For many people, Captain Cook is an 18th-century English explorer. Anyone familiar with cricket, however, might instead point to Alastair Cook, the 27-year-old batsman currently skippering England’s one-day side, and who, since scoring a century on his Test debut in 2006, has made the world stage his own. ShortList asked the Essex star how he keeps racking up record-breaking runs.
Do you have any unusual training methods?
I don’t, but our batting coach Graham Gooch does. He bowls at us using one of those ball slingers that people use to throw tennis balls to their dogs. We do a lot of batting against that.
What are the other advantages of using the ball slinger?
It’s quicker than throw downs, you can be more precise with it and, as a batter, I can hit a lot of balls in a short space of time. Bowlers can get tired quickly, especially Graham, whose throwing arm is getting slower and slower. It’s added another 10 years to his coaching career [laughs].
How do you prepare for the warmer, more humid conditions?
We played in Sri Lanka recently and it was more than 80 per cent humidity. The team was losing up to two or three kilos every two hours. So, if we’re playing for six hours, we need to make sure we start the day hydrated. At breakfast, I force down a litre and half of sports drink, even though it’s not a particularly pleasant thing to do at 7.30am. But you have to stay on top of hydration, otherwise you have no way of catching up.
You’ve previously said that you rarely perspire. Does that give you an advantage over other players in hot climates?
It does, because it means I can retain my body fluids more easily than others. When you’re dehydrated or struggling with cramp, it’s the concentration that goes first. And as a batter, I need to concentrate. A cool body certainly helps me.
How do you go about increasing your upper torso strength to generate the power you need as a batsman?
Over the past 10 years, the importance placed on fitness in the world of cricket has gone through the roof. Gone are the days of just doing an aerobic run of 30 or 40 minutes and then hitting the bench press. Batting is now becoming more about explosive energy and power, so the core is important.
What’s the most effective exercise for targeting the core?
A big set of jump squats will strengthen the core, providing you land with your posture straight and use the whole of your feet as you take off. I’d recommend doing between six and eight at a time, and repeat this about four times in a short space of time.
Our other core exercises focus on rotation. So we’ll catch a medicine ball from behind us, pass the ball around our backs at speed, and then turn and throw it back to the coach. You need to be flexible as well as strong.
You took the winning catch in the 2009 Ashes series. Do you spend a lot of time working on catching?
Yeah, a lot of it is done with bowling machines that have ramps, so the balls come off at different angles. You can move the ramps to affect where the ball drops, and even fire off a load at a time. You might drop a few, but it’s about learning how to catch the hard ones.
What’s the most hi-tech piece of equipment the team uses in training sessions?
We have jump mats that tell us how high we jump, and what speed we jump at. That comes in handy as it can help to determine whether you’re at the peak of your game. And sometimes we wear GPS vests to see how our heart rates are doing and what distances we cover during a game.
What does your post-workout routine involve?
After every session, whether we’ve been in the field or in the gym, we’ll always have protein. It’s important to grab a protein shake as soon as you finish training, as your body will have the fuel it needs to recover. And if your evening meal contains carbs, fruit, vegetables or more protein, you’re doing well.
Alastair Cook is an ambassador of the Austin Reed Q Club; qtheclub.co.uk
(Image: Rex Features)