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Cook one of the best: Gooch

Matt Prior

Ahmedabad: If you are wondering what qualities help Alastair Cook play a long innings, like he did on Sunday, Graham Gooch has a simple answer: “…He is one of the best players in the world.”

Gooch, a former captain and the current batting consultant to the England team, was lavish in his praise for Cook, at the media conference.

“He can bat long because he is one of the best players in the world… It is not just the physical skill that I’m talking about, you need skill between the ears. This lad has had a great temperament from when he first started and came here, in India, to make his debut. He proved even then the priceless skill of knowing how to play,” Gooch said.

“From the outset he knew what he could do and what he couldn’t do, and he still has that skill today. He knows how to maximise results. He’s got good defensive qualities. He crafted a century today… It wasn’t a flamboyant innings, but he did the job that was necessary,” Gooch added.

Cook is unbeaten on 168 in England’s second innings and according to Gooch, it has been one of the best innings played by England’s 27-year-old captain.

“This knock will do him a world of good, showing what he is capable of and what this team is capable of… I think that was as good an innings as I’ve seen him play because he was under great pressure after a poor first innings performance from the team. Some players blossom under captaincy, he has done that today. Hope he continues,” he said.

He lauded Matt Prior’s effort as well, saying the England wicket-keeper tailored his innings to perfection. “Matt has been a fantastic cricketer for England over the past few years... He has played some great counter-attacking innings.

He tailored that general style to stay with Alastair... You still saw some shots, but he showed resolute defence and that is the style of play that worked. If you saw how the Indian players played, they do attack but they also stick in there and don’t take chances. The skill of scoring runs is in being adaptable,” the 59-year-old observed.

His advice for Kevin Pietersen was also simple: Trust your abilities. “I think Kevin will be very disappointed with both innings... He trains very hard and practises very hard, and has played well in recent times. But like other players, he has to trust his abilities,” Gooch said.

Speaking about England’s turnaround after the first innings failure, he said: “When you’ve been in the game as long as I have, you’ve seen most things that happen…

“We saw poor shots, poor decisions, bad mistakes, bad thinking, bad judgment and then you sometimes see the opposite which is what we saw today. It was great commitment from our guys and great fighting spirit. There was belief in their own abilities and Alastair led from the front as captain.”

He didn’t blame the pitch either. “There are no demons in this pitch and it is what we expected in this part of the world. Flattish… Once you get in, it becomes a little easier and you have to trust your skills.”

The strategy for England on Monday will be to look to survive ball by ball, revealed Gooch.