Cow Corner

Sacking Gooch is not the answer for beleaguered England

The sight of Graham Gooch lobbing throw-downs while looking extremely focused with his dog-ball thrower in the nets may soon be no more if some reports are to be believed.

Speculation about the England legend becoming the fall guy for England's disastrous slump with the bat continues to mount ahead of the fifth and final Ashes Test at the SCG amid the inevitable talk of dysfunction and discontent.

It has been said that the players have stopped listening to Gooch - or, crucially, heeding his advice. As unforgivable as that would be, given what the Essex man knows about batting, it is also missing the point.

There is no use in denying that England are in the middle of an alarming malaise, particularly with their batting, but sacking Gooch would be far from the right message to send.

England's batsmen are entirely responsible for the collapses; they alone can convert hard graft and meticulous analysis off the field to runs on it. A batting coach can only do so much.

The senior players in the side have been - somewhat fairly - accused of not taking the initiative, of not responding to the challenges set for them by a driven and hungry Australia side. No England batsman is averaging better than Kevin Pietersen's 35.62.

What good would it do to simply let the senior batsmen off the hook by dispensing with their coach? Do England want to send them the message that their dismal performances are okay because it's someone else's fault?

Gooch's role is quite simple: he is tasked with preparing the England batsmen in every way he can for the rigours of Test cricket. What he cannot do, however, is step over the boundary rope with his charges or have any effect on what they do out in the middle.

Responsibility of performance may begin with the backroom staff and coaches, but it certainly ends with the players themselves. No wonder many feel helpless amid the chaos.

Gooch can give a batsman everything he possibly needs to prepare for a big Ashes Test, but he cannot possibly account for the very experienced Ian Bell chipping his first delivery of a crucial innings tamely to mid on, for Alastair Cook taking on a rash hook shot with his team in crisis or for Pietersen and Matt Prior to gift their wickets in pursuit of a satisfying maximum.

The facts certainly do not boast of Gooch's value on his behalf, that is true. England played 14 Test matches in 2013 in which their average first-innings score, either batting or fielding first, was 271.

Perhaps more strikingly, England only twice exceeded the 400 mark in the last calendar year, and those occasions came against New Zealand in Dunedin and Wellington in March. Quite simply, a team cannot win Test matches with such a paucity of runs behind them.

Gooch knows about runscoring. He plundered an incredible 67,057 runs in his career. Let's say it again, he knows about runscoring. To rack up 172 centuries represents no small achievement in the game.

He has always been famous for his relentless pursuit of excellence, and no one feels the lows in English cricket as acutely as the 60-year-old. He will never stop caring about how England's batsmen perform.

Rather than even entertain the prospect of losing such a valuable and distinguished member of staff, the point must be made very clearly that the players must take responsibility for their performances.

In the case of Andy Flower the situation is a much more complex one, regarding the overall direction and culture of the England set up. But for Gooch? Let him do his job and make it abundantly clear to the batsmen under his charge that they must do theirs.

There will always be an individual or two struggling for form or battling a temporary loss of desire on the grind of the international circuit, but England's batsmen have collectively failed over a prolonged period of time.

Changes must now be made and new personnel introduced. It has always been this way and, as one era comes to an end, another group of hungry, talented young players can be afforded opportunities to build their careers at the highest level.

So England must ask the question: who is the individual who is best placed to nurture and guide a refreshed group of batsmen? The likes of Gary Ballance, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root.

Amid all the speculation about Gooch facing the axe, there has been no compelling argument made to suggest that a more suitable or qualified individual exists to succeed him. He is very likely still the most passionate, experienced and knowledgeable man around.

If the current batsmen really have stopped listening to this truly great former England stalwart then they are the ones who need to be dispensed with. It is their positions that need to be scrutinised.

It is becoming all the more clear that changes will and should be made after what has been an unmitigated disaster Down Under - but instead of dancing around the real issues and looking beyond the obvious problems, the players must be held accountable for their displays.

As former England captain Michael Atherton said earlier this week, "the responsibility for scoring runs is yours and yours alone, and whatever you want to do to help that, whoever you want to work with, is also your choice, and yours alone. No excuses."

In Flower and Gooch the England batsmen have leaders and mentors who have integrity and experience which demand respect. Having scored a combined 13,694 runs in Test cricket alone, they are worth listening to.

England's management now need to be particularly careful that, amid the inevitable calls for heads to roll in the wake of a shambolic and woeful campaign, they do not misfire.

Dan Quarrell - @Dan_Eurosport

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