England v India, 4th npower Test, The Oval, 1st day

Gooch credits hard-working England

Andrew Miller at The Oval

August 18, 2011

Comments: 19 | Text size: A | A

It's not often that a team's challenge can be written off inside 26 overs, but India's performance on a rain-hit first day at The Oval was apathetic beyond compare. In his first Test for three years, RP Singh proved to be a wayward and sluggish shadow of the tearaway who starred on his last England tour in 2007, and though Andrew Strauss had a scare when an Ishant Sharma bouncer chipped the peak of his helmet, the shock of that moment served only to exacerbate the dross that went before it.

None of that, however, mattered to England's batting coach, Graham Gooch, whose legendary appetite for run-making has been absorbed by a relentless line-up that has carried England to the top spot in Test cricket. In the day's solitary session, Gooch's Essex protégé, Alastair Cook, nudged his average above 50, as he and Strauss confirmed the wisdom of ignoring the overhead conditions, and trusting the firmness underfoot of a typical Oval wicket.

By the close, Cook was 34 not out, having scored 1630 runs at 90.55 in the 12 months since he rebooted his career with a dogged 110 on this very ground against Pakistan. Although he modestly batted back the suggestion that Cook was one of his "charges", Gooch's personal input has been one of the most significant factors in Cook's rise and rise - from their 6am training sessions in the off-season at Chelmsford, through the endless hours of throwdowns prior to every Test match, and ultimately via the insatiable appetite for run-scoring that, even in this era of prolific batsmen, leaves Gooch's England record tally of 8900 runs some 3000 clear of the nearest contemporary challenger.

"As far as I'm concerned I'll be absolutely delighted if someone goes past any of my records," said Gooch, "because it'll mean England are winning cricket matches. From the time I was a captain, player and selector, I was only interested in one thing, and that was England winning matches."

At Cook's current rate of progress, that mark will be overhauled at some stage in the next three years, and quicker still if India continue to feed his strengths to the extent that they did during his 294 at Edgbaston and again during a supremely untroubled first morning at The Oval. "Alastair continues to improve," said Gooch. "You see all the hard work he puts in. It doesn't come by chance; it's hard work and ability, and he's getting the rewards. We are proud of him."

Sreesanth reacts to Alastair Cook's shot, England v India, 4th Test, The Oval, 1st day, August 18, 2011
There was little joy for a listless India line-up on the first day at The Oval © Getty Images

"He has the four attributes that make up a 'run-maker'," Gooch added. "He has a great attitude; he has technical ability; his knowledge pool is increasing all the time, of how to play in certain situations; and he has the No. 1 attribute, massive powers of concentration. If you want to score 200, you can't do it in an hour; you've got to be out there for six or seven hours. You've got to play every ball singly for all that time - each ball in isolation."

During his days as England captain in the early 1990s, Gooch attempted to instil a greater discipline in England training sessions - but found that his methods were rejected by a prevailing culture that did not appreciate such a rigid onset of professionalism. Twenty years on, the England set-up is ready to embrace his driven ethos, and his involvement with the team is reaping its overdue rewards.

"Under Andy Flower, the coaching staff like to stimulate the players and challenge them with new practice routines," said Gooch. "We're always looking to push the boundaries and test the players, not just in technique but in their minds as well - to move them forward as people and cricketers.

"When you play you do what you think is right for you, and everything in good faith. That is certainly what is happening now, and everyone buys into the system. Everyone knows what they need to do. Being fit, mentally strong and having character goes side by side with having a good technique and the natural ability to score runs and take wickets. I've never seen a fitter, stronger player become a worse player."

India's cricketers could do with a dose of such realism at the end of a flaccid campaign. Like Zaheer Khan in the first Test at Lord's, RP Singh looked short of the requisite fitness for Test cricket, as indeed did Virender Sehwag, whose continued involvement in the tour had been shrouded in mystery before the toss.

"The Indian line-up is tried and trusted, with some of the greatest names the game has ever seen," said Gooch. "They've not got the runs they would have liked but I'm sure they'll be out there in the nets tomorrow." Whether they are there at 8.30am, however, like Gooch and his England batsmen, remains very much to be seen.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by RohanMarkJay on (August 20, 2011, 20:48 GMT)

You can see Graham Gooch's strong influence written on this England team very clearly. No wonder Graham Gooch was Allan Border's favourite cricketer outside Australia. Its a shame England didn't make the most of Graham Gooch when he was a Capt and player for England. England might have done better in the late 1980s and 1990s.

Posted by KarMani on (August 19, 2011, 13:08 GMT)

I find it funny that we have already written the Indian team off after one bad series. Remember that India was ranked No 1 since Nov 2009. England have just got it and still have to prove themselves in the sub continent. Lets see how long they can keep the crown.

Posted by aracer on (August 19, 2011, 9:40 GMT)

@Sumedh Shah - "Were else has England played except at home???" - Australia. Remind me again how well India have ever done when they visited there?

Posted by AJ_Tiger86 on (August 19, 2011, 9:12 GMT)

@Sumedh Saha, LOL. You know very little about international cricket, I see. Where were you when England DESTROYED and HUMILIATED Australia 3-1 in Australia with 3 INNINGS VICTORIES?

Posted by indianzen on (August 19, 2011, 8:59 GMT)

India are the emperors in Subcontinental pitches, similarly England are good in the English pitches... nothing so excellent, England cant win even against Pakistan in Pakistan...

Posted by   on (August 19, 2011, 8:55 GMT)

Mensan, i honestly don't think these are 'huge home advantage' pitches like you seem to think. Sure, India have struggled but a massively seam friendly pitch doesn't allow either team to pile on 700+ runs like England did.

Fact is, India have been woeful. I hope for their fans sake this is an eye opener for their board to do something about their problems like the Ashes domination was for us back when

Posted by Dozzieus on (August 19, 2011, 8:42 GMT)

@ Sumedh Shah...... do you actually know anything about cricket.... let me suggest that you read up on something called THE ASHES where england won this last winter IN Australia, a place where india cant win...

Posted by PeterCook on (August 19, 2011, 8:20 GMT)

Sumedh Shah - are you joking? Have you forgotten the Ashes in Australia? England thrashed Australia 3-1 (three wins by an innings).

Posted by   on (August 19, 2011, 6:22 GMT)

Were else has England played except at home??? Let them come out of England and den see how they lose top spot!!!!

Posted by   on (August 19, 2011, 3:57 GMT)

Big up to Gooch, the guy's a legend and just like Andy Flower is someone the players can really look up to and respect. India need to take note, but mostly their bowlers. You can win matches when you're only scoring 280 but only if you bowl sides out. Letting them rack up 700 gives you no chance.

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Andrew Miller Andrew Miller was saved from a life of drudgery in the City when his car caught fire on the way to an interview. He took this as a sign and fled to Pakistan where he witnessed England's historic victory in the twilight at Karachi (or thought he did, at any rate - it was too dark to tell). He then joined Wisden Online in 2001, and soon graduated from put-upon photocopier to a writer with a penchant for comment and cricket on the subcontinent. In addition to Pakistan, he has covered England tours in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, as well as the World Cup in the Caribbean in 2007
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