Friday, 9 March 2012


Captain Cook and Admiral Strauss arrive at Botany Bay, 1769

A few weeks ago now, I wrote a heartfelt valediction for the impressive and avuncular Mohsin Khan, removed from office by the PCB on account of him not holding coaching certificates – ostensibly, at least –  and replaced with the Colombo-born Australian, Dav Whatmore, thus now starting out with his third Asian nation.

My honorific team – A Broth of Khans – didn’t feature the obvious choices. There was no Younus Khan, no Majid Khan, no Amjad Khan and, most controversially, no Imran Khan (nor Imraan Khan, for that matter). Instead, I opted for the mercurial talents – and idiosyncratic orthography – of, among others, Chaka, Shere, James, Oliver, Genghis and Jahangir.

I did speculate as to who they might play, these Khans. Smiths would be the obvious choice – craftsmen against rulers – or Patels, perhaps. Then it occurred to me: Cooks.

Too Many Cooks Spoil Broth of Khans – an unimprovable headline!

Or, if the game went the other way: Khan Cook, Won’t Cook (although I’m not entirely sure that makes sense). 

The selection panel – comprising John Torode, Gregg Wallace, and Michel Roux Jr (no relation to Garth le) – have chosen two sides. Here, first, are the reserves:

Captain Cook practises aboard the Endeavour

01: Alastair Cook (c)
England and Essex opener, Woody (Toy Story) lookalike, regular scorer of Daddy hundreds and, all things being equal, well on his way to monumental Test stats that may well see him pass 50 Test hundreds – perhaps more than wee Mr T. One thing is for certain: he can definitely stand the heat, not even breaking sweat, so has no need to vacate the kitchen.

02: Jimmy Cook
Every bit as prolific as his opening partner, SJ Cook was one of the game’s lost greats, sadly marginalized by apartheid. After playing unrecognised international cricket for SA Breweries and domestically for Transvaal, he finished with 3 prolific seasons at Somerset (amassing the small matter of 7500 runs and 28 hundreds) and squeezed in 3 post-readmission Tests in India.  

03: Geoff Cook
Head coach of Durham and steady opening bat for Northants. Benefited from one of the aforementioned Rebel Tours to South Africa, playing 7 Tests across which he averaged just 15 with a couple of half-centuries. He has been hugely successful as a coach and Director of Cricket in his native Durham as they won back-to-back County Championships in 2009 and 2010.

04: Stephen Cook
Son of Jimmy and holder of the record first-class score in South African domestic cricket: a colossal innings of 390 (54 fours, 638 balls) made in October 2009 for Lions in East London against an attack containing Makhaya Ntini, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Juan Theron and Johan Botha.

05: Frederick Cook
Born in Java, died in Gallipoli in 1915 aged 45, and between times turned out in a Test match for South Africa in Port Elizabeth against England.

06: Tommy Cook
One of Cricinfo’s Cult Cricketers for Sussex, he scored 20,000 runs in his 460 games between 1922-37, with 32 hundreds and a best of 278, which wasn’t quite good enough to earn an international cap. He also played football for Brighton and Hove Albion between the World Wars and was a hero in both: in the First as a naval officer and the Second as part of the South African air force.

07: Jeff Cook
Part-Aboriginal Sydneysider Jeff Cook came to England to play club cricket for Caverswall in Staffordshire in 1992 and was subsequently picked up by Northants, a good player of pace and handy medium-pacer whose problems against spin meant he didn’t quite fulfil his potential, averaging only 29.35.

08: Fraser Cooke (wk)
Nine games for Cambridge University. Surname Cook. Keeper. Gets in.

09: Simon Cook
The 40-year-old ex-New South Wales and Victoria seamer played two Tests for Australia in 1997, taking 7 wickets at 20 apiece against New Zealand as replacement for Glenn McGrath, including 5/39 in debut in Perth, before being discarded. That he failed to bag 100 first-class wickets indicates what a rare day in the sun that was (not literally, obviously, as it’s fairly sunny in that part of the world). 

10: Simon Cook
The ex-Middlesex and currently Kent workhorse seamer from Oxfordshire (à la Jack Brooks) with 341 career wickets at 32 has the all-too-predictable nickname Chef and is famous in the blogosphere – as of right now – for looking a little bit like Praveen Kumar.

