Alastair Cook talks Samsung laptops and the Ashes

In April 2011 I was invited by Samsung to interview Alastair Cook at a party at Harrods, of all places. It wasn’t a classic of the genre (whatever that genre is — maybe “techno-cricket-capitalism”) but the publication of Cook’s autobiography reminded me to republish it.

Originally published on the Computeractive blog on 21 April 2011

Cricket and technology do not often mix — and nor, in fact, do cricket and celebrity. Footballers and film stars get the lucrative endorsement deals, but other than a few megastars such as Sachin Tendulkar, cricketers are rarely shown brandishing shiny new products.

So it was a little surprising to be called by Samsung’s PR people to ask if we wanted to come to Harrods to interview the England opening batsman Alastair Cook, who would be at the launch party for Samsung’s new Series 9 laptop range.

Cook, of England and Essex, is one of England’s star players, and he’s in the form of his life at the moment — his most recent test innings was the small Ashes-winning matter of 189 against Australia in Sydney. Well, how could we resist that invitation?

It turned out to be a little different to the standard press event, which is usually a bunch of people in ill-fitting t-shirts standing around listening to someone speak for an hour. This one was all glitz and glamour, with pumping music, models and said cricketer being photographed against one of those logo-backdrops you see in the gossip rags.

Inexplicably, Samsung had asked big-name photographer Rankin to take some shots of Cook against the backdrop of a fighter aircraft while cradling one of the new computers: apparently the 13in laptop is “made with the same tough and durable components as a fighter jet plane”. You can see one of them above.

The first laptop in Samsung’s Series 9 range is the 900X3A. It uses the second-generation Intel Core i5–2630UM ‘Sandy Bridge’ processor, which has enhanced video processing capabilities. It also comes with 4GB of memory and a 128GB solid-state disk for storage.

Read on to see what he had to say about Samsung, Twitter and the computerisation of the England dressing room.

Computeractive: Congratulations on the Ashes victory. It’s great to see a win in Australia after all that time.

Alastair Cook: Thank you very much. I think that’s what made it so special — the fact that we hadn’t done it for so long.

So what’s the England opening batsman doing with Samsung laptops?

I know — well, I hope it’s a good combination for them, and it’s certainly a good combination for me in terms of being involved with such a big company. You always want to be involved with the best. So to be involved with someone like Samsung is a huge honour for me, and obviously the notebook looks top drawer.

Have they given you one to use?

You know, I’m getting my little treat today. I had a little play on one this afternoon but I’m gonna have my own little one to have a play on today. So I’m looking forward to it.

Are you a big computer user? Do you play EA Cricket on your PC?

[Laughs] I’m not on EA Cricket. I use the computer a lot but for very simple things. For staying in touch with the lads or for watching DVDs. I’m not as gadget-minded as some of the lads, on Twitter and all that. But at least I’ll have a better computer than them.

You’re leaving Twitter to Graeme Swann?

Well [smiling], I can’t compete with him, so there’s no point trying.

Is there much computerisation in the England dressing room?

Yeah, it’s one of the biggest things which has changed since I started playing: the amount of information we get from technology now — with Hawkeye, and heart monitors or the review system.

We come in and you think you hit all the runs one way and it says, “No, you hit them here.” And you can’t argue because it’s stats on the computer. The bowlers, as well: with Hawkeye, every ball they bowl they get monitored, saying, “You bowled it here; why are you bowling here when we said you want to bowl there?” And normally, you’d say, “Well, I didn’t,” but actually the computer says…

The computer says no?

Exactly. And it’s amazing how using that technology has helped us to improve quicker.

How often does that happen? After every game, or every series?

It happens after every day — you get a report on yourself. Especially the bowlers, because it’s easier to mark on. They get their sheets of where they bowled to each person, and where we wanted to bowl. To be fair to the bowling lads, they really enjoy that because… to see how well they bowled, and the improvements the bowlers have made over the last two years — they carried that English side for a while. They were the difference in that Ashes series: our bowling attack.

You’ve been in quite good form yourself recently: the 189 against Australia, and the 120 for Essex this week.

Yeah, it’s going well.

Are you hoping to carry that through to the summer? It’s Sri Lanka first, isn’t it?

It’s Sri Lanka first, and that’s one of my challenges I’ve got this year. The thing I’ve really got to do is to try and build on what I did in Australia, and hopefully I can do that. You can only start by scoring as many runs as you can for Essex, and then for England you hopefully arrive in that first Test match against Sri Lanka in really good form.

Will you be playing for Essex tomorrow*?

Yup. We finish here just before nine, and I’ll be back at 10. Bed at quarter-past: a normal night.

* We spoke to Cook the day before he turned out for Essex against Kent at Chelmsford for the first County Championship match of the 2011 season. Unfortunately, his form didn’t quite carry through: he made six and 31.

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