Spectator sport

Alastair Cook is world class. Steven Gerrard isn’t

26 July 2014

9:00 AM

26 July 2014

9:00 AM

This time last year, England’s cricketers were 2-0 up against Australia, two thirds of the way towards their third consecutive series victory in sport’s longest-established international contest. Not quite top of the world, they were nevertheless a good team in the prime of life. The winter before, they had beaten India on their dusty pitches, quite an achievement.

What a falling-off there has been. Since the turn of the year, England have lost Graeme Swann, Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen, three senior players, to retirement, mental fragility and banishment. They have also lost seven of their last nine Test matches, the latest against India at Lord’s by 95 runs after they had won an important toss.

Another senior player, Matt Prior, the wicket-keeper, announced after the match that he was standing down to get himself properly fit, which begs the question: what was an unfit player doing in the side? It all leaves Alastair Cook, the beleaguered captain, in a pickle. Out of form himself, Cook is not one of life’s natural leaders. Now he must learn to score runs again at a time when England have forgotten how to win.


There was a time when Cook scored runs, big runs, every time he picked up his bat. The Essex opener made a century on his Test debut eight years ago, and has since added 24 more. No Englishman in history matches his record of 25 Test centuries. This is not a duffer we are talking about. Here is a batsman who has proved himself to be, in that much-abused phrase, world-class.

As Cook was labouring at Lord’s, another captain of England took the decision to stand down. Steven Gerrard led the side in 38 of his 114 appearances, but it cannot be said that he was a world-class footballer. A fine player for Liverpool certainly, but he was found wanting at the highest level, as England footballers generally are.

To understand how far he fell short of the standards required to be a footballer of true world class, Gerrard has only to study the performance Sebastian Schweinsteiger gave in the recent World Cup final. The Bayern Munich midfielder was superlative as Germany beat Argentina to win their fourth World Cup. No matter what the flatterers of the telly may say, this country does not produce footballers of the first rank. The last England player to give as much to the team as Schweinsteiger does, game in game out, was the late Alan Ball, who won his last cap in 1975. Gerrard, good player though he is, would not get into the German team. Not a single Englishman would.

In cricketers, thankfully, we are not short of talent. Although they have struggled recently there is no doubting the high talent of James Anderson, Ian Bell, Stuart Broad and Cook. In Joe Root, the 23-year-old Yorkshireman, England have an batsman who may graduate to greatness, and the young men who have come into the side this summer have all contributed with runs and wickets.

For true world class, the man of the hour is Rory McIlroy. The Ulsterman, not yet 26, won a superb Open championship at Hoylake. It was his third triumph in one of the four ‘majors’, which leaves only the Masters at Augusta to complete the set. No other European golfer has ever won more than two of the four, so the Irishman is charting his course towards immortality. Sometimes we forget just how good top sportsmen and women are. McIlroy’s Hoylake adventure served as a necessary reminder.

Roger Alton is away.

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Show comments
  • Frank Tank

    Sorry, but an extremely misinformed article once again. The reason Gerrard has appeared a shadow of himself while playing for England is not because he’s “not world class”, (he has proven that he very much is, world class in huge domestic and European games for Liverpool). Its because of the horrifically dull and hapless tactics employed by successive England managers who have all either played him totally out of position or without adequate roles being performed around him. Hodgson being one of football’s true dinosaurs, is a perfect example of this. Quite apart from tactics, Gerrard was obviously not great in Brazil, and it is clear that at 34 his powers have begun to fade, but to suggest the man who’s performances on stages like the Champion’s League Final has had the likes of Zidane, Cruyff and Maradona cooing with admiration is not, and has never been world class is frankly idiotic.

    • Matthew Stevens

      Nonsense. Utterly deluded nonsense.

