Alastair Cook on the Ashes, dealing with 'dark moments' and taking on New Zealand
"There has been a little bit in the papers over the last couple of days saying that I was close to quitting cricket during the Ashes - I wasn't close to quitting"
By Alastair Cook
Last Updated: 21/03/18 8:30am
In his first Sky Sports column, Alastair Cook reflects on the Ashes, explains why he was not on the verge of quitting, and looks ahead to a "big" Test series against New Zealand...
It's always a bit strange when you join up with a tour after the one-dayers, lots of the guys are getting over the ODIs and we're just doing a bit of training to start with. It's been a good four days, though, with the two two-day games.
They were a really good exercise, the first two days everyone was a bit rusty and the intensity was down a bit but in the second game we played a lot better, both as a batting group and as a bowling group.
There is always the argument of whether we should make it a first-class game to make it more competitive, but actually with only one four-day period it made sense to have two two-day games and just bat or bowl for the full 90 overs.
Yes, you miss a bit of the intensity of a first-class game but you gain a bit more in terms of more people getting a run out.
Credit to the New Zealand guys who we played against, it could have been a friendly game given there was nothing on it in terms of a result but those guys put in a really good shift and made it competitive, made it as though you were in a battle which was really good and beneficial to us.
It showed that New Zealand have got some very talented cricketers below their Test team.
It was a very useful run out, everyone got better, it was good for Rooty to score a century - he's talked about scoring hundreds and in any Test cricket you need someone to do that, so it was nice for him to warm-up with a big score.
There are a lot of unknowns going into the first Test because pink-ball cricket is so new. How will the ball play in certain conditions and on different grounds? It's exciting because Eden Park is obviously a great stadium to play at and being under the lights it gives it a bit of atmosphere.
No one is totally sure about how the ball will play but hopefully it'll be good fun. It comes down to which side plays well and adapts best to the conditions - there are obviously times with the pink ball when it can be difficult for batting and like in any Test cricket, it is about getting through those situations but it should be good.
Of course, the Ashes was a disappointment and this is our first Test since then. We came up against a very good side who thoroughly deserved to win. It's a hard thing to do to win an away Ashes series and not too many sides have done it. We just weren't quite good enough.
The result, 4-0, was deserved, they earned it but there were very tight moments in the games and we couldn't quite put a whole game together. Look at Brisbane, Adelaide too, and there were moments where it was very close and they managed to pull through.
Although the result at the end looks convincing, and it was, the games were a lot closer than that. Winning any Test series away from home is very tough now so we know what we have to do here in the next two games to beat a very good New Zealand side. This is why you play cricket, to challenge yourself to try and win away from home, as well as in your home Test matches.
There has been a little bit in the papers over the last couple of days saying that I was close to quitting cricket during the Ashes - these things don't always come out right.
I wasn't close to quitting, I was asked a question about how tough it was and it was a tough period of my career, I wasn't playing as well as I'd have liked.
Naturally, those questions about finishing are going to be asked, there were asked and I give an honest answer - "Yes, it was it tough and you do doubt yourself" - then the headline comes up that I was ready to quit.
That isn't the case.
Yes, it is tough and you go through dark moments but a lot of people who have played a lot of cricket go through those periods.
During those times you've got to trust yourself a bit and draw a bit of confidence from the fact that over 150 Test matches - and without wanting to sound arrogant - I've done it a few times and scored runs at the highest level.
Knowing that you have that record behind you is crucial and you have to try not to panic too much. Like most things, when you're playing badly, things often aren't as bad as you think and when you're playing well, you're probably not as good as everyone says you are.
There is always that happy medium, I've always kept myself somewhere in the middle. I just try to stay calm, trust my ability and try to keep doing the right things. You can't search for the magic answer because there isn't one, it is a combination of a lot of things - stay true to yourself and trust yourself.
Clearly when it is tough, you can doubt yourself a lot but it is putting those thoughts as far as you can to the back of your mind and concentrate on the important thing, which is the next ball coming down, and just trying to get in. That's batting, and at the top of the order against world-class players getting through the new ball can be quite hard work but I've done it in the past and hopefully I'll do it again in the future.
After such a difficult spell, it was nice to score those big runs in Melbourne and now we've got another big Test series to look forward to. It is only a couple of days away and I'm looking forward to playing and doing what I am meant to do, try and score big runs at the top of the order and set up wins - nothing in my career gives me more pleasure than doing that.
In the last couple of days I've been with Andre Adams, who used to play at Essex, and he's introduced me to a farmer up near Glen Murray. We've been up at the farm for a couple of days, checking out the animals on his farm and getting away from the cricket for a little bit.
New Zealand is obviously a beautiful country and, for me, with the family farm at home, it is very different and it was good to experience. Especially with modern tours being so short, so intense, you spend a lot of time in major cities in hotels and airports so to get out of town and see the country was really good, it was a nice couple of days.