'The Cookie Crumbles', 'Alastair had the last smile' -- such were the headlines soon after the former England skipper Alastair Cook announced that the Oval Test against India will be his last appearance at the International circuit for England. His decision reaffirmed the belief that nothing lasts forever, not even great players like Alastair Cook. However, the 12 long years at the top level, especially in whites, will forever be remembered by everyone who grew up watching cricket in the 2000s. It has been an era which redefined English cricket, majorly because of Alastair Cook.

Cook's international career started off when he was least expecting it; 12 years down the line, he looks to end his career when spectators were least expecting it. Things have always happened differently in Cook's life - Often, quickly, and more importantly -- before he even expects them to happen.

The Journey: 2006-2018

The beginning of this superlative journey started way back in 2003 when he made his debut playing for Essex club. His astonishing run for little over three years helped him to play for England in 2006 against India. At the city of oranges, that is, Nagpur, Cook made his first International appearance after regular opener Marcus Trescothick pulled out at the last moment.

In his dream debut, he managed to score a magnificent hundred against the likes of Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble, which made that hundred look even more than just a three-figure mark. The innings led cricket pundits witness his feet movement, hand-eye coordination, the superlative reflexes, and of course the orthodox technique which eventually made him look just more than a batsman and blossom to achieve higher echelons.

In his International career, Cook has scored over 15,000 runs of which 12,472 came while playing the longest format. He is also England's most-capped player and has captained in 59 Tests, 69 One-Day Internationals, and 1 T-20 International. His dazzling stint lets one believes that he has been the greatest English batsmen to play the game.

Ups and Downs

Ups and Downs are part and parcel of one's career, but what's important is to make the best of good form to have enough in the bank, as done by Cook. Undoubtedly, Cook started off his International career at a high having seven centuries to his name before turning 22. His remarkable stint continued from 2009-2013 when runs flooded from his willow. In four years time, he managed to score 16 hundred and 9 fifties, which speaks volumes about his character and of course conversion rate.

Having scored half of the total number of centuries in this period, the former Indian opener Sunil Gavaskar had stated that, '15000 Test runs and 50 centuries are not beyond him'. However, Cook bad patch continued soon after June 2013 where he wasn't looking at the same player as he was. He struggled to score runs against the likes of Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc, which was followed by a poor run against the Asian teams. Surprisingly, he went through 27 consecutive innings without a three-figure score and averaged 23.62 from 14 Tests.

In the latter half of his career, he tinkered with his batting technique which didn't help him to get the desired results. Although there hasn't been much difference between his batting average as a player and captain, it could have well been over 55 as a captain if we keep aside his poor run from June 2013-2017.

The Big Record

Nothing can describe Cook’s ability to score runs more than the runs itself in Test cricket. He has more Test centuries than any other English batsman to have played the game. Having scored over 12,000 in the longest format, Cook was the closest to go past Sachin Tendulkar's record of most number of runs in Test. With age and temperament on his side, the dream to become the most successful Test cricketer wasn't looking far away.

With just a little more than 3,000 runs left, Cook believes he isn't left with anything in the tank. With this, although Tendulkar's record remains as it was, it gave a glimpse to many that records are just one part of the cricketing journey, and a player doesn't play keeping them in mind.

History Repeats Itself

There have been stalwarts who have played this wonderful game but it’s difficult to remember of too many nicer men who have done what Alastair Cook has produced and accomplished over the last 12 years in International Cricket.

In his last ever International game, he scored a dazzling half-century in the first innings which followed a glorious hundred, with this innings, Cook not only became the first English batsman to achieve this feat but also became the player who scored a half-century and a century both on debut and last innings against same opposition; India.

The Kia Oval spectators were literally on their feet to applause this great man’s effort, a bunch of fans even came dressed up as chefs and all as one appreciated his glory.

Scoring 147 runs, Cook walks off the field with a big smile and has given enough ‘cookies’ for many coming generations to cherish.

Way Forward

It was India where he started his journey, and it ended against India. Invariably, Cook will be a player whose worth and feats enhance as time moves on and he couldn't have thought for a better timing than this to hang his boots. His decline in form and reflexes has started to reflect, and to adieu this fantastic game with earned respect is probably the best way to leave.

However, as mentioned by the England skipper Joe Root, it will be a tough task to have a like-for-like replacement. Whosoever will go on to take that spot will have a responsibility to take the legacy forward and emulate the great man's effort. Time will tell whether English cricket turns out lucky again, but for now, it's the gentleman Cook who ends a remarkable career with his head held high.

Thank You, Chef!