The regular professional sportsman is a overly confident specimen. An individual who craves the spotlight and yearns for the adulation of the masses.
Stephen Cook is the antithesis of this image. In fact, South Africa’s opener is arguably the most self-condescending cricketer on the international circuit at the moment. It’s not through any lack of motivation, but simply an understanding of the greater ideals in the world.
One day shy of his 34th birthday Cook may be relatively new to Test cricket, but he does have over a decade’s worth of first-class experience behind him. Coupled that with a young family, and the Highveld Lions captain certainly has the maturity levels to cope with the bad run of form that he endured on this Australian tour preceding the final Test in Adelaide.
“My family doesn't care whether I've scored nought or a hundred. My little daughter looks at me the same way today as she looked at me three weeks ago. It shows you what's really important,” Cook said after the completion of the day-night Test.
But like any father, Cook has to go out into the world and work. And Cook’s job is, of course, scoring runs at the top of the order for South Africa. He would not be at this level if he did not possess the ability - regardless of the lack of aesthetics it may have for outside observers - to score centuries at Test level as he showed on debut against England at the beginning of the year and now again here at Adelaide Oval on Sunday.
It’s no secret that Cook’s 104 not out will never be listed among the finest at a ground that has had legends such as Sir Donald Bradman and Graeme Pollock entertain its patrons over the years. But it certainly should be admired for the strength of character he displayed, especially in terms of what has gone before and the situation of his team.
Cook came within one wicket of carrying his bat through the South African innings when he was last man out on Sunday afternoon, allowing the Proteas to at least set Australia a target of 127.
“I've had a tough time the last couple of weeks, that's plain and obvious to say,” Cook said. “Before the series I knew things were going to be tough. I knew the Aussies had a good bowling line-up. And I got tested. By hook or by crook, I suppose - by hook or by Cook- I managed to come through.
“It wasn't a pretty show but I've never been a pretty cricketer,” Cook added “I know it's not classical. I know it's a little bit ugly. I know I crab across the crease. I've heard many descriptions of it. Unfortunately, this technique is the one I've got and the one I've used for a long time. It's gotten me so far - yes, I'll do little tweaks and try and make amendments - and by and large I stick with what I've got and try make it work for me.
“I don't think I'm ever going to jump onto the front foot like Ricky Ponting or move in and behind the ball like some other players. For me it's about getting my game plan going and keeping my disciplines going.”
Often players such as Cook are most appreciated within the confines of a dressing room for the value they add to the ultimate team cause. It appears to be no different here with captain Faf du Plessis saluting his veteran opener’s achievement.
“He’s a fighter; I’m proud of the character he showed‚” Du Plessis said. “It’s hardest when you’re under pressure to score a big innings like that.”
Cook will return home with his loving family after this trip here, but he will comfortable in the knowledge that he will be welcomed back with open arms by his “other family” when the home series against Sri Lanka starts on Boxing Day.