England news January 20, 2010

Cook's best years ahead of him - Gooch

Cricinfo staff

England's latest Test captain, Alastair Cook, has his best years ahead of him, according Graham Gooch, England's most prolific Test run-scorer and Cook's batting mentor.

Cook, 25, was awarded the captaincy after the selectors opted to rest the regular captain Andrew Strauss, as well as England's leading strike bowler, James Anderson, from the two-Test and three-ODI tour to Bangladesh. It was a contentious decision, especially after Cook had only recently returned to form after a lean patch, but Gooch feels Cook has entered the most productive period of his career.

"I think batsmen's best years are 25 to 35, when their experience is complemented by the physical attributes to put everything into practice," Gooch told the February issue of The Wisden Cricketer magazine. "Alastair's game will only advance. He is nowhere near full maturity yet."

Cook's slump in form during the Ashes, where he made 222 runs in the series at 24.66, prompted his decision to work with Gooch to adjust his set-up at the crease. Firstly at Essex at the back-end of last summer, and again during the early part of the recent South Africa tour, where Gooch was working as England's batting consultant, Cook rebuilt his technique to resemble that of Gooch himself.

"When he came back to Essex last August we worked on technical things such as the way he sets himself up," Gooch explained. "People have noticed a similarity but I didn't tell him to stand like I used to. What we wanted to eradicate was the double take-away of his bat on the back-swing. You want a stable, solid back-swing to deliver the shot."

Cook has clearly done enough in his short career to foster the belief that he has the potential to develop into a Test captain, but he admits that he may, at times, have under-estimated the role that Gooch has played in his development thus far.

"I worked with Goochie in a big way in my late-teens but then I went away with England and he wasn't so involved. Over the past six months I've done a lot with him again. Maybe I didn't use him as much as I should have in the past couple of years. Perhaps I under-estimated his true value. To be able to talk to somebody of that stature at my county is one of those areas where I've been very lucky in my career."

But Gooch's contribution to the interim England captain's career progression extends beyond the role of coach and mentor: "In 2004-05 he paid for my flights and accommodation to play club cricket in Perth as part of a scholarship," revealed Cook. "He does a number of fund-raising activities every year to help young Essex cricketers. He is 56 and England's leading run-scorer. For somebody with that record to give so much is amazing. His enthusiasm for cricket rubs off on everyone."