Matches have never been won on paper, says Gooch

‘Test cricket must not lose its primacy’

'India have the advantage over Australia in spin'

Former captain Graham Gooch who, as England’s batting coach, has decided to exclusively focus on Test cricket, spoke to The Telegraph from the UK on Saturday afternoon.

Now 59, Gooch had an outstanding Test career, finishing with 8,900 runs with 20 centuries. He totalled 4,290 in ODIs (8x100). Overall, Gooch scored 128 first-class centuries.

The following are excerpts

Was it actually too much being the batting coach in all formats?

I believe that Test cricket must not lose its primacy and I’d wanted to exclusively work with the present band and the next generation of Test batsmen. Given the amount of cricket being played, teams need multiple choices.

When did you decide to step down from the ODIs and the T20 Internationals?

It wasn’t a sudden decision... I first spoke to Andy (Flower, the team director) about it... England will be playing 10 back-to-back Ashes Tests and that’s a priority... Then, India tour England in the summer of 2014... Beginning with the upcoming matches in New Zealand, there’s a lot of Test cricket ahead for England. Indeed, there’s work to be done.

One school of thought is that you’re most comfortable only with Flower, who is also now largely focusing on Test cricket...

That’s not correct and I’m not following Andy... The idea that I focus on the Test batsmen was, in fact, first mooted before the Test series in India when Andy was directly involved with all formats.

[Ashley Giles’ appointment as the head coach for ODIs and T20 Internationals was made after the second Test.]

What was it like working with Giles during the recent ODI series in India?

Very good... Ashley is an experienced coach and the ECB have made a very wise move. There’s always a breaking-in period... I believe he’ll do a good job.

Is Graham Thorpe your full-time replacement in ODIs and in T20?

For now, Graham is only for New Zealand... The ECB will have to take a call after that.

Could separate coaches for the different formats be the way forward, like separate captains in many countries?

It’s certainly an option... I don’t see downsides, to be honest... The workload is shared and a Test series, for example, will allow the other coach to plan for the ODIs and the T20 Internationals. England have just embarked on this... It’s not my case that this is the only way forward... Not too long ago, we had three captains for the three formats — Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook, Stuart Broad — and that worked well. It’s good to be flexible.

But is there much of a difference in the manner of coaching in the different formats?

The basics are the same, but the tactics and the way batsmen shape their innings is different... At the end of the day, you’ve got to play match-winning innings, you’ve got to make telling contributions. The principles are the same across formats.

Was it disadvantageous that you’d never played T20 cricket?

No, because I’d played a lot of rain-reduced matches in County cricket... In ODIs and in T20, batsmen face the time-pressure, which is not there in Tests. That’s the one big difference.

Just how much can coaches do at the international level?

Depends on the nature of the two-way relationship... If there’s trust and belief in what the other can do, then there will be a positive influence. Coaches must remember that a fine line exists and cannot be crossed, that it’s the batsman alone who’ll execute what is discussed.

Is there an ideal way to coach?

Different people look at a piece of string differently... Some find it long enough, some don’t... There are extravagant stroke-makers and there are the conservative run-getters... The key is for batsmen to know their limitations and, of course, to know their game. Coaching is all about getting the best out of what you’ve got.

I assume it’s easier when a coach has himself been an accomplished player. You’re a legend...

Look, I don’t think your achievements as a player automatically makes you a good coach... In soccer, there are examples of great coaches who haven’t played at the international level. Communication is important.

What did the trips to India, your first as an England coach, teach you?

All of us came away richer for the experience... Alastair Cook and the boys showed enormous character to bounce back and win the series after losing the first Test... The T20 contest was drawn... We lost the ODIs 2-3, but that’s no disgrace. India are the world champions and played better. I should add that the grounds were second to none and the hospitality overwhelming.

England did very well... What, for you, was the biggest gain?

Proving to everybody that we could recover from 0-1 down to win the four-Test series 2-1... Cook led by example and, as I’ve said, the boys showed such character. Eminent experts had predicted a 4-0 win for India. We proved them wrong.

How soon do you see India improving as a Test team?

The raw material is there, you have a big population and the facilities are top-class. The talent is there, it’s how you galvanise what’s available.

Did any India player(s) catch your eye?

(Cheteshwar) Pujara looked a competent all-round batsman in the Test series... In the ODIs, (Ravindra) Jadeja stood out and contributed in all departments... (Suresh) Raina seemed to have a real passion and, like Jadeja, contributed in the three departments... (Mahendra Singh) Dhoni proved that he’s one of the best in ODIs. He left nobody in doubt there.

You’ve spoken of grounds and facilities... Well, what did you make of Dharamsala as an international venue?

It has the prettiest ground, more pretty than even Newlands (Cape Town).

Do England start overwhelming favourites in New Zealand?

Recent performances would suggest that, but matches have never been won on paper... The team sheet doesn’t determine the winner, rather it’s how that team performs on the field.

[England will feature in three matches in every format: T20 Internationals, ODIs and Tests.]

How do you see the India-Australia Test series in India going?

I’m not sure what your selectors have in mind, but India have the advantage in the spin department... That Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey have both retired is a massive loss for Australia.

With the Ashes this summer, will you be following the four-match series very closely?

I’ll be in New Zealand then... Yes, I’ll be watching whatever I can.

The final one... I’ve asked this before... What’s the future you see for Sachin Tendulkar?

(Laughs) I’ll tell you what I’ve told you before... Sachin’s the best player of his generation, he’s an icon... He’ll make his own decision... At the age he is (nearing 40), the decision to quit altogether can’t be too far away... Sachin’s set high standards and he’ll be looking to satisfy himself first... Like other professionals, I assume he’s his own biggest critic. He’s carried a lot of responsibility for over 20 years.


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