The Investec Ashes 2013 July 22, 2013

T20 'chipping away' at Test skills - Gooch


Graham Gooch has spelled out something that no one at Cricket Australia is prepared to publicly say - Twenty20 is "chipping away" at the skills required of Test batsmen, and Gooch, England's batting coach, works every day to ensure his men are not eroded as Australia's have been.

In the aftermath of the Lord's Test, the England captain, Alastair Cook, spoke warmly of Gooch, a figure often derided in Australia for his travails during the 1989 Ashes series but an exemplar of diligence, patience and commitment to the art of run-making. Joe Root's pivotal 180 after Australia's batsmen had surrendered their first innings for a paltry 128 was a 21st century facsimile of many a Gooch innings, and the mentor said multiple formats had made it ever more difficult to foster such patience among young batsmen.

"There's three formats of the game now … the basis of Test cricket is that it's a hell of a long game, five times 90 overs is a long, long game," Gooch said. "So it's about skills in batting, about run-making, about the whole package of not only having the technical skills but having the attitude, the mental toughness, the discipline, and the concentration. Anyone can concentrate for 15-20 minutes, but to score Test hundreds you have to concentrate for a long period of time. Those skills I think worldwide are being chipped away at the edges by the amount of one-day cricket and T20 cricket.

"If you're a traditionalist and like Test cricket and think that's the pinnacle and the benchmark, you know you can see with the number of competitions that are popping up and the rewards that are available in terms of finance … the possibility of it chipping away at the edges of the traditional game, and that's the same for every country. You've got to work hard to try to keep your players on track and obviously try to educate them as well as you can on the skills and the mental skills that are necessary to bat long. It's a different type of skill."

While it is clear that at the present moment England are successfully developing batsmen of the requisite obstinacy and technical purity to survive for long periods, Gooch spoke of the need for eternal vigilance to ensure that the balance was not lost. He also mentioned the ability of the best players to differentiate between conditions, using the right "tools" for the variety of surfaces offered in England, Australia and the subcontinent.

"Way after I finish this issue will still be alive and kicking," Gooch, who will turn 60 on Tuesday, said. "I'd hate to think that traditional skills get eroded and diluted because the specialist spinner, the specialist fast bowler, the skills of the batsmen are, for me, what make the game so great. Playing on a surface like here [Lord's], or the SCG or Brisbane or Perth where it bounces. A batsman to score runs needs different skills for different wickets, and as a batsman and run-maker you have different tools in the bag, but you don't take all the tools out every time you play."

As for the magnitude of England's victory, earning the hosts a 2-0 series lead that has only ever been overhauled once in the history of all Ashes contests, Gooch said some of his pupils would not fully appreciate it until later years. On the topic of Australia he was taciturn, but left ample room for the results to speak for themselves.

"I think we suffered quite a lot [in the past], I did manage to win the Ashes three times actually but I did suffer quite a lot," Gooch said. "I don't know how some of them would know the historical significance, some probably wouldn't. I think mainly they're interested in winning each match they come up against. Australia are giving it their best, it's not for me to comment on their performance, that's down to their management and their system. We try to get our players in the best possible condition to win."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mike on July 25, 2013, 23:04 GMT

    " pietersen is 35"

    Really ? Damn it, my maths needs improving. :p

  • Mashuq on July 23, 2013, 19:41 GMT

    Well said @Yevghenny on (July 23, 2013, 8:41 GMT) However, changing weather patterns in Australia have also contributed to the lack of decent pitches for Shield. That said, the points structure has lead states to focus on getting results by manufacturing 'result' wickets. So, it's by no means only an issue of format skills, Gooch. The failure of batting is both a generational as well as a structural issue. It will take time to turn around; how long is anyone's guess.

  • Angry on July 23, 2013, 13:38 GMT

    Fundamentally though, would you pick the Australian batsmen to build a T20 team? Yes, there's Watson. Smith has come along lately. That's it. Clarke, Rogers, Cowan and Khawaja all scarcely know how to play it. Hughes is okay, no better than Trott . Haddin and Wade both like to have a swing, but tend to play outside their limits; both also more noted for their Test batting. The only context for this BBL furore is that a swathe of better players might exist in Australia, only to have failed to use their ability to play first class cricket and earn promotion into the Test squad.

    I mean it is more likely that the likes of Cowan got out poking at wide balls because you can't improve the totals without making runs. Clarke went out in the 4th innings at Lords with intent and lasted a fair bit longer than Rogers, whose stoic refusal to play a shot cost him his off stump.

    Clarke is perhaps more hardened, but most mortals do have to deal with pressure. The Australian team is under a lot of it.

  • Keith on July 23, 2013, 11:15 GMT

    I agree with Gooch to a point, but a batsman of great skill should be able to adapt his game to suit the situation, and there are occasional run chases in test cricket which do resemble one day and even perhaps T20 cricket, so decent players ought not to worry much about concentrating on one game at the expense of the other. Also there are many historical players who it should be recognized would readily do well in any form of cricket.

    That's a roundabout way of saying overall batting skill levels are not so good atm in the Australian side. And admitting perhaps T20 is growing away from test cricket, another difficult issue.

  • Adam on July 23, 2013, 9:05 GMT

    To suggest that a T20 audience is not a cricket audience shows a disgraceful level of ignorance. Enthusiastic and knowledgeable cricket audiences are able to appreciate all three formats of the game. The fact that they go to county matches where they are probably neutral observers suggest that they are more interested in and knowledgeable about the nuances of the game than your average one-eyed barmy army fan in attendance at the test series.

    Up to a certain level, say the top amateur level, the skills required for T20 and Test Cricket batting are largely identical. Beyond that point, they start to diverge dramatically, and promising young batsmen need to choose to focus on one or the other. The thing that england have got right and Australia wrong is in ensuring that the right paths are taken by the right players and the talent is spread evenly between the two distributions.

  • Android on July 23, 2013, 8:58 GMT

    t20 should have been a domestic and never an international thing t20 at international stage is a joke with good players at test level coming and trying to play stupid shots cricket should be test and 50 overs thats it to be honest if india had not won the 2007 t20 wc t20 would not have really taken off ipl and all other t20 tournaments are a joke

  • G on July 23, 2013, 8:41 GMT

    australian cricket seems to be in the mindset that it can just score 4+ an over anywhere on any pitch simply by "trusting your natural game" - these guys natural game is to get a quick 30 and get out

  • Abinash on July 23, 2013, 6:13 GMT

    Absolutely HATE T20 cricket. Gooch is 100% right about diminishing batting abilities. There is a direct correlation of that with the number of t20 games being played of late. A simple distribution analysis of number of balls faced by top order batsmen in test matches pre 2007 and post 2007 will prove what Gooch is trying to say.

  • Jason on July 23, 2013, 5:31 GMT

    @pulkit10, I agree T20 is not the root cause, and it is true that players of an older generation did adapt to the new format, however they still had the longer format experience to fall back on.

    where as what gooch is saying is that this new generation dont have that experience in the longer format and so find it more difficult to an build an innings as they need to apply themselves for longer.

    I do think that it has helped tail enders come out and get useful runs at the end of the game as we've seen in the last few series sometimes games rest on these innings.

  • James on July 23, 2013, 5:08 GMT

    @hayagriva, a result doesn't make a match. Remember SA vs Australia in Aus where faf du plessis batted out the innings for a draw. Very very good match, no result.