Why Alastair Cook was the real ‘Sports Personality’ of 2011

by Paolo Shaoul


Ahead of England’s two-match Test series against Sri Lanka in Galle starting on Monday 26th March, Paolo takes a look at a man that could break English cricket records and re-write the history books in years to come.


First, I must come clean. When I sat down to write this piece I had to Google who the current SPOTY (BBC Sports Personality of the Year) was.


Now I can assure you that’s not because I was busy watching a Midsomer Murders Xmas special on the night in question. It’s simply because, unlike previous years when the winners’ names simply tripped off the tongue, 2011’s simply refused to register in my brain.


Mark Cavendish is probably Britain’s most successful ever participant in the world’s 3rd biggest sporting event, the Tour de France. So he has my utmost respect. He is our greatest ever sprint cyclist, although Chris “when’s my next TV ad” Hoy looks pretty tasty on two wheels too. I couldn’t honestly tell the difference. It could be like comparing Peter Crouch to David Silva for all I know.


Anyway, I digress.  Torville & Dean, Ian Botham, Paul Gascoigne, Frank Bruno, David Beckham, Daley Thompson, Steve Davis, Steve Redgrave – SPOTY was a rolecall of household British sporting names.   But does the average man or woman from Grimsby to York or Preston to Hayward’s Heath have any empathy, passion or quite frankly care about the 2011 winner?  This is where I think the true British sporting hero of 2011 was ill thought through.


“But the public voted!” I hear you say.  Yes they did, or rather a certain section of the public voted.   Yet if this award had been decided on in the same way as the European, World and British footballers of the year – i.e. by professional sportsmen and journalists – I believe we would have had a very different outcome.


Now bear in mind cricket is Britain’s second most popular sport after football – yes and that includes Scotland, Walesand N Ireland. It is after all the England AND Wales Test cricket team. So winning the Ashes, in Australia for the first time in over 20 years with one of THE greatest ever displays by an English cricketer seems to me a shoe-in for the ultimate British sporting accolade – surely? In fact it’s (almost) up there with Murray winning Wimbledon or England winning the Euros.


Make no mistake, it might not have been the Australia of Warne, Gilchrist et al – but this was still the Ashes in Oz – and Alastair Cook almost single-handedly put them to his square-jawed Essex sword.


Then they said he couldn’t play limited overs – another case of “cook-ing” the facts.  Not content with two consecutive hundreds in the one day series against Pakistan, Cook captained England to a 4-0 drubbing.  And his relentless single-handed assault on English batting continued when the unthinkable happened – Cook was picked for the Twenty20 squad.  The final nail in the “he can only play one brand of cricket” debate.


The fact is that in Cook, we are witnessing one of the all-time greats of cricket blossoming before our eyes.  At barely 26 years old he is already set to pass the English Test record for centuries held jointly by Hammond, Cowdrey and Lord Boycott.  Currently on 19, Cook is just three behind the record of 22. That alone is a phenomenal achievement and given he has around ten years left at the top, it is frightening to think what he can go on to achieve – and he will no doubt achieve it all as captain of his country.  Indeed, while England’s football and rugby teams scratch around for a decent skipper, for the ECCB, it is an almost messianic appointment in waiting.


If I am guilty of being in love with Alastair Cook then I must apologise – perhaps my judgement is impaired.  But in the words of the Four Tops – “I can’t help myself”. If there is a more charming, well-mannered and humble sportsman on these shores, he must be operating in the English Premier League.


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Amit Chakravarty

Amit Chakravarty

Amit has a refined taste for all things luxury lifestyle, with a particular penchant for men’s style. He’s keen on the latest watches – especially classic timepieces, new drinks, luxury travel, fine dining, executive technology, new gadgets and sports for the discerning gent.