James Anderson column: Alastair Cook is driven, loyal and caring… England legend Cooky is an example to us all

IT IS the day after ­Alastair Cook made his emotional announcement to the other players and I’m staying at his house.

Right now, I’m looking out the window and I can see Cooky putting his daughter on the back of a pony and there are dogs around, wagging their tails.

 Alastair Cook has announced he will bow out after a 161st and final Test at The Oval

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Alastair Cook has announced he will bow out after a 161st and final Test at The Oval

He couldn’t be more relaxed and content. He has a fabulous lifestyle away from cricket with his farming and a lovely family. All is good in his world.

I’ve spent the day with him and he’s relieved his retirement is now out in the open.

Chef told a couple of us in confidence at Trent Bridge last week that The Oval would be his last match — but he didn’t tell the whole team until after our win in the Fourth Test in Southampton.

 SunSport columnist Jimmy Anderson hailed Alastair Cook after his pal announced he is to retire

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SunSport columnist Jimmy Anderson hailed Alastair Cook after his pal announced he is to retire
 Cook celebrates reaching 150 on day three of the Boxing Day Test during an Ashes whitewash Down Under in the winter

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Cook celebrates reaching 150 on day three of the Boxing Day Test during an Ashes whitewash Down Under in the winter

It’s not often that you get a bunch of blokes moved by something.

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.

So what to say about one of my best friends? Well, he’s probably the most driven person I’ve ever met. 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.

 James Anderson and Alastair Cook celebrate winning the Ashes at the SCG in 2011

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James Anderson and Alastair Cook celebrate winning the Ashes at the SCG in 2011

Alastair Cook retires from England Test Cricket after incredible career

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.

We’ve shared some amazing moments on and off the field, created great memories that will last for ever.

And just because we’re about to finish playing cricket together, I hope this doesn’t mean the end of our friendship. Our families are close, our kids get on well.

We’re big mates, but we’ve had fall-outs because we’re both stubborn.

We’ve gone days without speaking after we’ve disagreed about something, not necessarily anything to do with cricket, either.

It might be over something as trivial as our darts matches on tour. I might think he’s been lucky and storm off!

Really, though, I know it’s because he’s better than me.

I first played against Chef in 2005 shortly after he scored a double-century for Essex against Australia. It’s fair to say I gave him a few verbals.

The following winter we flew from the England A tour in West Indies to the full England tour in India.

It was a long flight and we sat across the aisle.

Cooky’s ice-breaker was something along the lines of: “The last time you spoke to me, you called me a ****.” We’ve been mates ever since!

He went straight into the England team and scored a century on debut in Nagpur.

 Alastair Cook won the Ashes four times during his time as an England opener

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Alastair Cook won the Ashes four times during his time as an England opener

I didn’t play in the game but I was there and saw it. We all realised straight away that he was a special talent and player.

The 766 runs he scored in Australia in 2010-11 were incredible. I’ve never seen someone in that sort of form for such a sustained period. He was utterly ruthless.

He’s right up there with the great England cricketers. He’s scored thousands more runs than anybody.

I think it might be a few years before people fully appreciate his achievements.

Cooky’s performances in the bleep tests are legendary.

This is where you have to do shuttle runs at an ever- increasing pace until you drop. It is as much a mental challenge as a physical challenge.

 Alastair Cook of England walks off at the close of play after making 244 not out during day three of the Fourth Test in the 2017/18 Ashes series

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Alastair Cook of England walks off at the close of play after making 244 not out during day three of the Fourth Test in the 2017/18 Ashes series

Other players would have finished and collapsed in a heap and, five minutes later, they were back on their feet cheering Cooky, who was still going. He is an absolute machine.

You wouldn’t coach his running style and the same with his batting style.

That’s just him, the mental side is what stands him out from the rest. It is his ability to be focused and single-minded on the task in hand.

Everyone can learn from that.

I’m sure he’ll get a great send-off from the crowd at The Oval.

He has a three-year contract with Essex so that’s the next few summers taken care off.

While right now, he and Alice have been preparing for the arrival of their third child.

England cricketers Alastair Cook and Jonny Bairstow preview launch of Foster's cricket game

IT IS the day after ­Alastair Cook made his emotional announcement to the other players and I’m staying at his house.