Essex bowler Sam Cook admits he should not even be spoken about in the same sentence as James Anderson but believes he would be ready if a chance presented itself to replace his idol.
Cook could face Anderson on Thursday when Lancashire visit Chelmsford in the LV= County Championship and the narrative will no doubt be about the master and apprentice doing battle.
Anderson’s longevity remains extraordinary, with England’s all-time leading wicket-taker in Test cricket still going strong at 40 but Father Time gets everyone and the veteran has admitted it would be a “surprise” if he played all five Ashes Tests in a six-and-a-half-week period this summer.
The competition to break into Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes’ red-ball side is so strong that if Anderson did sit out one Ashes fixture, Cook is unlikely to get the call but his belief is unwavering that he will be a Test cricketer eventually.
“Yeah, I mean, I would never put myself in the same sentence as Jimmy. Certainly not yet and I don’t think ever,” Cook told the PA news agency.
“He is that good and for me he is someone I have grown up watching and someone who I have tried to emulate when bowling.
“I think to be compared in the same sentence, it is an honour but from a professional point of view he is obviously coming to the end of his career, so when he finishes I want to be in pole position to try and step in to fill those shoes.
Essex’s ‘Little Chef’ has been around long enough to know a constant debate over his suitability for Test cricket is whether he is quick enough and if he needs to play at a Test ground.
At his county, Sir Alastair Cook has been an “amazing” sounding board to reassure the 25-year-old that the latter is a false perception.
And Anderson was able to reaffirm Cook’s own belief about his low-80mph seam and swing style during a winter where they spent time together on an England Lions training camp in the United Arab Emirates.
He added: “In my opinion, Jimmy is the greatest to ever do it as a seam bowler and it would be stupid not to try to pick his brains as much as possible.
“To spend that time with him in Dubai and Abu Dhabi was invaluable and not just from a cricket point of view, but also off the field as well.
“Getting to know him and to see how he functions away from cricket, there is so much I have learnt from spending that time with him.
“I think (our conversations) were probably just reaffirming to trust my skills. To trust what I do in moving the ball off the straight and don’t chase pace or try to be a bowler I am not. Hearing that from him was obviously extremely positive.”
Cook’s stock has only continued to rise during the past 12 months where he has barely stopped.
He again hit the 50-wicket mark in the County Championship last year but also starred in The Hundred final with four for 18 to help Trent Rockets win the title.
The former Loughborough University student then enjoyed England Lions trips to the UAE and Sri Lanka sandwiched in between his franchise league debut at the Abu Dhabi T10.
“As a cricket fan, it has been amazing to watch,” Cook admitted.
“Seeing first hand that environment and getting a taste of it during the winter, it makes you want to be a part of it even more and drives you on to break into that squad.”
Two-time County Championship winner Cook knows the best way to stay in the conversation for England is to keep up his high standards with Essex, who finished fourth last year.
Cook insisted: “Anything less than a Championship win with this crop of players is seen as a bit of a negative, which is amazing really.
“We know and are confident we will be at that top end and our 100 per cent focus is to win the County Championship.”