Graham Gooch has told England’s under-fire batsmen to treat sledging as a compliment as he begins preparing them for a Test they cannot afford to lose. The man who has seen everything in English cricket will be working on the mental aspect of the huge task facing England in their attempt to get back into this Ashes series as well as his more obvious role of batting coach.
Sledging has been a hot topic since Australia’s thumping first Test victory, particularly in light of the departure of Jonathan Trott, with Australia vowing no let-up in their verbal assault on England’s under-performing stars.
“You advise technically and you advise mentally,” said Gooch in Adelaide as he began working towards Thursday’s second Test.
“If someone comes at you with sledging people can deal with it in different ways. Some people it motivates, makes them play better, more determined. Some it can unsettle."
“But generally, sledging is aimed at trying to get you to play the man rather than the ball. In my career the players I’ve seen deal with it best either smile at the opposition or treat it as a compliment. Generally, if you get sledged you’re doing okay.”
The trouble in Brisbane was that England could not cope with the rejuvenated Mitchell Johnson, who took nine wickets in the match and posed a physical threat more damaging than Australia’s words ever could be.
Gooch’s job now is to make sure that England do not build Johnson up to be more of a threat than he is.
“He had a great game at Brisbane and I take my hat off to him,” said England’s record Test run scorer.
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England’s task since Brisbane has been to remember that this was their first Test defeat to Australia since that game in Perth and that they have a recent precedent in hitting back after an early defeat in India last year.
“It’s the first time Australia have beaten us in quite a few Tests and we’ve had a lot of success over the last few years,” said Gooch.
“We lost the first Test in Ahmedabad a year ago. There is character and skill in this team. We have to show better will than we did in the last game. To get dismissed twice for under 200 is very disappointing."
Gooch gave little away on which England batsman is going to be promoted to the No.3 position in the sad absence of Trott.
“Someone has to move and do the job. Whoever moves to three – and I think it’s fair to say that Joe Root and Ian Bell are the probable candidates — I’m sure they’ll stand up for England. Both would relish the responsibility. We will decide what the best thing is to do and hopefully we will get it right.”