Belfast Telegraph

Cricket World Cup: England can grasp prize, says Gooch

By David Clough

Graham Gooch is convinced England have the ability to win the World Cup for the first time in their history.

To do so, Andrew Strauss' team need to come out on top in three more matches over the next two weeks — starting with Saturday's quarter-final against co-hosts Sri Lanka in Colombo.

Gooch, part of the England management think-tank as their specialist batting coach, fell at the last hurdle three times when England lost World Cup finals in 1979, 1987 and 1992.

But at 57, he is hoping he can help England's class of 2011 go one better than he managed in his playing days.

As England decamped from Delhi to begin their preparations to face Muttiah Muralitharan and co. at the Premadasa Stadium, there was both a tinge of regret and renewed optimism in Gooch's voice.

“Winning a World Cup didn't happen for me,” he said.

“I hope this team have got it within them to win the World Cup — and I'm convinced they have.”

England's progress thus far has been stuttering and left plenty of room for improvement.

But Gooch, whose prolific 27-year career put him 10th on the all-time list of first-class run-scorers, is confident England have it in them to complete what — after their 2010/11 Ashes win — would be their most successful winter ever.

“They've come through this first stage of the competition, shown their fighting qualities and their resilience,” he added.

“We can get better, and if we do we have as good a chance as anyone else.”

On a personal note, it seems Gooch is still living the dream.

“It's a great honour to be involved with the England side. When you come up as a youngster you dream about playing for your country,” he added. “I was fortunate enough to do that — and now to be asked to help other players, who are representing their country, is a great thrill.”

Gooch knows all about how to get to World Cup finals, and believes England's at times nerve-shredding campaign so far is no bad thing.

“The objective was to get into the knockout stages,” he said. “We've made that, we've scraped through. We're not going to look back, we're going to look forward to the next challenge.

“We know we can improve, we know we've got better cricket within our team. Our guys need to concentrate on that.”

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The first fruits of Ireland's impressive labours at the World Cup are likely to be seen next week with the announcement of a one-day international home series against Pakistan, to be played at the end of May.

Negotiations between Cricket Ireland and the Pakistanis are at an advanced stage, with a three-match series the most likely outcome, although one game in Belfast and one in Dublin is also a possibility.

Irish coach Phil Simmons said: “We have been asking the International Cricket Council for a while for more games against the big boys.

“We want full-member ODI status because we are no longer playing to compete, we are playing to win.”

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