Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 27 November 2014

Sledging Aussies should not distract England: Gooch

Heat of battle: Michael Clarke attempts to  distract James Anderson
Heat of battle: Michael Clarke attempts to distract James Anderson

ENGLAND should treat every Australian sledge as a little victory, according to batting coach Graham Gooch.

He delivered a withering assessment of the team's performance in the first Ashes Test in Brisbane, claiming they "didn't compete" on their way to a shock 381-run defeat at the Gabba.

Time may be short if England are to get their Ashes campaign back on track in the second Test in Adelaide, because the schedule then moves quickly on to another Australian stronghold at the WACA in Perth.

England's trouncing in Brisbane was notable not just for their double collapse – 10 wickets fell for the addition of just 18 runs across two innings – but the apparent animosity between the teams on and off the pitch.

Both camps have since tried to calm the atmosphere, insisting the sledging – which cost home captain Michael Clarke almost £2,000 in an International Cricket Council fine – was no worse than the norm in the modern Test arena.

They have also both made it clear the barracking will continue with gusto in pursuit of the urn.

To former England captain Gooch, who confirmed that Joe Root and Ian Bell are the two candidates to replace Jonathan Trott in the number three batting slot, there is a skill to combating the sledge.

"There's no rocket science," he said. "You advise technically; you advise mentally.

"If someone comes with sledging, people deal with it in different ways.

"Some people it motivates, makes them play better, more determined; some people it can unsettle."

Gooch believes batsmen just need to ensure that no amount of verbal provocation diverts attention from the most essential contest.

"Generally sledging is about getting you to play the man and not the ball, (to) get your focus off the ball," he added.

"In my career, players I've seen who've dealt with it best either smile at the opposition or take it as a compliment.

"Generally, if you get sledged, you're doing okay."

By that yardstick Joe Root must be Gooch's star pupil, after he greeted match-winner Mitchell Johnson's apparent barrage of insults during England's second innings in Brisbane with a grin.

Gooch's England tutorials are just as likely to cover cricket's mind games as the refined technical nuances of bat against ball.

He will continue that process too, albeit in the full knowledge that whatever he says it ultimately comes down to the player.

"That's what I get paid to do," said the 60-year-old.

"Whether they listen is another thing.

"You give advice. When you're playing, your desire is to play, reach the top.

"The player is always the master. The coach is there to shape the player, give advice, give tips, hope to help him shape his career, style, play, technique.

"If he wants to take that advice, that's up to him... different things make different people tick."

Gooch's most immediate challenge is to stop the collapses of the Gabba somehow infecting minds and bodies in Adelaide and beyond.

He said: "It's tough, I wouldn't deny that. It's not the sort of defeat you want – a heavy defeat – and we didn't compete.

"The batsmen's job is to set up a platform for the bowlers to try to win the game. We didn't even get close to that."

He acknowledges the resurgent Johnson's outstanding form at the Gabba, but still thinks England could and should have done much better.

"Everyone's got to look at their game and how they can improve on their performance.

"There was nothing wrong with the wicket – a great Test wicket. Mitchell Johnson bowled particularly well.

"We hope our batsmen can give a better account – because unless you put a decent score on the board, you're not going to win five-day games."

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