Alastair Cook: Ashes is biggest stage for England
England captain Alastair Cook says cricketers will be defined by their Ashes performances.
Last Updated: 10/07/13 8:00am
Cook will lead his country in a Test match against Australia for the first time, having twice helped to beat England's oldest enemy under the stewardship of Andrew Strauss.
It was in the historic success in Australia in 2010/11 - England's first down under in almost a quarter-of-a-century - that Cook announced himself not merely as a dependable Test opener but a potential great.
He announced himself in the world game by plundering a near all-time Ashes series record 766 runs at 127.66 in five Tests.
"I think you are remembered for your Ashes performances," he said on the eve of the 2013 Ashes opener at Trent Bridge on Wednesday. "What happened in 2010/11 did change me as a cricketer, gave me a lot of confidence that I could perform at the highest level against a very good side under huge pressure.
"That's where you want to test yourself, and I probably hadn't achieved that in my career up to that point. I think it can change lives and careers. Luckily I've managed to kick on from that moment, and I see no reason why that can't continue."
Cook is hoping to revisit those glories, in a home series England will begin as overwhelming favourites before travelling to Australia for the return at the end of this year.
"In eight weeks' time, I'd love to be sitting at The Oval having won the Ashes," he added. "That's the ultimate aim as an English captain.
"You join a very elite band of cricketers who could say that. But we need to play well, withstand a lot of pressure, play with a lot of skill and win those crucial moments."
Cook has also backed new opening partner Joe Root to deliver. The 22-year-old Yorkshireman has been promoted from No 6 to face the new ball in place of the dropped Nick Compton and Cook says he has already shown enough in his short international career to suggest he can be a success against Australia this summer.
"He's handled himself in every situation fantastically well since making his England debut," Cook said.
"What's impressed everyone is he has always batted the situation fantastically well, so whether it is a one-day game in which he needs to score quickly or to see the side home, he's changed his style.
"I can see no reason why he can't handle himself. He's a fantastic young player, yes he's got a huge amount of improvement to do, but I think he'll be fine."
The main competition for England places looks to be who will take the final seamer spot, with Tim Bresnan and Steven Finn the likely candidates to join James Anderson and Stuart Broad in the side.
Cook refused to disclose who had got the nod, although his answer did suggest they have made their decision and will not be waiting to see conditions in the morning.
"We're very happy with the composition of our side and we're lucky we have a strong squad to choose from," he said.
Cook is also relishing the chance to take on the Australians as captain for the first time.
"Everyone's desperately excited. There are a few nerves floating around. But I feel experienced as a cricketer and a captain.
"I feel experienced as a cricketer and captain and in the last six months I've grown into the role quite nicely. I've got a huge amount of learning to do, but the only time you can do that is out in the middle, in those situations."
The Essex left-hander also believes his team are comfortable with the tag of pre-series favourites.
"It sits well," he said. "We've been favourites before and coped well. We don't pay too much attention to what's going on in the other dressing room. We try to concentrate solely on ourselves.
"We've always known it's going to be one hell of a battle in these five Test matches, Australia have got some fine, fine cricketers and we're going to have to be at our absolute best to put them under pressure and to win the game. I'm sure they see it the same.
"Yes, we'd like to win the toss, but it's how you play which is the most important thing."