Alastair Cook appears uncertain how much longer he will remain England captain, but he is ready for one new chapter when teenager Haseeb Hameed makes his debut as his latest opening partner in Rajkot.
Hameed will become England’s youngest ever opener, at 19 years and 297 days, when he accompanies his skipper to the crease in the first of five Tests against India over the next six weeks.
Cook is convinced of the credentials of the Lancashire batsman, albeit after only 20 first-class matches, and made that abundantly clear as he announced Hameed’s selection – in place of Ben Duckett, who will drop down to No 4 – as his 10th new partner since Andrew Strauss retired four years ago.
England’s captain is less sure, however, how many more times he may lead his country.
On the eve of his record-breaking 55th match in charge, going one above Michael Atherton, Cook spent several minutes of his preview press conference accounting for his remarks in an interview with The Cricketer magazine which gave rise to fresh confusion about his continued longevity in the role.
Cook described some of the coverage as a “mountain out of a molehill”, explaining he had merely tried to give an honest answer to a question – specifically that he does not know, and will continue to review the situation series by series.
“When someone says ‘how long do you see yourself captaining for?’, you don’t really know, do you?” the 31-year-old said.
Cook lost the one-day international captaincy shortly before England’s debacle of a campaign in the last World Cup – and that experience seems to have taught him once and for all to take nothing for granted.
“Ever since what happened in Sri Lanka, just before the World Cup, I’ve been very open with you guys – and very open with [England and Wales Cricket Board director] Andrew Strauss.
“I’ve said we’ll take every series as it comes.
“So when someone asks you how long you go on for, I say ‘Well, I don’t know – it could be two months, which would be the end of this series; it could be six months, the end of the next one; or it could be two years’.”
Cook is thought to be open to finishing his Test career as a batsman without the cares of captaincy – something he has done on occasion and enjoyed back in county cricket in recent times.
“In the whole interview [with The Cricketer], I said I quite enjoy going back to Essex and standing at first slip not having to make the decisions - and just throwing a few ideas at the captain and seeing if he takes them.
“Then he [editor Simon Hughes] said, ‘Can you see yourself doing it for England?’ and I said ‘Yes, I could’. It’s probably a mountain out of a molehill.”
Back in the middle, Cook is excited about seeing what Hameed can do at the highest level.
Cook added: “You often wonder with a 19-year-old coming on tour whether he will be overawed by it – and he hasn’t been at all.
“He’s looked really good in the nets, the way he’s trained and gone about his business – even shirking 12th-man duties! – he’s more experienced than his 19 years suggest.”
England believe they have picked a player not just with huge potential, but one who is ready too.
“It’s probably come a year earlier than he would have thought, but that’s probably just the way he’s developed quickly,” Cook said.
“He’s one of those natural run-scorers.
“All through his age groups, every team he’s played in, whatever standard, he’s scored runs. He should be very proud, and we hope he can do well.
“Of course there will be tough moments for him in Test cricket, but I think this guy can play.”