By Sam Colvine
Former Head of History, Mr Cook, is a familiar presence around the corridors of Hampton School. Primarily, he is associated with insightful lessons on the First World War. However, he has been a crucial part of the cricketing landscape at Hampton for 35 years. A time that has seen its fair share of elegant cover drives and brutal cracks over the boundary rope.
Between 1990 and 1997, Mr Cook marshalled the 1st XI. From the moment he began his time at Hampton, he could sense the attitude towards the game was different, “here, I was aware that almost every game of cricket that the boys played lasted an entire afternoon; I couldn’t get my head around it.” His astonishment was amplified by his own cricketing background in which, during seven years of secondary school, he only played “one game of cricket that lasted more than 20 overs and scored zero.” This is just one of the reasons Hampton produces such great cricketers, two of whom have both won England caps: Zafar Ansari and Toby Roland-Jones.
Having finished coaching the 1st Xl, Mr Cook witnessed the development of these two Old Hamptonians. When asked if he expected them to become so accomplished, he said that typically “the real giants at schoolboy level never really get any better”, however “for sheer facts and figures, Zafar was always going to be a strong cricketer.”
Even though he gained more success during his time in test cricket, Roland-Jones didn’t offer the same certainty during school as Ansari. The general public may recognise an England-level bowler yet Mr Cook pictures a player who was “as much a batsman as a bowler.” Despite being a seamer who can swing the bat, during his tenure in the 1st XI “I wouldn’t have suggested that he’d be the quickest of the fast bowlers in his time.” Moreover, his brother, Ollie, may have been superior: “Is it fair to say his brother was a better school cricketer than Toby? I’ll just suggest that.” Evidently, Toby has proved us all wrong.
One thing people don’t know about Mr Cook is that during his early days at Hampton, he was flatmates with the current England assistant Head Coach, Paul Farbrace. According to Mr Cook, “he was a complete natural at coaching boys of any ages.” He knew “which boy needed an arm around the shoulder and which needed a kick up the backside.” After Hampton, Farbrace joined the ECB. Even then Mr Cook couldn’t say with certainty where he would end up: “He was certainly moving upwards, though I didn’t necessarily envisage him coaching national teams.” Mr Cook thinks highly of him: “He’s a wonderful coach: if you have that with the schoolboys there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have that with adults.”
In his time with Hampton cricket, Mr Cook has been a point of stability amidst change with the introduction of T20, different equipment and attitudes towards the game. Who knows what the coming years will bring?