London: Former England captain Graham Gooch, an iconic opener of the modern times, spoke to The Telegraph from his residence in Essex late on Wednesday.
Q The James Anderson-Ravindra Jadeja affair has added plenty of spice to the series. What was your reaction when you heard of the charge and counter-charge?
A I’d like the focus to be on cricket, on on-field matters. England and India have a rivalry going back decades and we should really be talking about who does what either with bat or ball.
Are you disappointed that the two Boards and the team managements couldn’t sort it out?
(Emphatically) Absolutely. They should have made it clear to the players that cricket alone should do the talking. Imagine, on the eve of a Test at Lord’s, we’re dwelling on a controversy instead of going into the prospects.
To talk of the series... Your take on the pitch provided at Trent Bridge?
Such pitches aren’t conducive to good cricket. You need a balance between bat and ball. Obviously, given the nature of England’s attack, they’d like a surface where the ball bounces above the waist.
Had you been the England captain, what would you have done in the days leading up to the first Test?
Every home team would generally like some assistance and there’s nothing wrong in that. When we go to India, pitches there help spinners... Having said that, there are groundsmen who believe that cricketers should just go out and play on the surface they provide... England have, of course, added Simon Kerrigan to their squad.
Anderson and Stuart Broad, in particular, didn’t mince words...
Fast bowlers want responsive pitches. Between themselves, they have over 600 Test wickets and are top-of-the-line quicks. One could understand their frustration.
It has been an unusually dry summer...
So far, pretty much yes. If such conditions persist, spinners would become a factor in the remainder of the series.
What about the rest of the pitches? Lord’s often turns out to be flat...
Lord’s will be Lord’s. England shouldn’t expect favours from the groundsman.
[Actually, after the brown look of Trent Bridge, England were delighted to see considerable green on the Lord’s surface.]
Should England look to make a change?
A specialist spinner helps balance the attack and gives his captain an option. At Trent Bridge, (Alastair) Cook didn’t have that option. Ideally, England should play four fast bowlers and a spinner.
Moving away from the bowlers, Joe Root is a huge asset...
Yes, Root has come back strongly after his problems in the Ashes. He’s improved and, given his age (23), can improve more. He wants to, which is good.
On the last tour, India got whipped 0-4 in the Test series. What do you make of this team?
This team is different... Younger, more vibrant and energetic... It looks to be highly motivated. India seem to be out to prove a point... It’s a rebuilding stage. England, too, are in somewhat of a similar stage.
Did anybody stand out in the first Test?
I liked India’s openers — centurion Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan... Virat Kohli didn’t make an impression at Trent Bridge, but I’m sure he’ll be a factor in the next four Tests... The issue with India is whether they have the bowlers to take 20 wickets.
Of the two, Vijay and Dhawan, who do you rate higher?
To be honest, I haven’t seen much of either... But I do like Dhawan’s attitude and technique. Coming from the subcontinent, you need to quickly adapt in England, though.
Overall, do you like the look of India’s batting line-up?
Well, they’re all good batsmen, otherwise, they wouldn’t have been on the tour... With experience, I suppose they’ll score loads of runs in different conditions. Clearly, the talent is there.
To talk of Lord’s, should India play Ravichandran Ashwin?
It’s not for me to advise, but I was surprised when Ashwin, who is a fine cricketer, didn’t make the XI at Trent Bridge. He’s a handy batsman as well.
[Like England, India took to the Test unchanged.]
Three years ago, Mahendra Singh Dhoni was under so much pressure... He survived and is still the India captain...
I like Dhoni as a cricketer... I like the calm way he makes decisions. But he’s been taking on a massive workload.
A few days ago, Ian Chappell said that it’s time for Dhoni to hand the Test captaincy over to Kohli. Your thoughts?
That could be the natural way forward, but in the future. Kohli’s aggressive and should make a good captain... In the future.
What would be your advice to Alastair Cook?
To hold nerve and accept that all batsmen go through phases when the runs just dry up. Alastair’s a class act, or else he wouldn’t have scored over 8,000 runs and 25 hundreds in Test cricket... In the situation he’s in, he has to back himself to come through. He’s got to do the things which, in the past, have worked for him.
The pressure is enormous...
That’s the way it is... There’s more scrutiny when you aren’t scoring. Or, not taking wickets, if you’re a bowler.
Is Cook’s time as captain over?
No. Alastair’s learning after the Ashes loss in Australia. But, don’t forget his achievements... Winning the Ashes, helping England become No.1 in Test cricket... He’s been positive of late.
Should Cook have resigned after the Ashes rout?
Had that step been taken, it would have been at the wrong time.
After the Ashes, you were made a scapegoat... The other day, you rued that your “credibility” had been “stained”... Have you been hurt?
It’s a fact that the last Ashes didn’t go well for England and, understandably, changes had to be made. When a new head coach (Peter Moores) comes, it’s natural that he’d like men he’s familiar with to be around him. I have no issues. As you know, I’d come on board following a request from Andy Flower.
But aren’t you hurt at the manner of your removal as England’s batting coach?
Well... It wasn’t the way I would have liked my England ‘innings’ to end. However, I accepted the decision made by the England and Wales Cricket Board.
I understand that you’re still working with some of the England batsmen...
A few of them, behind the scenes.
Could you return as batting coach/consultant?
I don’t think so... That time, I think, has gone. However, one never knows what the future holds. You never know what hand fate will play.
What keeps you busy?
I’m no more into coaching 24x7... I’m an ambassador for my beloved Essex and I’m also an ambassador for the Professional Cricketers’ Association... I give a few after-dinner speeches.
Is the triple hundred against India, at Lord’s (in 1990), still fresh in your memory?
(Laughs) Not that fresh, but it’s nice that people still talk about it.
Finally... Ryan ten Doeschate, a Dutchman, has acknowledged that you’ve been the biggest influence on his career...
Ryan’s a good lad and one of the best players Essex has had in the past decade. I’m thankful to him for his kind words during the IPL.