When England take on India in the third Test at the historic Eden Gardens in Kolkata, two of their prominent names would be chasing history themselves. Tons at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium for Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen meant that both progressed to 22 Test hundreds. No English batsman has registered more than the above mentioned figure when it comes to Test centuries.
Before Cook and Pietersen joined the list, the record for most Test hundreds by an English batsman was jointly held by Wally Hammond, Collin Cowdrey and Geoffrey Boycott. Incidentally, both Hammond and Cook had 22 hundreds after 85 games. Hammond couldn’t add to his numbers as his 85 Test was his last one, but Cook has an opportunity to do go the extra mile. Considering the exceptional form that he has been in, that could very well happen in the current series.
The record of most Test hundreds by an Englishman has stood at 22 for a long while, and it is about time that it is broken. A few batsmen have come close in recent times, but no one has managed to breach the barrier. Andrew Strauss came excruciatingly close, but the pressure of captaincy took a severe toll on him, and he eventually finished with 21 hundreds, retiring after playing exactly 100 Tests.
Graham Gooch managed only 20 although he played as many as 118 Tests, but the fact was that he blossomed very late in his career, and he also suffered owing to many off-field issues. The only other player who came anywhere close to breaking the record was David Gower. He registered 18 tons in 117 games, and could have added a few more to his kitty, but retired prematurely in the early 90’s.
Coming back to Cook and Pietersen, their progress to 22 hundreds has been contrasting in every sense, but both have been equally effective in their own way. While Cook has been the industrious, no-nonsense opener ever since making his debut and even more so since taking over captaincy, Pietersen has been flamboyant, brash and adventurous to a t. As a result, while Cook has made news only for cricketing reasons, Pietersen has found himself embroiled in a number of controversies off the field. To his credit he has overcome each obstacle and has come out as a stronger player.
At the beginning of his career, most referred to Cook as merely a nudge and push player who did not possess the arsenal to last too long in Test cricket. However, not only has he made a name for himself as one of world’s best opening batsmen, but has also outdid much more talented players in the process. Similarly, not many gave KP a chance of recovering after the latest debacle featuring him and some members of the England team. But, he has returned and with a bang at that.
The tales of Cook and Pietersen demonstrate that players can follow contrasting paths yet land up on the same page in history – that of being on the verge of greatness.
--By A Cricket Analyst