Gooch and Emburey double-act ideal combination for England (24 March 1999)

24 March 1999

Gooch and Emburey double-act ideal combination for England

By Simon Hughes

UNLESS England unexpectedly win the World Cup, David Lloyd's tenure as England coach will not be remembered for its results.

He did of course, oversee last summer's series victory over South Africa, but up until the last ball the series could have gone either way. What Lloyd has done is create a much more professional environment. Against the dark mutterings of Fred Trueman and his ilk, specialist coaches, sports scientists, trainers and psychologists were all employed. That had to be the right way forward even though England were (and still are) playing catch-up.

What Lloyd's successor must do is continue to integrate this process, with the addition of one or two old fashioned values. Less hope, even more direction. What we do not want is an Illingworth-type who alienates players, banishes science and restores naughty-boy-nets.

Bob Woolmer is the ideal candidate. He has a broad mind, fresh ideas, good strategies and a proven track record. He understands technique, and does not just trot out coaching cliches. His attention to detail has transformed Allan Donald from runaway train to streamlined express. But he has had enough of travelling the world and would become frustrated by the England and Wales Cricket Board's intransigence.

So aside from the dark horse, Jack Birkenshaw, we are back to the usual suspects: Gooch, Gatting and Emburey, the three men who shared the England captaincy through some of its most torrid years and who remain in the game.

All used to preach the same gospel: discipline, discipline, discipline. But each has mellowed as his hair has receded.

Gatting is the most vehement. At Middlesex indoor practice last week he was in command. He barked advice, complimented good play, indulged in barrack-room banter with Angus Fraser. His approach to coaching is relatively simplistic - move your feet, play straight, keep your head level. What you hear is what you get. He is good with batsmen, often flummoxed by bowlers. But with elbow grease no cause is a dead one.

Gooch relies less on perspiration, more on inspiration. He carried videos of his best innings round with him for much of his later career, and is definitely a convert to sports psychology. He does not just understand the value of confidence, he has a clue where to find it. He respects all kinds of cricketers using all kinds of styles. His energy and enthusiasm at England practices, arriving at the nets first, leaving last - even last summer - was also appreciated by many.

Emburey is a more peripheral figure. He has strong views which he is not afraid to air, but they tend to change with the tide. That, and Northants inflexibility, cost him his job as coach last September.

Basically he was wasted at county level, where coaches are glorified administrators. But Emburey has an excellent appreciation of the finer points of the game, and as the only bowler of the three, is a connoisseur of technique. His game, after all, was based on subtly probing a batsman's flaws. With the right supervisor he is invaluable.

So here is the solution. Employ Gooch and Emburey. Gooch as the figurehead, the talisman, the spokesman and overall strategist.

He would provide the ballast, the structural foundations. Emburey would be the architect, the quality controller and personnel manager. He talks cricket day and night, and is determined to rediscover the lost art of discussing the day's play at the bar, where home truths will out.

What makes this proposal more attractive is that Gooch and Emburey get on. In fact they are bosom pals. When Middlesex played Essex, Emburey was so often in the Essex dressing room that one day we dumped all his gear in there.

Without ignoring basic disciplines, Gooch and Emburey would embrace any influence or accessory that could help England off the lower rungs and have a bit of fun into the bargain. Then it would be just down to the players. . .

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

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