Power and comfort of Jaguar hit Alastair Cook for six
England opener Alastair Cook is currently ranked as the fifth-best batsman in the world behind such legendary figures as Sachin Tendulkar and Jacques Kallis.
His Test average every time he comes to the crease for England is just below 50 and he has been in scintillating form since the start of the 2010-11 Ashes tour of Australia. During England's series win there, he scored a whopping 766 runs and is the youngest Englishman to reach 5,000 runs at Test level.
This summer, he is getting the chance to test himself against the likes of Tendulkar and his world champion India side in a four-match Test series between the two nations.
As Cook faces so many tours with England at Test and one-day level (he is also England's captain in limited-over cricket), the 26-year-old does not get as many opportunities to drive as he would like.
But, when he does, it is at the wheel of a Jaguar XFR, which he has had in his possession since the start of the year.
"It's a great car," is Cook's take on it. "It's powerful, it's sleek, it's got a beautiful interior and it's really comfortable to drive.
"The other bonus is that it fits all my cricket gear in as well, and we cricketers can have a lot of clobber with us."
The British marque seems an appropriate fit for a man predicted to be the future England Test captain, particularly as the incumbent, Andrew Strauss, also drives one.
"It's a classic British brand so fits in well with the English cricket team," he says.
Generally, he only uses the car to take him to and from cricket training with Essex or else for international duty with England.
But he has had the opportunity to hurtle around a track in a Jaguar at top speed, as he did last year in an XJ at the company's Midlands base in England. On that occasion, he was put through his paces by former Formula One driver Martin Brundle, along with Strauss and fellow England batsman Eoin Morgan.
When asked who came out on top, Cook smiles: "Me, of course! Well, there were no lap times or anything like that, it was all subjective, with Martin choosing the best driver, which was obviously me."
Cook made his county cricket debut two years before he could even drive, so he used to rely on his parents to travel to and from training and matches.
They could not afford to buy him a car but a family friend stepped in to help. "My best mate's dad lent me an MG Rover to drive for a couple of months," he recalls. "It wasn't mine so I was conscious about not breaking it, but I must say I absolutely loved it."
Aside from his Jaguar, the only other driving that Cook does is on his girlfriend Alice's family farm. "I like to help on the farm so I'll hop on a tractor and roll a field with it," he says. "It's a good way to take your mind off a match, or cricket as a whole."
If he could have any car, Cook knows for definite what it would be. "It would have to be a red Ferrari," he says. "I don't mind which one but it's hard to look past a Ferrari as the ultimate car out there. If it wasn't a Ferrari then I might fancy something else quick, like a [Pagani] Zonda or something."
Such cars might seem an unlikely pick for Cook, who was recently criticised by former England batsman Mike Atherton for his slow approach to batting. He even went as far as to call Cook "a plodder".
Away from cricket, Cook loves the speed of Formula One. His brother, Adrian, is a complete F1 nut and that love has rubbed off on Cook.
"It's quite hard to fit in time to watch the races as there's so many of them and they tend to clash with when we're playing cricket," he says. "But watching F1 was a big part of growing up.
"Even now, my younger brother keeps me informed about what's going on, helps me to understand what a complex sport it is and, over the last few years, I've really begun to enjoy it a lot more."
Much to his brother's envy, Cook was a guest of the Red Bull team at the recent British Grand Prix and had the opportunity to meet Red Bull duo Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber.
The pair were upstaged in the race by Fernando Alonso, not that Cook was unduly concerned. "As good as the Red Bull hospitality was, I was cheering on the Brits: Jenson Button, Paul di Resta and Lewis Hamilton," he says. "Red Bull can't blame me for that, surely."
Published: August 19, 2011 04:00 AM