Alastair Cook described himself as “hugely honoured and proud” after his record-breaking efforts in an England shirt were recognised with a knighthood.
Mere months after walking away from the grind of international cricket, Cook has been honoured for his contribution, as both captain and batsman, to the national team.
Not the most stylish of batsmen but unquestionably among the most efficient, the left-handed opener’s 12,472 runs in 161 Tests are both national records and benchmarks that will take some catching.
His sheer weight of runs in seminal series victories in Australia in 2010-11 and India in 2012 will live long in the memory, too.
Despite perennial questions over his captaincy, Cook admirably led England for a record 59 Tests, resigning after a four-and-a-half-year tenure in February 2017.
It was hoped relieving himself of the burden of skippering England would let Cook get back to what he does best, but the runs did not flow quite so freely and he announced the end of a distinguished international career in the summer.
Having declared there was “nothing left in the tank”, Cook then contributed 147 for his 33rd Test ton in his final England innings to help Joe Root’s men close out a 4-1 series victory over world number one side India.
It was a fairytale farewell as he ensured he book-ended his Test career with three-figure knocks, having started life with England as a fresh-faced 21-year-old in 2006 with a hundred against the same opponents in Nagpur.
There were plenty of peaks and troughs along the way but the rapturous reception he received for the final time as an England player at The Oval in September was a fitting tribute for all his graft.
“I am hugely honoured and proud to be receiving a knighthood,” Cook said in a statement to Press Association Sport.
“Many people have helped me during my career and without them and fantastic team-mates and coaches it would not have been possible to achieve all that I have.
“I want to thank all those who have been involved and supported me and my family. I will continue to be involved with cricket and intend to try and show what a positive effect sport can have on everyone’s lives.”
England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Colin Graves, in a statement released to Press Association Sport, added: “Alastair Cook has given so much to English cricket and I’m delighted that he has received this honour.
“It’s a fitting tribute to a man who has led with distinction on and off the pitch ever since he made his England debut.
“The statistics across that time tell the story of his special ability – as do the winners’ medals and Ashes trophies – but he is also someone who’s been a great role model for our sport.
“We’re very fortunate to have had Alastair in English cricket and we’re very grateful for his contributions to the game.”
Tom Harrison, ECB chief executive officer, said: “Since he was flown out to Nagpur as a last-minute replacement he’s poured every ounce of his commitment into English cricket. His final century was incredibly special and will live with everyone who witnessed it for a long time.”
Awarded an MBE in 2011 and a CBE five years later for services to the sport, Cook is now part of a very exclusive club of former England cricketers to receive a knighthood.
Jack Hobbs, Len Hutton and Colin Cowdrey are just some of the others in whose footsteps Cook follows.
Sir Ian Botham was the last of those to be honoured 11 years ago – although the great England all-rounder was bestowed the honour not only for his impact in cricket but in recognition of his tireless charity work too.
Cook has also taken part in several charitable ventures and is a patron of the David Randall Foundation, named in honour of a childhood friend who died of cancer at the age of 27.
He may not cherish the fuss in the upcoming days; shy by nature, the former choirboy shuns the limelight in favour of a quieter life, spending his free time helping on the family farm near Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire.
Cook, who turned 34 on Christmas Day, will not completely disappear off the radar just yet, though, having signed a three-year deal to carry on playing for county side Essex.