England opener Alastair Cook says the team is focused on remaining at the top of the ICC Test rankings in 2012.
In an exclusive interview with Lords.org Cook discussed meeting the Queen, plucking turkeys, Graham Gooch and how he’s preparing for the year ahead.
2011 was an incredible year for Cook, and when asked what his highlight was, he was quick to answer:
“Without doubt winning the Ashes. The fact it hadn’t happened for such a long time, proved what a difficult task it was and to be able to contribute made it even more special”
Cook scored 766 runs in seven innings to anchor England’s first series win in Australia for 24 years. In doing so he went past 5,000 Test runs and became the second youngest batsman to reach the landmark after Sachin Tendulkar.
England have a busy 2012 ahead of them facing Pakistan, Sri Lanka, West Indies, South Africa and Australia. But the team’s approach is not going to differ wildly from 2011.
“We try not to look forward too much. We’ll focus on what we do next and that’s it. It’s something we did well last year.
"We’ll look to start well in January, and although we’ve achieved some good results, good sides get to number one; great sides stay there for a long time.
"We know how hard that will be, as there are some great teams out there. Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss will not let up on us though and the mentality in the squad is focused on staying at number one.
As for Cook, he intends to use his experiences of 2011 to get on the front foot from the word go.
"I have a lot of confidence from what I have achieved. You have to remember how you’ve achieved it – which in 2011 was a lot of hard work and determination.
"I think one of the things that pleased me about 2011 was that I started well and continued that good form throughout the year.
In July 2011, Buckingham Palace announced that Cook was to be awarded an MBE for services to cricket. The award was presented earlier this week and it proved to be a proud moment:
“It was very humbling to have been awarded one. To be able to go inside Buckingham Palace and meet the Queen was great. Having my Mum and Dad there made it very special”
Since the unsuccessful ODI tour of India the England players have had a rare break from the game, and Cook has used this time to get involved down on the farm:
“I haven’t had a two month break from cricket for a long time, so it’s been nice not to worry about the batting as much.
“My fiancé’s family have a farm so I’ve spent some time there, helping out with the turkeys for Christmas. If anyone wants a good turkey go to Watergatefarmturkeys.com (opens in a new window) - they are fantastic free range turkeys. Some of which I’ve plucked myself!
"I enjoy the farming lifestyle – I’m a bit of a country bumpkin really”
It was announced earlier in the week that Graham Gooch was to relinquish his coaching role at Essex to concentrate on England. Cook has worked with Gooch for many years and greeted this news with mixed emotions:
“Being an Essex fan it’s obviously very disappointing. But it was just impossible for him to do both roles.
"I’m sure it was a very tough decision for him as he’s an Essex boy through and through, but I know he’s still going to be involved with the club at some level.
"As an England player though, he’s been fantastic for us and I know all the England lads really appreciate him being around. The results from the batting unit at the moment speak for themselves, and long may that continue."
To round of a truly exceptional year, Cook has been nominated for the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year and he's clear on who cricket fans should vote for:
"Get voting! It’s a huge honour to be even nominated and I’m sure it will be a great evening. If you care, vote for a cricketer, but not that Middlesex/London boy Strauss!"