As Alastair Cook exits international stage, England won’t know what they’ve lost until it’s gone

Alastair Cook brings to an end his illustrious
Updated 04 September 2018
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As Alastair Cook exits international stage, England won’t know what they’ve lost until it’s gone

LONDON: As Alastair Cook gets ready to exit the international stage, one cannot help but be reminded of the old adage: “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.”
This writer called for Cook to step down earlier this year after a disastrous Ashes campaign. And as soon as England’s leading Test run-scorer announced his retirement from the international scene on Monday, this writer got his wish. But it comes with a definite tinge of sadness.
Cook’s ability was not a natural one — he worked hard at his game. Anyone who knows cricket could see his was not an inherent technique, but one crafted by hours in the practice nets and sheer determination.
That hard work earned him the England captaincy, numerous famous wins and a position among the game’s pantheon of greats. With more than 12,000 Test runs, a host of records broken throughout his career and almost universal respect, Cook will leave the game as one of its legends.
But his retirement, while arguably coming six months too late, has arrived at a good time for Cook personally, as well as the England team. The Essex left-hander has been in bad form in recent months. While cruel to call him a “walking wicket,” he has not contributed enough to warrant his position as opener for a while. The England selectors, too, will no longer have to nod to his past achievements and will be able to fill his place with a handful of County Championship players currently far more deserving of an England call-up. By stepping down before he became a shadow of his former self, Cook has ensured that his considerable legacy will not only be remembered and appreciated on English shores from Chester-le-Street to his home ground of Colchester, but also by cricket fans from the Caribbean to Christchurch.
Worryingly for England, for all his recent faults, Cook represents one of the last examples of an ever-more-extinct breed — cricketers untainted by the T20 era, who understand the meaning of “digging in” and protecting a wicket, something the current crop of youngsters clearly do not. Although it will be a winning series, England’s recent matches against India have brutally highlighted how inadequate the batting order is at staying in and building decent scores.
In Cook, England had one of the last bastions of an orthodox technique, of mental resolve, of old-school batsmanship. With his departure, it remains to be seen if England will produce a player with the same fortitude and dedication to the craft of Test cricket batting, simply because there is not the talent of his kind coming through.
England’s upcoming fixtures against Sri Lanka and the West Indies should not challenge the frailty of their top order too much. But, looking beyond next year’s ODI World Cup and in the face of much tougher Test series against the likes of Australia and South Africa, one has to wonder how much England will miss a player of his caliber, stature and class.
In this writer’s humble opinion, it will be quite a lot.


Petra Kvitova positive ahead of Dubai final against Belinda Bencic

Updated 22 February 2019
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Petra Kvitova positive ahead of Dubai final against Belinda Bencic

  • World No. 4 wins third three-setter of the week beat Hsieh Su-wei and claim place in the final.
  • Swiss star Bencic deals a forehand smash to Svitolina's chances of unprecedented hat-trick.

LONDON: If Petra Kvitova does get her hands on the Dubai trophy against Belinda Bencic on Saturday, she will be quick to admit she did it the hard way.
The two-time Wimbledon champion was once again made to toil at the Aviation Club as she finally overcame Hsieh Su-Wei 3-6, 6-2, 6-4. It was her third three-setter in four days and came about as much through sheer grit and determination as any superior groundstrokes or serves.
“Yeah, it was (tough),” the Czech said.
“It was a tough one, for sure. She really didn’t give me anything for free.
“It was a tough first set. I’m glad that I was able to came back in the second. Anyway I didn’t play great at the end of the first.”
Coming into the event the world No. 4 admitted she was undercooked and in need of some game time. While, in hindsight, the three-setters against Katerina Siniakova and Jennifer Brady in the first two rounds probably did her some good, another match that went the distance was probably not in the ideal script for the 2013 Dubai champion.
But Hsieh is a tricky opponent and she proved it once again on Centre Court. The world No. 31 hits two-handed shots off both sides and was trying to beat her fourth top-10 seed of the week. That included wins over Angelique Kerber in the third round and Karolina Pliskova in the quarterfinals.

Bencic will try to upset Kvitova in Saturday's final at the Aviation Club (AFP) 


She started off in much the same vein as she had finished against Kerber and Pliskova, hurrying Kvitova around the court and making life as uncomfortable as possible under the hot Dubai sun.
“She’s very tricky,” Kvitova said about Hsieh, who grabbed five games in a row to take the opening set and go up 1-0 in the second.
“I didn’t really play the best at the end of the first set. But I calmed down afterwards a little bit,” Kvitova said.
“With Hsieh, I need to be a little bit patient. ... It’s not really that easy to make those winners against her.”
While she has 
not consistently displayed her A-game this week it should come as no shock that Kvitova has made today’s final. It was the second seed’s 17th victory of 2019 — a feat bettered by no one — and it will be her third final of the season and 35th of her career. She revealed that her presence in the showdown is thanks to her mental toughness and she admitted that after a long week she will have to draw on that a lot today.
“I think I’m pleased with my kind of mental focus after losing the first set, that I was more calmer when I came back and played from the beginning of the second set,” Kvitova said.
“I still kind of felt that I can do that somehow — it was something weird.
“I’m a bit tired right now, to be honest. I have a final, so I don’t know how I going to recover. Hopefully I have a few hours to do something with me.”
Of her sparkling form so far this year she said: “It’s a bit weird, to be honest. I didn’t really expect anything like that. Well, to be honest, I didn’t expect anything, which I already achieved this year. For me, everything is just bonus.
“As I mentioned, the tennis, it’s a bit like escape this week. This is unbelievable to be in the final when I’m escaping from something. Yeah, very interesting.”
In the other semifinal Bencic once again upset the odds to overcome world No. 6 Elina Svitolina 6-2, 6-3, 7-6. The Swiss went into the clash as the underdog, but from the off the world No. 45 was aggressive and deservedly won.
In doing so she ended Svitolina’s 12-match winning streak in Dubai and ended the two-time defending champion’s hopes of becoming the first woman to win three Dubai titles in a row.