      In Brazil we once again shoehorned him into a makeshift defensive-midfield role, the one position he could realistically attempt to play; even sticking Henderson in alongside him as his minder in an effort to try and cover for his lack of pace and composure on the ball. The man has never been able to play so much as a one-two or pass/control quickly and accurately with both feet, so he dropped further and further back to try and whack the hopeful Hollywood pass out 60 yards to cover for both of these deficiencies.

      Throughout his time in an England shirt, Gerrard has been repeatedly abused by actual World-Class midfielders like Zidane, Rui Costa, Schweinsteiger, Pirlo, Xavi and Iniesta and the fact that the English media have persisted with the nonsense about him being anywhere close to that category of players has been a genuine handicap on the England team throughout Gerrard’s career.

      Gerrard has always been good, but nowhere near World Class.

  • Pafff

    Why compare Gerrard with Cook? In his prime, any coach at the biggest of clubs would snatch Gerrard…. By the way, Gerrard is known by hundreds of millions of people around the world but Alastair Cook? First time I hear about him

  • Hugh

    This article is so misguided I actually had to laugh. It is written by an individual who by his own admission hates football! I think I would rather take the opinion of one of the greats of the game called Zidane. He says that Gerrard is one of the greatest players the game has seen. More so than cricket, football is a complete team game. Very rarely does one individual win a game in football as opposed to cricket where a devastating spell of fast bowling or spin can turn the match on it’s head. Gerrard has been surrounded by fairly mediocre players during his time with England. In addition, he has recently had as manager, Roy Hodgson, arguably the most conservative and boring manager in world football. Co-incidentally, the writer claims to list Hodgson as a good friend! I rest my case.

  • Happychappy

    Moronic conclusions by the author of this piece. That you would believe that the international game is the highest level shows the lack of brain power you have. The same could be said of Messi who doesn’t and didn’t perform to his club standards for Argentina. To say he has not been world class belittles his performances over his career that made every club in the world want him in their team, judging him on recent performances or against his own high standards of 5-10 years ago shows a lack of class from you.

  • Hugh

    One more thing. Gerrard in his prime would have got into any team in the world. He is no longer in his prime, so that comparison is odious to say the least. Finally, if you want to use the writers ill conceived logic, there isn’t a team in the world that would include Cook in their line up right now!

  • Joggie Taute

    To be honest this is totally idiotic what a load of rubbish and waste of time.

  • Sultz

    What a ridiculous article. So misinformed it’s unbelievable! No cricketer is a global star because cricket is not a global game. It’s played by a few ex colonies and that’s about it. The champions league ( which gerrard won) is is easily on a par with international football whereas club cricket is nowhere near the level of international cricket. Cricket is still trying to copy the set up of football to try and engender the same popularity as football with projects like the IPL. As we call know it trails way behind football.

    • tjamesjones

      and now you can learn something: cricket is the number one sport for a comparable amount of the world population than football. those few ex colonies, in particular india, pak and bangladesh, have a total population larger than south america and europe, the two centres for soccer.

      • Sultz

        Hahaha I take it you’re from the same school of thought as the author. Cricket is played by 10 test nations and 16 or so who play the one day game. Compare that to football played by over 200 countries and is the most popular sport in the world.

        Hope you learned something

        • tjamesjones

          wow that’s amazing

          • Sultz

            The evidence depends on your definition of global. You choose to see it as a product of population whereas I see it as the number of countries across the…erm…globe that take part. 200vs 10 is quite damning evidence in my opinion.

            Btw football is one of the most popular sports in china and the Far East so I guess the population argument is pretty strong too

          • tjamesjones

            So you could say that only countries with a total population of 2 billion people have cricket as their number one sport. Perhaps that means you can dismiss it, I don’t know, I wouldn’t feel that was a very good argument. Is it a very good argument? I don’t even see why you are trying to make that argument, surely your real contention is that Gerrard is wolrld class despite England’s poor performances.

