Lancashire’s Jimmy Anderson believes he could never have become England’s all-time leading Test wicket-taker without Alastair Cook’s help.
Cook will retire from international duty after the fifth and final Test against India, that starts at The Oval on Friday.
And pace great Anderson, out on his own in England terms with 559 Test wickets and counting, hailed the former skipper’s impact on himself and those around him.
“He’s probably the most driven person I’ve ever met,” said Anderson. “His work ethic is phenomenal. He trains harder physically than anybody and works tirelessly in the nets.
“He is an incredible example to everyone and I include myself in that.
“I don’t think I’d have achieved what I have without Cooky, not just as a colleague and captain but as a friend and someone I look up to. I’ve always tried to follow his example.
“As a cricketer, he is the consummate professional. As a bloke, he is down to earth, loyal and caring.”
Cook has racked up an England record 12,254 runs in 160 Tests, with 32 centuries, and now has the chance to bow out on his own terms, aged 33.
Anderson admitted the England squad struggled to keep emotions in check when the Essex star explained his decision.
“It’s not often that you get a bunch of blokes moved by something,” said Anderson.
“But there were a few lumps in throats on Sunday evening because we’ve all been through so much together.
“Cooky had to keep his speech quite short because of the emotion.
“I was surprised and sad when he told me in Nottingham.
“But he says he knows the time is right and we all have to respect his decision.”
Meanwhile, former England head coach Andy Flower believes Cook could be retiring from international cricket too early.
The man who made Cook England captain feels he could have kept going longer.
Flower said: “I’m not so sure it’s the right time to leave. If Alastair thinks it’s the right time then it is. I think he’s still got plenty left in the tank. But it’s his choice and he’s a decisive guy, he knows his own mind, and he’s made his decision.”
Cook’s former mentor Graham Gooch – whose England record of 8,900 runs Cook surpassed – believes England are losing more than a record-breaking opening batsman.
“He’s a hero to a lot of people and he’s entertained a lot of people down the years,” Gooch said. “I think if you’re looking for a role model, for an icon in sport let alone cricket, you couldn’t get a more upstanding person.”