India in England, 2007 July 15, 2007

Gooch backs ageing Indian stars

"He's still standing still, watching the ball and has the ability to counterattack," says Graham Gooch of Sachin Tendulkar © Getty Images

Graham Gooch, the former England captain who played his last Test at the age of 42, has urged India's experienced middle-order batsmen to convert the final phase of their careers into a "golden one", and said they still had four or five years left in them. Having watched the Indians' tour game against England Lions at Chelmsford, Gooch gushed about Sachin Tendulkar's 171 on the second day and felt there was nothing to suggest that his powers were on the decline.

Gooch scored more than half his Test runs, including 12 hundreds, after he passed the age of 35, and was the top-scorer in the 1990 and 1991 seasons. "I think the likes of Sachin, [Rahul] Dravid, [Sourav] Ganguly are all 34-35 and for me that was the golden period of my cricket," he told Cricinfo at the County Ground in Chelmsford. "My batting got better in those four or five years, so there's no reason why they can't go on."

Tendulkar has occasionally spoken of the demands that age imposes and even changed his game accordingly. While he used to attack more often in the early part of his career, he's off late preferred the more compact style, accumulating more often than blazing away. He spoke about this after his classy innings yesterday and indicated that his body dictated the way he approached an innings.

Gooch echoed the sentiment. "It [carrying on despite the growing years] depends on your desire, your fitness ... and if you haven't got the desire you aren't going to be able to remain fit. You need to work that much harder, naturally you're deteriorating and you're concentration and general sharpness disappears. There's no reason why they can't carry on for 4-5 years."

However, he was quick to point out that Tendulkar still possesses all the attributes. "He's still standing still, watching the ball and has the ability to counterattack. I didn't see anything yesterday to suggest his powers are on the decline. It's how much you want to keep going, whether you've got aspirations still. He'll hope he's got one last flurry over here to entertain people in this country. If he and the rest of the batsmen can put up 500-plus in their matches they're definitely going to stand a chance."

India's senior-most cricketer, though, isn't a middle-order batsman but a legspinner who will be expected to carry the attack. Gooch, who faced a bespectacled 20-year-old Anil Kumble on the 1990 tour, believes he can pull it off. "He played the second Test at Old Trafford in 1990 [when Tendulkar got his first Test hundred] and what I liked about him was his desire to take wickets. I faced Derek Underwood early in my career and they were similar with regard to the pace they bowled with. Underwood wasn't a big spinner of the ball but relied on accuracy. Same with Kumble.

"He'll get bounce on English pitches and that's what he mainly relies on for those catches at silly point and bat-pad. He's not a big turner like conventional spinners but his record stands the test of time. The pitches in England don't deteriorate as much these days and are tough for spinners but he doesn't rely too much on a pitch that spins square, it's the bounce that gets him wickets usually."

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is assistant editor of Cricinfo