          • Sultz

            My original point was that cricket is incomparable to football in its status as a global game. The assertion was that therefore to compare England’s cricket captain and football captain is ludicrous when trying to establish how “world class” a player is. (Especially when the article clearly didn’t take into consideration gerrards pursuits as a club player on the world stage for which he is very clearly regarded as world class.)

            Just because there are 1.7billion people in three countries of the subcontinent you seem to think that cricket is therefore on a par with football?! It’s almost as good as saying the baseball World Series is actually representative

          • tjamesjones

            Cook was credibly one of the best batsmen in the world for a period (now passed), and on that score I think he is world class. (Granted, that we’re counting as worthy of world class sports played in countries with only 2 billion population – a higher bar and he’s out, no argument from me there). Gerrard really hasn’t delivered on the international stage, which is a fair place to make a comparison as it’s from that stage Gerrard has just retired. Having not ever really been world class. Meaning for instance there was no period when he swept all before him.

            Despite your protestations, I think the article has legs.

          • Sultz

            Many would argue the champions league final of 2005 was a period where gerrard swept all before him. As mentioned by other posters there are plenty of confounding factors regarding his performances in an England shirt.

            As confirmed by everyone else posting on here (apart from our spiritual healer friends) this article is ridiculous!

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    Are you passing through any of these problems,

    DO YOU NEED YOUR EX BACK VERY FAST

    DON YOU WANT YOUR LOVER TO LOVE YOU AS NEVER LIKE BEFORE

    ARE YOU SUFFERING FROM A LONG TIME SICKNESS

    ARE YOU FACING FINANCIAL PROBLEMS

    ARE YOU SEEKING FOR A GOOD JOB

    DO YOU WANT TO BECOME A HOUSE OWNER

    ARE YOU LOOKING FOR A FIRST CLASS GRADE

    DO YOU WANT TO COME OUT FIRST IN YOUR EXAMS

    ARE YOU A STAR AND YOU WANT TO BE SO POPULAR TO THE WHOLE WORLD

    DO YOU WANT TO BE RICH

    DO YOU WANT YOUR BUSINESS TO KEEP MOVING

    DO YOU HAVE A COMPANY OF ANY KIND AND YOU WANT IT TO EXPAND

    DO YOU WANT YOUR HUSBAND OR WIFE TO KEEP TO YOUR WORLD

    ARE YOU FACING ANY MARITAL PROBLEMS

    ARE YOU FINDING IT DIFFICULT TO GET PREGNANT FOR YOUR HUSBAND

    ARE YOU EXPERIENCING MISCARRIAGES ANY TIME YOU TAKE IN

    DO YOU WANT TO COMPETE IN ANY LOTTERY GAME

    ARE YOU FACING HARDSHIP

    HAVE YOU BEEN THREATENED BY SOMEONE

    DO YOU WANT TO BE SUCCESSFUL IN ANY THING YOU LAY YOUR HANDS ON

    IS YOUR SON OR DAUGHTER BEHAVING STRANGELY

    ARE YOU FACING WITCH CRAFT MANIPULATIONS

    DO YOU WANT TO CAST A STRONG LOVE SPELL ON YOUR GIRL OR BOY FRIEND

    DO YOU NEED MAGIC POWERS TO DO ANY THING YOU WANT

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  • tjamesjones

    Wow, you’ve really upset some people here. I thought Gerrard’s header to Suarez was pretty world class.

    • Sultz

      Cooks batting performances have been pretty world class too recently. Not to mention his captaincy. How long since England won a test match?

  • Sameer P. Sarkar

    Roger Alton, please come back soon. This idiot must be a Man Utd. supporter. Idiot, not because he is dissing Gerrard, but because his ‘World Class’ has not got over 28 runs in 26 innings..and lost the Ashes, lost to Sri Lanka at home and now going to bring more humiliation by losing to India at home…World Class indeed, unless it means losing to every country in the World is World Class. Do these imbecile stand-ins who has one week of fame during the summer holidays ever read the comments? They should be made to- as part of their contract. Revolting piece of dog-poo.

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