England cricket captain Alastair Cook on hunting, tailoring and bathroom breaks
“Can you phone me back in 25 minutes? I’ve sheep on the back of the truck and I don’t have handsfree.” It’s the sort of cellular introduction Alan Partridge might be proud of; not, you imagine, that of an international cricketer whose skills are the envy of millions. But then, Alastair Cook isn’t your average England cricket skipper and so, on the back of the 28-year-old’s team’s Ashes triumph, ShortList patiently waited and duly called back.
Hi Alastair, did the sheep get back OK?
They did. The farming stuff is all to do with my wife’s side of the family. She looks after the sheep and I help out when I’m not playing cricket.
Do you have any other farm skills we don’t know about?
I haven’t milked a cow, if that’s what you mean. We have turkeys, sheep and crops to look after, so I’ve learned to do bits and bobs outdoors. I also go shooting whenever I can. Trying to fit shooting into my schedule is hard, as the seasons for it tend to be when I’m away on tour with the squad in winter.
With British sport being on such a high, does that put added pressure on you?
Not at all. Between the British & Irish Lions, Andy Murray and the high from the Olympics, it’s great that we’re having these special times. Watching other successes cannot harm anyone.
Despite trouncing Australia in the Ashes, do you feel annoyed by complaints that it was against a poor Australian side?
At the start of this summer, if you had told me we were going to win five of seven Test matches, I’d have snapped your hand off. I’m very lucky to be captaining such a strong England side, and those kind of comments go with the territory – I’ve just got to view them as people’s opinions. The bottom line is that we’ve just won the Ashes. That is what should be written about.
Is it true that the sledging was more full-on than usual this time?
Both sides played very hard, and you wouldn’t expect anything less in these games. We don’t give an inch, or expect an inch either. It’s a battle out there. Sledging is part of the game so, as a player, if you can’t handle a few words thrown at you, then you haven’t really got too much of a future in international cricket. If you have a weakness to a few words, then it makes the game a lot harder.
You’re known for your keen concentration skills during hours of batting. Does your mind ever stray to think about the farm?
[Laughs] If you’re thinking about farming, you’re not thinking about the ball coming at you at 90mph, so that’s not advisable. I have short, sharp concentration spans throughout a batting period, because you know you can’t afford to switch off as you’re looking to be out there for as long as you can.
As captain, have you ever had to give someone a rollicking?
I’m laidback, but there are times where you need things to be going right, and if you think that someone’s not doing what they should be doing, you need to speak your mind. This doesn’t necessarily mean I shout at people, it’s more about people taking advice on board.
What did you make of the headlines about a player urinating on the pitch at the Oval?
I’m not in a position to say anything, as I only remember drinking on the pitch that evening, not anything else. Still, it was a very special time and really great to have the whole squad out there at the Oval.
You’re set to play Australia in their home country later this year. Where will you be spending your downtime while you’re there?
Wherever there’s sunshine, hopefully. The Australians have a great outside life. Other than that, I’ll be playing darts – it’s a good way to pass the time on tour. I’m all right at it, actually. Everyone else plays on the Xbox, but I stick to my darts.
You’re a model for Austin Reed. What are your style essentials?
I’m a casual dresser, so a polo shirt and jeans is my go-to outfit. But I always have a smart suit handy in case I ever get the opportunity to dress up. It’s a shame the same can’t be said of [teammate] Jonathan Trott, who exclusively rocks blue flip-flops, shorts and a T-shirt – and it’s normally a baggy American T-shirt.
Any fashion blunders in your past?
Yeah, I’ve owned a few yellow T-shirts which, looking back on it now, didn’t look so great.
Alastair Cook is a Q Club ambassador, austinreed.co.uk
(Image: Austin Reed)