England opener Alastair Cook says he decided to call it quits since he had lost the mental edge with which he managed all his tasks with ease. The fifth and final Test begins at the Oval on Friday, and with the hosts already 3-1 up, it will be the last international match of Cook's 12-year-long career.
"I've always had that mental edge, I have always been mentally incredibly tough and had that edge to everything I have done but that edge had kind of gone. The thing I had found easy before was not quite there and to me that was the biggest thing," Cook said.
He said he would have kept the decision to himself if the series had not been decided in Southampton.
"It's been a bit surreal. One of my friends rang me to check if I was still alive because everyone was talking as if I'd died. It is nice when you hear so many nice words said about you. For example, someone stopped me when I was driving in and made me wind down the window and said thank you very much.' That was a nice moment. Hopefully this week I can score some runs and then go," Cook said.
Asked about the decision to call time on his long career, Cook replied, "It's hard to put into words but there have been signs in my mind over the last six months. I told Joe Root before the game (in Southampton) and then Trevor Bayliss during the game. In this day and age it's very difficult to keep anything quiet. If it were 2-2 I'd have kept my mouth shut."
"When you get asked questions (from the media) it's hard to constantly lie. I've been pretty good at it! But there's certain stuff when you're asked questions you know you're not being true to yourself. There might be a bit of fuss about it and if it were 2-2 Id have kept my mouth shut."
"At Southampton, I was a couple of beers in which I needed to be otherwise I would have cried more than I actually did. I managed to hold it together. At the end of the game I just said this might be good news for some and sad for others but it's time. I've done my bit and if picked the next game will be my last one.' That's kind of all I said. There was a bit of silence, Moeen Ali said something, we all laughed and everyone got on with it. We had a nice evening in the changing room.
Cook also led England in 59 Tests and 92 ODIs. He termed the Ashes win in Australia (under Andrew Strauss) in 2010-11 and the 2-1 series' win in India under his leadership (in 2012) as the highlights of his record-breaking career.
"You can't really look past those two away series where I was man of the series and we won in Australia and India. That was the best I could play and probably in my career as a whole I can look back and say I probably became the best player I could become. That actually means quite a lot to me. Yes, I've never been the most talented cricketer and I can't pretend I was but I definitely think I got everything out of my ability."
Cook regretted the Kevin Pietersen saga and as one of the decision makers to sack him from the team, he said the situation could have been better handled.
"Of course there are decisions in hindsight that you question. Clearly the KP affair was a tough year, there's no doubt about that. The fall-out of that wasn't great for English cricket and wasn't great for me. I was involved in that decision without being the bloke who actually made the final decision. The fall-out of that decision and the effect it had for 12 months was immense."
"It could have been handled differently. The moment Andrew Strauss came on board and said he was making the decision, personally for me that was the best thing that could have happened. I have a regret over it, it wasn't great for English cricket. The end of the SL series and the Lord's Test, that was the lowest I was.
Having got out to Ishant Sharma in Nottingham in 2014, Cook has since been dismissed 11 times by the Indian pacer. The opener said that he is one of the toughest bowlers to face.
I think I must regret getting Ishant Sharma out as my wicket, because he's kind of got his revenge since getting me out constantly over the last couple of series. The ball going away from me from around the wicket I found the hardest to conquer but in general, a bowler how maybe is not the quickest but constantly hits line and lengths - it goes as an 11 year old and old 60 year old dropped it on a length. I never had the power or the shots to nock bowlers off there lengths. So a bowler who hangs it there and doesn't give me the pace to work with, that I found the hardest, said Cook, who has been suffering a poor patch in this series.
Cook also spoke about his affinity towards cricket and what the future holds for him, particularly further association with English cricket.
The battle between bat and ball (is what made fall in love with cricket). It's a one-on-one thing. I love that stuff, but you play it in a team. I love the individual sport stuff but the experiences I've had with some great people over 12 or 15 years, if you're on your own in an individual sport I don't think you get that. That individual thing: me versus the bowler, but you get that team as well and that's why it suits me so well.
I'm still going to play for Essex, that's been brushed under the carpet a bit, I am really looking forward to that.