Sir Alastair Cook on Broad's SPOTY bid, Moeen and Bairstow returns, and lockdown grassroot heroes

·4 min read
Pic: PA
Pic: PA

SIR Alastair Cook has backed former England teammate Stuart Broad to take home this year’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.

Broad is among six nominees for the prize following a landmark summer which saw him become just the fourth pace bowler to surpass 500 Test wickets.

In all, the 34-year-old claimed 26 scalps at 13.41 in five Tests this year after starting the summer out the side – a true show of character according to his former skipper.

“Stuart would certainly be a worthy winner, both in terms of the year he’s had and his career as a whole,” said Cook, who watched Ben Stokes win the award last year.

“He was left out of that first Test of the summer, questioning whether it was time to move on – to then bounce back and deliver the goods like he did was incredible.

“Any recognition which keeps cricket at the forefront of people’s minds, particularly in these times, has to be welcomed. Stuart is a great ambassador for the game and England are very lucky to have him.”

The new-ball partnership between Broad and James Anderson, which Cook was able to call upon so often during his 59 Tests in charge of his country, shows no sign of slowing up.

Both have been named in the 16-man squad for the tour of Sri Lanka in January, with a four-Test series in India to follow shortly afterwards.

The pair will be joined by a couple of returning familiar faces on the Sri Lanka tour, with Moeen Ali and Jonny Bairstow handed Test recalls.

Moeen’s last Test came in the 2019 Ashes and Bairstow has not faced a red ball in an England shirt for 12 months but Cook believes both will have benefited from time away from the pressure cooker of Test cricket.

“Sometimes you need a break and they have had that,” Cook said.

“Moeen has been through the mill of international cricket, the good times and the not so good, but he is such a talented cricketer and his Test record speaks for itself.

“Their situations are quite similar in terms of going up and down the order a bit, fulfilling different roles.

“I feel a bit sorry for Jonny in that sense. He sees himself very much as a wicketkeeper-batsman, which is a very different mindset to playing just as a batter.

“But if you get in the team and start scoring runs, you’re very hard to leave out. Jonny will be desperate to do that and I think he will.

“I’ll be very surprised if Jonny doesn’t come back and score the runs we know he can. When he has a point to prove and that fire in his belly, he delivers the goods.”

Pic: PA
Pic: PA

Cook was speaking on the day the Kia Oval – the scene of his final Test as an England player, which he marked with a century against India in 2018 – became one of six iconic British sporting venues to be renamed for the day in honour of grassroots sports champions across the UK, in partnership with the National Lottery.

The ground became The Kia Shahidul Alam Ratan Oval to celebrate the efforts of the leader of Capital Kids Cricket, which uses cricket as a tool to change the lives of disadvantaged children and created a digital activity zone to keep kids active during lockdown.

“Cricket can look a very daunting sport to get involved in,” Cook said. “But you can do amazing things.

“I’ve played cricket with kids on a roof in the middle of London and it was just as competitive – no grass, a taped-up tennis ball and you’re away. You can play with limited facilities and have fun.

“For Ratan to keep kids in virtual contact through the pandemic and inspire them, especially in the most deprived areas of London, is fantastic and his name being on the Kia Oval is brilliant.”