The eleventh instalment in our new series where we compare two legendary cricketers from the same generation. Rather than necessarily settle the debate on who is ‘better’, this series attempts to illustrate who had a greater say in dictating his country’s cricketing fortunes. Along the way, you may also find a few facets of these players that are not necessarily discussed in conventional media.

This edition focuses on two of England’s batting titans – arguably their best since Geoffrey Boycott.


Alastair Cook vs Kevin Pietersen

A batting comparison in Test cricket



PARAMETER Alastair Cook Kevin Pietersen Maximum or
Highest (100%)
Number of Tests 140 104 Sachin Tendulkar (200)
Runs Scored 11,057 8,181 Sachin Tendulkar (15,921)    
Batting Average 46.45 47.28 Don Bradman (99.94)
Average runs per match 78.98 78.66 Don Bradman (135)
Percentage of team runs scored 15% 15% Don Bradman (25.32%)
Batting Impact 52 50 Don Bradman
Runs Tally Impact 60 59 Don Bradman
Pressure Impact 39 59 Peter May
Batting Impact in wins (min. 20 Tests) 46 41 Don Bradman
Impact at Home (min. 25 Tests) 55 59 Don Bradman
Impact Away (min. 15 Tests) 46 41 Don Bradman
Impact in Subcontinent (min. 15 Tests) 81 74 Cheteshwar Pujara
Impact in Aus/Eng/SA (min. 10 Tests) 46 42 Don Bradman
Impact in Ashes (min. 15 Tests) 43 33 Don Bradman
Failure Rate (min. 50 Tests) 43% 41% Steven Smith (26%)
Number of Series-Defining performances (once every 28 Tests) (once every 26 Tests) Inzamam-ul-Haq and 
Rahul Dravid (8)
Number of high impact performances 21 (once every 7 Tests) 15 (once every 7 Tests) Ricky Ponting (32)
Most dominant period in career November 2010 – December 2012 July 2011 – December 2012 n/a
Number of years as highest impact batsman 1 (2011) 0 Arthur Shrewsbury Snr. – 3
(1885, 1886, 1893)
Jack Hobbs – 3
(1912, 1914, 1926)
Len Hutton – 3
(1938, 1950, 1954)
Garry Sobers – 3
(1958, 1959, 1966)
Highest impact batsman in a match 15    11 Kumar Sangakkara  
(29 times in 134 Tests)
Highest impact batsman in a series   3 (in 41 Test series) 3 (in 31 Test series) Kumar Sangakkara 
(13 times in 56 Test series)

1) All parameters from ‘ Batting Impact ’ till ‘Impact in Ashes’ are expressed on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being the maximum for any player in Test history in that parameter. A player’s impact in a particular parameter is then expressed as a percentage of it.
Example: Don Bradman has the highest Batting Impact in Test cricket history. So he denotes 100 for that parameter. Alastair Cook’s and Kevin Pietersen’s Batting Impact are then expressed as a percentage of Bradman’s Batting Impact .
2) From ‘Batting Average’ till ‘ Pressure Impact ’, a minimum of 50 matches is considered as qualification. For all other parameters, the qualification is mentioned alongside.



With the bat, Alastair Cook’s influence on England’s Test history has been marginally greater than Kevin Pietersen’s (despite the latter’s batting average being slightly better).

Cook scored a higher proportion of runs and his impact in wins is better too. Furthermore, his impact in away conditions – especially in the subcontinent – is superior. In fact, among Englishmen, only Graham Thorpe has had a higher impact than Cook in the subcontinent.

Over the course of their respective careers, Pietersen absorbed more pressure and was also more consistent.

However, in the Ashes series – a benchmark for English and Australian cricketers – it was Cook who had a much higher impact than Pietersen.

Cook, whose career is still ongoing, has registered the most number of Series-Defining ( SD ) and high impact batting performances in England’s Test cricket history.

It is interesting that the most prolific phase of their respective careers coincided (2011-2012) – a period when England were the best Test team in the world.


Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen couldn’t have been more different. One was reserved and the other, flamboyant. The southpaw grafted for his runs while the right-hander enthralled audiences with his shotmaking. They were contemporaries, but while one courted controversy and ran afoul of the establishment (which terminated his playing days), the other just went about his business. Through the Impact Index sieve, what really separated them and gave Cook a higher impact was his ability to play a more significant role in wins for England than Pietersen.

Today, Cook remains England’s eighth-highest impact Test batsman ever – two spots ahead of Pietersen.


Karthik Swaminathan

Illustrations: Vasim Maner