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"The development arm of my job I'm very happy with"

Cricinfo speaks to Troy Cooley about the fast-bowling challenge before England in this series

For one with a first-class bowling average shading 61, Troy Cooley has become an increasingly well-known name in international cricket. The reason is his outstanding work with the England's pace bowlers, culminating in the sustained attack on the Australians last summer. "We're gutted," had been Simon Jones's reaction to news that Cooley would depart at the end of the India tour to take the position of national fast-bowling coach in his home, Australia. Minutes after Jones limped into the hotel lobby, and out of the tour, Cricinfo spoke to Cooley about the fast-bowling challenge before England in this series.

Troy Cooley has been a vital part of England's support staff © Getty Images
Let's start with the acclimatisation for this series. How's the SG ball been to the fast bowlers?
Well, there isn't much difference. The SG is different to the Kookaburra, and most countries now use the Kookaburra, especially the white one. But the SG reminds us of the Duke that we use in England. It's not a big change. We get to practise with them before we come over. The bowlers have liked to hold on to it, so that's good. Depending on the conditions, it has swung nicely for Hoggy, and, when the conditions have suited, we've got some reverse.
How long have you been practising with it?
Obviously most of the players here have used the SG before. The ones that haven't, we had a couple of camps before the series where we used the ball. Also we had a couple of players here at the MRF Pace Foundation, where we used the SG.
What sort of measures have the bowlers taken to counter the weather conditions? Summer has begun in India.
Well, Nigel Stockill (the fitness coach) has been in charge of that. The players are very aware that they need to be fit. You've got to watch out for your diet, and hydration especially.
What sort of things have you worked on at practice before coming into this tour?
Coming out of Pakistan we had a look at a few areas that we could improve on - variations and things like that for the subcontinent wickets. We've looked at covering those bases. I know in England you basically look at the seam position, but they've all been tasked with making sure that they look after the variations and they all practise them. Hopefully they will be able to produce them when the conditions suit.
Are we likely to see more attack or attrition?
I think it will just be based on the circumstances. The team works very well together. Any circumstance they come up against, they're pretty quick on their feet. They'll be basically looking to play the situation.
The wickets at the CCI and Vadodara were fairly green, which will not be the case in the Test matches. What kind of adjustments would the bowlers need to make?
We also have some very good spinners in our team. Some new spinners, but very capable of doing the job. Basically we've played on a lot of different types of wickets now, so we're working hard to make sure that whatever wicket they get they have the adequate armoury to prosper on it. If they get their rhythm together and get their intensity right, we'll be able to match the conditions.
The pace attack was outstanding in the Ashes, but quite flat in Pakistan. Pitches apart, why do you think?
Basically, one of those bowlers wasn't in Pakistan. Simon and Fred work very well in partnership. Ashley Giles wasn't there as well (for the third Test). There was an opportunity for others to come in. But some of them didn't quite hit their straps at the time and it's just one of those things. We have to learn from that and get ourselves organised over here.
Simon's been doing all that's been asked of him...I think he has the workload underneath him
Are you optimistic that you will be able to get more reverse swing in India than you did in Pakistan?
Yes. But reverse swing depends on the condition of the ball, the outfields and the wickets of course. We practise it. If the conditions of the ball suit and the conditions of the ground suit we can take advantage of that, but if it doesn't then we have to go back to the conventional ways.
It looks as if Jones may not play the series. Even if he were to, are you happy with the match-practice he's had?
Simon's been doing all that's been asked of him. He's got the overs under his belt. Unfortunately he went down with a stomach complaint so we couldn't play him in the last game at Vadodara. But we had taken him to Chennai and built him up over there. He got some centre-wicket training and some outdoor practice there. I think he has the workload underneath him. His skill level obviously doesn't diminish. It's whether he comes up...
We've read that Flintoff's worked heavily on fitness leading up to the tour. What has that entailed? And how do you think captaincy will affect his bowling?
Well ever since the West Indies two years ago Fred has been working very hard to make sure that he's fit enough to bat and bowl, which is a tough ask. Look, whether Fred's batting, bowling or anything, he's thinking about the game and I know that he's a big contributor to the way the team performs. I think it will be just another stride for him. It will be interesting how he goes about it.

'Hoggy's a true professional...he finds a way of getting himself involved in the game' © Getty Images
How's Harmison's homesickness coming along?
He's got that under control very much. He'd still obviously rather be in England, and I'm sure most of the England players would. He's looking very fit at the moment, he's very keen and lets hope that he continues along those lines.
Hoggard is coming out of a very good year. He's done pretty well in the subcontinent too. What has he worked out?
Hoggy's a true professional. He gets stuck in. He works out what suits him in the conditions. He's very quick to do that. It all comes back to his work ethic. He finds a way of getting himself involved in the game.
None of the Indian pace bowlers has played a Test against England. You must have studied them though. What do you make of them?
I've been going to MRF now for seven years and I've seen a lot of the bowlers coming through. But they're all capable bowlers and are rated very highly. For me, it's just excellent watching bowlers bowl, and I hope they do well.
Could you tell us a little more about your successor, Kevin Shine? What advice would you give him?
I don't think I'd give Kevin any advice. I've been working with him for two years now. He's got a very good, sound knowledge of fast bowling, he's a very good manager of people. Basically, I set up a fast-bowling programme in England when I first went across - at Loughborough, through the national academy. Identified and worked with Kevin and he came into the fast bowling group that I set up. Kevin knows exactly what he needs to do and I wish him all the best. He's coming in for the one-dayers and there'll be a handover period. There'll be a chance for him to work in and get to know the players. Duncan's very keen that there is a seamless transition.
I've thoroughly enjoyed my time with the England team and the England management. It's with a lot of sadness that I leave the team
You must have mixed emotions about leaving.
I've got some very good friends. I've thoroughly enjoyed my time with the England team and the England management. But another opportunity came up and I couldn't refuse the offer to go home. It's with a lot of sadness that I leave the team but also there is another chance coming up.
Finally, what pleases you most when you look back at your tenure?
There's a very good fast-bowling development system now, through the England national academy, which now looks after fast bowlers all the way from the Under-19s through to the senior squad. So the development arm of my job I'm very happy with. The other thing is the research side of the programme we set up - how it can help fast bowlers improve their skills and stay fit. There is the team itself, the success that this team has had - and that they will hopefully continue to have - is something I've been very excited and happy to be a part of.

Rahul Bhattacharya is contributing editor of Cricinfo Magazine and author of Pundits from Pakistan: On Tour with India, 2003-04