Sri Lanka v England 2011-12 March 30, 2012

Gooch confident Strauss can arrest slump


Graham Gooch, England's batting coach, has jumped to the defence of his embattled captain Andrew Strauss as doubts intensify about his international future.

With England slumping to their fourth straight Test defeat, Strauss' batting form has become a far greater issue than when a winning side was laying claim to the No. 1 Test ranking that they are now on the brink of surrendering.

Strauss refused to be drawn into speculation over his future when pressed following England's 75-run defeat in Galle where he contributed 26 and 27 to England's efforts before falling trying to attack Rangana Herath on both occasions.

Since the start of the 2010 England season he has averaged 32.55 from 22 Tests with just a lone hundred against Australia at Brisbane in November of that year. From that point his average dips further to 28.52 with a highest score of 87.

Gooch, though, remains convinced Strauss can return to the form that marked the start of his captaincy stint when he took the job in chaotic circumstances for the West Indies tour in 2009 and struck three hundreds in the series.

"If you get defeats you're going to get tough questions," he said. "As far as I'm concerned, Andrew Strauss is the best guy to captain England at the moment and he and Alastair Cook are the best opening batsmen in the country. I have every confidence in him. I see the passion, the commitment every day on the training pitch, trying to improve his game. The way he's trying to play spin, approaching his innings with a more positive mindset, the attacking shots he's looking to play.

"We all know that as the captain you're praised if things do go well and you take the flak if they don't. He's a big lad and he'll be able to take it on the chin and he'll be doubly determined to do well in the next game."

Gooch led England in 34 of his 118 Tests so knows all about the pressures of combining the two jobs although his record suggests that captaincy was always an inspiration for his batting. As captain, he averaged 58.72 against his overall figure of 42.58. He expressed confidence that Strauss would emerge from the toughest period of his captaincy.

"He's having a bit of a lean time in Tests but he scored a hundred at SSC [in the warm-up match] so he's had runs under his belt and he's been practising well," Gooch said. "You have to take it on the chin when things don't go well. There have been plenty of Test captains who have struggled. We have to remain faithful to all our players and believe in their ability. A few months ago we were winning Tests, in different conditions, and I'm confident these guys, including Andrew, will come good.

"More importantly, each player has to believe they're going to do well. You've got to remain solid, keep your nerve and believe in your technique. Andrew Strauss has an excellent Test technique, he has been a very successful player for England in the past and I have no reason to believe he won't be a successful player in the future."

England's batting problems are not just focussed on Strauss. Although Jonathan Trott made one of his finest Test hundreds in the failed chase in Galle, and Ian Bell showed signs of return to form with a half-century, England laboured for the fourth match in a row. Alastair Cook received a good ball in the first innings (as did Bell) but the visitors were also guilty of further soft dismissals.

"Having lost four on the bounce, you know you need to master the conditions much better," Gooch said. "Since I've been in Sri Lanka I have seen guys working on their game, buying into the ideas being put to them and really trying to improve. Improving your technique, shaping it against the turning ball in particular, is not a quick fix. You have to work on it. It's the mindset, the way you approach your innings, how you mix attack and defence, how you get good habits into your game, the way you're going to play with the spin, the way you're going to defend."

The sweep was a major factor in England's dismissals although Trott avoided trouble and also brought out the reverse option when slip was left vacant. The conventional sweep was a shot that Gooch used profitably, particularly during the 1987 World Cup on the subcontinent, but admits the impact of DRS means the shot now comes with greater risk.

"The sweep against the turning ball is an alternative, but we have to look at the fact that with DRS, if you're sweeping off the stumps there's a lot of risk there. It's an area we need to look at. I wouldn't advocate leaving it out altogether but you have to be more selective."

Edited by David Hopps

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Andrew on April 2, 2012, 12:05 GMT

    @HatsforBats - I really like Langar - but I was appalled when I heard he applied for the Head Coach's job!!!!! I think Langar is useful as an assistant coach - the go between, atm he'd be useful for Arthurs, but as a batting coach - oh boy...

  • kieran on April 1, 2012, 10:16 GMT

    @ Nutcutlet; Gooch hasn't been in the job that long has he? I don't know what his coaching credentials are but his batting pedigree is obvious. It seems that he's playing smart in allowing those struggling batsmen to feel confidence in their own methods without berating them in front of the media. You ask the same questions that I've been asking of Justin Langer. As the Aus batsmen have struggled from series to series with no obvious corrections being made to their often glaring faults, Langer has waltzed along without fear of recourse, taking umbrage whenever his usefulness is questioned. The modern specialty coach is a strange beast indeed.