11: Nick Cook
A steady roller of a left-arm spinner who benefitted from a lack of real quality in the spin department in England in the early 1980s to play 15 Tests, starting spectacularly well with 32 wickets in 4 games at 17.3, finishing with 52 at 32. He may also have bore a vague resemblance to Henri Leconte – with no discernible ass and a penchant for physical comedy  but that could be my memory playing tricks. Now an umpire.


However, this was only the second string. We felt that more versatility is needed, so here is THE REAL COOK XI (with the match against the Khans perhaps held in the Cook Islands).

Variously known as Pizzaman, Mighty Dub Katz and Freakpower to members of the pseudo-dance music community (i.e. beats for Indie kids on the Amyl Nitrate), a former member of The Housemartins (before they became The Beautiful South) and creator of the ‘Guns of Brixton’-plagiarising Number 1 hit for Beats International, he has shown he’s prepared to stoop to anything to be at number 1, so let’s let him grab his Weapon of Choice and take strike.  

Leftie who is not comfortable with spin, so best off on the front bench, as it were. Indeed, as Foreign Secretary he was opposed to unnecessary attacks (on Iraq) and thus probably well suited to an old style opener role. Robin’s cricketing career was stalked by controversy, though, inasmuch as there were persistent, widespread, pre-DRS doubts over his demise.

Came out at ‘first drop’ in the 4 x 400m, was a winner of several bronzes, and no doubt bore other tenuous biographical facts that would support the idea of one of GB’s greatest sprinters batting at number 3.

Not the somewhat buxom blonde tit-flasher that a Google image search reveals, but the soul singer who died tragically prematurely, aged just 33 (like one or two other figures from history), shot dead in a motel. Cooke is most famous to me for his rendition of ‘Wonderful World’ for the Levi’s 501 advert of 1986, which made it to number 1. In a cricket context, 501 is of course associated with Brian Charles, making Sam a born number 4.

Alastair Cook was born on Christmas Day, the day on which, coincidentally, James Cook found, coincidentally, Christmas Island – all his Christmases coming at once – on the way to Cook Islands (and they say no man is an island). As with his successor and his 766-run Ashes, the intrepid Yorkshireman stamped his mark on the land Down Under (a journey planned in 1766, almost Lincoln/JFK spookily), while his journals were as eagerly read as those of Steve Waugh 230 years later. To rumours that he’s only picked for his leadership, I say: who else will get the best out of…

The sometime obnoxious chain-smoking interlocutor of Alan Partridge (who famously pulled out of the simulacrum of his discontinued talkshow held at the Travel Tavern) was in fact the thoroughly ‘nice’ presenter of Crimewatch. All-rounder Sue may be middle of the team, but shes not middle-of-the-road, as proven by her spicy debut novel On Dangerous Ground, based on the abandoned Jamaica Test of 1998.

07: TIM COOK (wk)
If you’re the chosen successor of Steve Jobs as CEO of Apple, it’s to be assumed you’re considered a safe pair of hands. Never on the field without iPads, Tim is a core member of the team.   

In another life, the Arctic Monkey might well have opened the bowling for Yorkshire – another life in which he liked cricket, that is. Nevertheless, the guitarist is definite new ball material. Happy taking the lead, although he will also leave the chat to the rest of the attack, his anticipation has a habit to set you up ....for music – largely of the chin variety. As a result, there’s usually a little bit of trouble with t’oppo, often resulting in a ruckus, regardless of what’s gone before. He is a particularly devastating player in day/night games, by all accounts: they say he changes when the sun goes down…

Spinner who travels well, lots of flight. Has been known to go the journey but enough experience to handle any situation. Provides insurance for batting collapse, too.

We all know that, after his playing days were over, he became a commentator, most famously on the famous Good vs Evil cricket match (which caused a psychotic episode giving rise to his Cloughian football manager alter ego, Alan Latchley). However, this very steady seamer was also a top player, and very candid about the tour on which his sharp and incisive double act with Dud was spanked, turning the episode into a frank fly-on-the-wall documentary, Derek and Clive Get the Horn. He also satirised his lack of batting prowess in ‘One Leg (Too Few)’.

The burly, in-your-face Kiwi is a courageous new ball partner for Jamie Cook. Probing relentlessly, not afraid of getting hit, difficult to knock out of his stride: this is the character you need when backs are against the wall.

The former Chelsea winger, who set up the equaliser in the infamous 1970 FA Cup Final replay, just misses out on selection because of a tendency to bowl wides – well, he puts far too many crosses in the box. Then again, he is a wide man.

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