Building an innings
'Attitude, ability, knowledge and focus are cornerstones of batting'
By Oli Burley. Last Updated: July 28, 2011 5:33pm
Timing isn't everything - but it certainly helps.
Twenty one years to the day after racking up 333 against India, England's current batting coach Graham Gooch ran a masterclass as part of the Sky Sports ECB Coach Education Programme.
The 58-year-old passed on some of the tips that helped him to amass 8,900 career Test runs to six coaches at the National Cricket Performance Centre, in Loughborough, and also offered advice on how to bring the best out of other players.
One thing was clear from the off. The hunger for success that sustained him through that 628-minute marathon innings at Lord's, is still as strong as ever...
skysports.com: Are you ever tempted to show the England lads the video of your 333?
Gooch: No - and I don't think I'll be getting it out anytime soon as there aren't too many video players around anymore!
skysports.com: It would illustrate the point, though, that you can never score enough runs?
Gooch: That's true and it's important to have that mentality at the crease. When you go into bat, the first 50 is the most difficult, the second is all about keeping your rhythm and the third fifty should be the easiest, so there's no point in giving your wicket away needlessly. The longer you bat, the better you will see the ball and the more the bowlers will tire so it's imperative that you cash in at that time. As we saw at Lord's, scores of over 150 such as Kevin Pietersen's unbeaten 202 can win you a match.
skysports.com: You see your role as improving run-making rather than batting, but don't the two go hand-in hand?
Gooch: Pretty much anyone can bat, but not everyone can score runs so my approach focuses on the four integral parts of achieving that goal - your attitude, ability, knowledge and concentration. It's not just about how you pick up a bat and play your shots; it's as much about how you prepare yourself and what you know about the conditions and bowlers.
skysports.com: Can that lead to mixed messages?
Gooch: Whatever level you are coaching at, you have to try and make the coaching sessions you have enjoyable so that players connect with you and are what I call 'on receive'. Your sessions must be worthwhile and well-structured. One of the worst things you can do is try to coach too many things at once because that just fosters confusion.
It's far better to work on one area in particular with a player and once they feel comfortable dealing with that situation, only then is it time to move onto something else.
skysports.com: Players seem to have a brand new training aid at each game these days. Is it all getting a bit too gimmicky?
Gooch: I don't see things like short or narrow bats as gimmicks. What I am trying to do at international level with players who are well-versed in the game, is stimulate them as they practice. I try to set them new challenges and take them to places they haven't been, so that I stretch them, so that it's not just a regulation case of hitting balls.
skysports.com: Is that the biggest change in coaching methods since you played?
Gooch: You have to work the basics - that's a given - but what we try to do more these days is give players different challenges. In the coaching session we worked on some basic things that are exactly the same as the England players do and then put them into a match situation.
The reason we have different net scenarios is to take the players out of their comfort zone and get the adrenalin flowing a little bit. I make them run or do press ups between 'overs', do burpees or carry bricks. All this is about is taking them out of their comfort zone so that they have to step back into their role as a batsman, compose themselves and use their powers of concentration to focus back on the art of scoring runs.
skysports.com: Not everyone is going to respond well to star-jumps in the nets, though. How do you deal with that player without making them the exception in the squad?
Gooch: If a drill isn't working for a player, then you try to devise something else for them. A coach doesn't have to be regimented and do exactly the same thing with every player; it's far better to find out what makes each player tick and come up with a more tailored approach.
skysports.com: Many Sky Sports viewers will see you making copious notes during the Test matches. What are you writing down and how do you use that information?
Gooch: I don't record things in minute detail but I do jot down things about each player or certain things in the game that jog my memory when I get a chance to talk with them at different times. At international level I'm trying to make that one or two percent difference that can fine-tune a batsman's existing game.
skysports.com: Are you trying to improve yourself as a coach at the same time?
Gooch: I don't think you set out to try and develop yourself but given the nature of the England camp and the other coaches that are involved, not to mention the England set up across all ages, it is inevitable that you do improve. If you are smart the chance to see other international coaches and players working at close quarters offers you the perfect opportunity to pick up new techniques and methods
skysports.com: How proud are you to be a member of this current England set up?
Gooch: It is hugely rewarding and it is also a great honour to be involved with England having had a long association both as a player, a captain and a selector. So it's great to be back in that environment. My one motivation now - just as it was when I was a player - is to help England win matches.
skysports.com: England are getting pretty good at that under Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower. What's their secret?
Gooch: Andy is excellent at preparing the players - he leaves no stone unturned on that front - and always tries to challenge them while Strauss is a fine leader on and off the pitch, which is why he is so respected in the camp. That combination means that the team is always well-drilled and each player knows exactly what their role is in the side.
skysports.com: England's current opponents, India, have quality players aplenty. From a coaching perspective, who stands out for you?
Gooch: I admire a lot of India's players, but I'd have to single out Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid over everyone else. Not only have their excellent techniques stood the test of time but their desire and commitment is unquestionable; all in all they are great ambassadors for our sport.
The Sky Sports ECB Coach Education Programme has trained over 33,000 coaches over the past four years and develops coaches from playground to Test arena. For more information on the scheme please visit www.skysports.com/coaching and the ECB's website.