Men at work as Stewart and Gooch crack whip (24 October 1998)

24 October 1998

Men at work as Stewart and Gooch crack whip

By Nelson Clare in Perth

ALEC STEWART, the England captain, and manager Graham Gooch, united by their common work ethic, have explained the strict training regime expected of their squad in the build-up to the opening match of the Ashes tour next week.

The 17-man squad barely had time to recover from a 28-hour journey from London before they were sent on a light run and exercise session, led by fitness consultant Dean Riddle, aimed at shrugging off the effects of jet-lag.

Gooch and Stewart, who both built their careers on fitness regimes, have quickly laid down the law and outlined a rigorous training schedule designed to prevent England suffering the sort of disappointing start which affected their previous two Ashes tours.

England are scheduled to have net sessions at the WACA in Perth every morning for three days followed by fielding and fitness work in the afternoons before having a centre-wicket practice at Richardson Park next Tuesday.

It will test the stamina of the players, who were all given fitness tests at the Oval, Headingley and Lord's last month, in the intense Perth heat prior to their opening match, against an ACB Chairman's XI at nearby Lilac Hill on Thursday.

"We will be working most days both morning and afternoon," said Gooch. "The guys are keyed up for it because it is a big opportunity. Anyone who plays cricket wants to play for their country and wants to play in an Ashes series so we are really looking forward to it.

"As long as we are well prepared and don't leave anything to chance then we have got a good chance. The first few weeks are vital to any tour.

"On the last two tours we haven't started off too well and it's vital we get our act together early on. The guys will be full at it as from tomorrow up until the Lilac Hill match and we want to win every game we play in."

Gooch's plans will hardly have come as a surprise to some of the senior members of the party who played alongside him prior to his retirement last year. He was well known as a running and fitness fanatic in the latter stages of his career.

Despite turning down an invitation to play against England for the ACB Chairman's XI next week because he "didn't really want all the balls in the bowler's half rather than mine", Gooch confirmed that he plans to continue as a tracksuit manager. "You all know what I'm like," he said. "I'm not too good at the gin and tonic in the committee room. I haven't progressed to that yet."

The new strict regime has been endorsed by Stewart, who is determined to claim his first Ashes success in his fifth series and spare himself from more taunts from his friends in Perth built up over eight winters playing club cricket.

"We have just had a very good summer against South Africa, coming back from 1-0 down to win it 2-1, and if we can show that sort of form and improve on that then we will be competitive," he said.

"Ideally we will go one better than that and beat them. We are not just turning up to make the numbers up and have a holiday, we are coming here to do a job and to do it well."

A warning note was sounded by Dennis Lillee, who believes England have already made two tactical errors.

The legendary Australian fast bowler, who will play for the Chairman's XI on Thursday, said: "I find it quite amazing that, before a ball has been bowled in anger, England have put their cards on the table over Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne.

"That former England captain Mike Atherton has admitted he still lives in terror of McGrath after losing his wicket to him six times in England last year, must have Glenn licking his lips in anticipation."

Lillee said he was bewildered that England had called on former Australian leg-spinner Peter Philpott for advice over how to face Warne, if he has recovered from a shoulder injury.

Source :: Electronic Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk)

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