Few cricketing talents would be as gifted as the stylish left-handed opener Alastair Cook. Ushered into club and country cricket at 14 and 15 years old respectively, he took to batting as though the willow belonged to him all along. Wristy elegance and authoritative stand-and-deliver stroke-play allowed consistent displays for his club and county Essex, quickly establishing him as a hot prospect knocking hard on England doors.
When Marcus Trescothick suffered an unexpected mental breakdown while preparing in India, 21-year old Cook was summoned from his Academy tour to the West Indies, and instilled straight into Trescothick's opening spot for the Nagpur Test. A 60 on debut followed with a century in the second innings, and fan-favourite Trescothick's departure was already forgotten. He retained his position for home visits of Sri Lanka and Pakistan combining promising starts with half-centuries and centuries. Recurrence of Trescothick's illness later in 2006 saw Cook being selected for the Ashes in Australia. A hundred in Perth was Cook's highlight in a largely disappointing tour. Following Trescothick's shock retirement, young Cook stepped up to fill the void. Confident displays at home against West Indies and on trips to Sri Lanka and England fended early doubts. Runs kept piling and Cook successfully earned his place (and a nickname - Chef) in the England side.
Cook was largely considered to be a Test-specialist and hence wicket-keeper Matt Prior was often preferred over him to open in ODIs. Still, along with the then captain and opening partner Andrew Strauss, the duo became Test cricket's best and longest-running opening pair since 2006. First tentatively named Strauss' deputy in 2008, 'Cooky' eventually went on to lead the Three Lions in T20Is and Tests against South Africa and Bangladesh, where he emerged as a successful skipper. He then took over Strauss as the ODI captain, post England's quarter final exit from the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup, as Strauss stepped down. Test captaincy followed a year later, after Strauss resigned as skipper, along with announcing his retirement from all forms of the game. Cook made the most of it when England toured India where he led from the front and took his team to a 2-1 series win after 27 years in India. He was also the leading run-scorer of that series. He currently has scored the most number of hundreds in Tests by an English batsman after having gone past Colin Cowdrey, Wally Hammond, Geoffrey Boycott and Kevin Pietersen.
Ashes glory as captain arrived when England hammered the Aussies 3-0 at home to retain the urn. However, the return Ashes probably led to the lowest point of Cook's career with the bat as he struggled for runs and his team couldn't salvage even a draw, losing all the five Tests, thus gifting the urn back to Australia.