  • ian on April 1, 2012, 6:52 GMT

    @Jose Puliampatta: Thanks:-) I use cricinfo comment-making to keep my writing sharp & cricket is such a rich subject for that exercise! Re: Gooch as batting coach, he just doesn't inspire confidence (there was a revealing cross-questioning of him after Galle by ?Athers & if it had been a job interview, I wouldn't have given him the post!). Gooch said that it's up to each batsman to work out what works best for him. Strauss is working very hard in the nets, etc. Well, is that what he's paid for? He should be getting to their psyche; inspiring confidence and getting them to play the sweep on line, not length. He works very hard, I'm sure, but does he work effectively? Well, a teacher knows how effective he has been when his students get their exam results - and a batting coach similarly can measure his success by the runs in the book.They are the batsman's runs, of course - just as the exam result belongs to the student - but it's a way of knowing whether your methods are effective.

  • John on March 31, 2012, 20:21 GMT

    @G-One Mazen on (March 31 2012, 18:02 PM GMT) I wouldn't say we can't win away as we beat Aus at the end of 2010 , but I'm starting to doubt that we can bat on spinning pitches - at least England batsmen can't . Our bowlers are doing a decent job. I'd say India have had 2 problems. 1 is that their bowling has been ineffective away from SC and the other is similar to England in that they are afraid to drop any of their big name batsmen when they are not doing it. I still think England's best option is to go for a 5 man bowling attack (dropping a batsman). I'm not sure we have the quality batsmen to come in and do a job.In Australia , I'm not sure India had the bowling depth to do that but you have to wonder why they never once brought in Sharma, I think selectors of both sides seem to have it in their heads that dropping a player is the ultimate insult and that it can't just be a temporary change of tact where they can't be recalled as soon as the following test if necessary

  • Dummy4 on March 31, 2012, 18:02 GMT

    England are going the Team India way . Some differences are there India held there No.I ranking for a long time but England will not be able to hold it . England like India will lose their test matches on overseas pitches . It looks like that .

  • Dru on March 31, 2012, 11:06 GMT

    Eng's battles with spin are no different to SL's battles with seam and bounce. For some reason SL's inability to handle English conditions are looked up as a worse weakness often ridiculed with 'flat track bullies' or 'great record at home but cant bat away' ECT ECT. The reality as I see it, doing well in home conditions applies the same to all except a few class acts who can perform both home and away consistently. If Eng (comentators, media, players and fans) weren't as arrogant as they are towards the visiting SL's this wouldnt be the mystery it appears to be. Interesting young Eng players do play in the local SL cricket league so may be in a few years time there will be players from Eng who handle spin better. As for Struass, the next assingments are SA at home India away - he needs runs in the next test and a drawn series to avoid the unthinkable.

  • Dummy4 on March 31, 2012, 9:39 GMT

    @RandyOZ. There are a few more regulars to go along with the three you are searching for: 4)Nutcutlet 5)OhhhMattyMatty 6)SiBaker 7)davidpk 8)JG2704. This list is off the cuff. At least a few more will be there to make an excellent (true) English eleven. Most of them write very well - so, it is ( at least for me) a pleasure to read. Often, they also make valid points. If their cricket administration keeps on ignoring English boys, and rely on imports, it is not the fault of these dedicated English cricket lovers! So, from me - Love you guys; keep on writing.

  • Randolph on March 31, 2012, 7:27 GMT

    Where is @landl @5wombats @hillbumper? Fairweather or what?

  • Sejani on March 31, 2012, 1:26 GMT

    I agree with waza1234 but I also see nothing wrong in Andrew Strauss's captaincy.I mean you can't expect a player to be PERFECT.Every cricketer has had difficult times,as has Sachin Tendulkar so I think that blaming Strauss is very wrong.

  • Michael on March 30, 2012, 16:10 GMT

    "There have been plenty of Test captains who have struggled." Quite so. Gooch is about the only significant example I can think of of an England player whose test batting average improved when he was captain within the last forty years. One could case in fact for saying specifically "there have been plenty of England Test captains who have struggled.

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