playing for England was the ultimate honour. He now seems to have done just that.

Cook is a model of leadership: at the end of the Trent Bridge Test, he was quick to pay tribute to Peter Moores, the former and oft-sacked coach who, along with Paul Downton, had put the Pietersen issue to bed and persuaded Cook to stay on. After the last Australian wicket fell, it was telling that Cook rushed to pull out a couple of stumps, which he gave to his young stars Mark Wood and Ben Stokes. Cook has also given the impression that he is listening to the former England captains, and inviting 'legends' into the dressing room. I don't know whether he believes it, but it is terrific politics.

Even now, football has some treasures. …

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