Sir Alastair Cook: County players should avoid focusing solely on 'The Hundred'
“There are probably only be 80/90 places available to play in The Hundred so it is going to be tough to get gigs and only the elite will be rewarded. If that is not going to drive you to train harder then nothing else will."
Last Updated: 12/04/19 9:02am
Sir Alastair Cook offers advice for young players on the brink of breaking through for England, warns against focusing solely on 'The Hundred' and talks about reconnecting with Ravi Bopara in part two of our exclusive interview.
Sir Alastair Cook, fresh from a winter of rest and rejuvenation, cannot mask his excitement when he speaks about reconnecting with his team-mates at Essex.
England's all-time leading run-scorer now shares a dressing room with younger team-mates on the cusp of breaking into the international set-up.
Players like fast bowler Jamie Porter and batsman Dan Lawrence are eager to make their mark in the early part of summer to push their cause for a potential Ashes call-up.
Cook, with over 12 years of international experience behind him, insists though that his fellow players' attentions are best of remaining on Essex.
"The biggest thing is to not ever look too far ahead," he told Sky Sports. "The problem is when your name gets pushed into the selection round and people start talking about you for England, you can quickly get distracted.
"For a lot of players their form actually dips when they get spoken about as a potential candidate, they suddenly have a couple of bad games.
"For the guys who are pushing for international cricket it has got to be at the back of their minds.
"It has got to drive them to do extra training and work incredibly hard, harder than the guy next to them, but when they are playing for Essex they have got to score the runs and take the wickets for the team.
"They need to concentrate on the game they are playing because that is the most important thing and everything else tends to take care of itself."
It is a sentiment Cook echoes when he speaks about the new domestic competition 'The Hundred' that will commence in the summer of 2020.
There will be eight franchises with squads of likely 15 players, and with three overseas players available for each team to select many county players will miss out on one of the lucrative contracts available.
It undoubtedly heightens the pressure on players to perform in this seasons white-ball competitions to showcase in full their talents.
However, Cook believes concentrating too much on producing this year for gains next year is the wrong way to be successful.
"With the new Hundred ball situation it is obviously a big change over the next couple of years," he explained.
"Everyone knows the opportunities out there and it is going to be an opportunity for the elite, for the people who are a step above the next county player.
"There are probably only be 80 or 90 places available, so it is going to be tough to get gigs and only the elite will be rewarded. If that is not going to drive you to train harder then nothing else will.
"You can see guys thinking 'I could do this or that' and they quickly forget that what is currency is runs and wickets and you can get distracted by a lot of off-field stuff.
"People are thinking 'if I do well this year, next year will be taken care of' but actually if they do well this year it will be great for them and if they start thinking about the future they will come unstuck."
After speaking with friends and former international players as he contemplated retirement last year, Cook realised a return to County Cricket was his way forward.
Now, as one of the senior players in the Essex squad there is plenty of advice for him to impart, but equally the 34-year-old is excited by the prospect of reconnecting with old friends.
Within the dressing room at Chelmsford the former England captain has lifelong pals, like Ravi Bopara, who he has played with since they were teenagers.
"When I made the decision last summer I spoke to a couple of people and a few of them said they needed to finish and others said they wished they could have played a couple of season in County Cricket," Cook said.
"It is a big thing from everything in your life driving cricket, which is a huge commitment just in time in general, to suddenly having none of it and they found that strange.
"The transition period for me, the stepping back slowly, I think will work really well so I can get used to a new phase in life.
"I haven't worried too much about it, what will be will be over the next couple of years with The Hundred and the future.
"I am looking forward to this season and having my full focus on Essex, enjoying the county set up again and spending some time in the dressing I really enjoy.
"People like Ravi I have played with since I was 12 and we have a lot of memories. Our careers have happened across the same time, although they have gone in slightly different ways, and it is great to have another season with him."