Gooch: England can win World Cup
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 today to begin their preparations to face Muttiah Muralitharan and Co at the Premadasa Stadium next weekend, 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 revealed. “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 continued. “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. Each individual has got to commit to his game to be part of our team framework for the big match.”
It will fall to Gooch, along with Andrew Strauss and team director Andy Flower, to fine-tune England’s batting tactics against Sri Lanka - whom they beat 3-2 on their last one-day international tour of the country, in October 2007.
Perhaps one of the most taxing decisions will be whether to stick with Matt Prior as Strauss’ opening partner, or push the wicketkeeper-batsman back down the order in favour of either Ian Bell or Ravi Bopara.
Gooch insists that call has not yet been made, but is encouraged by the enthusiasm Bell revealed yesterday when asked if he would like to be promoted again.
No frontline batsman worth his salt should want to be anywhere else in the order but first in ODI cricket, according to Gooch - who made that position his own for so long.
“Having opened the batting myself, I think it’s a special place to play - and I think every batsman should aspire to open the batting in one-day cricket,” he said.
“Why wouldn’t you want 50 overs to bat? Why would you want to come in halfway down? You want to set the tone. You want to set up the game.
“If you open the batting in one-day cricket, you have a chance to make a mark and set the direction of your team.”
However, Gooch made it clear England will not be rushed into panic measures.
“You look at each game individually,” he said. “Our batting fired in the early matches, then we’ve been short of a few runs on lower-scoring pitches in exciting games.
“We just need to get that quantity of runs to be competitive. Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss will look at the batting order, once we’ve seen the conditions, and decide what’s our best way forward.”