sport

Gooch hopes for England repeat

Graham Gooch knows from his own experience as an Test opener it is folly simply to predict more of the same from Alastair Cook and England.

England have already pulled off a "monumental" achievement to lead their Test series in India 2-1 - and in captain Cook have the right man to ensure they finish the job in Nagpur.

Cook has led from the front spectacularly already, with three hundreds in successive Tests culminating in his English record-breaking 23rd in the seven-wicket victory at Eden Gardens.

But Gooch, batting coach and mentor to his one-time Essex protege, remains somewhat wary and has urged the team to focus.

All runs in international cricket are hard-earned, a fact personified in Cook's renowned diligence and determination every time he goes out to bat.

If anyone, however, can simply keep churning out the runs - as he so famously did in England's historic Ashes victory in Australia two winters ago - it is the new England captain.

So far, Cook has batted for more than 26 hours in this series and racked up almost 550 runs.

It speaks volumes too for an iron will to carry on interminably that he was so dismayed after his bizarre run-out in Kolkata - even though he had a man-of-the-match 190 under his belt at the time.

Others, of course, have played significant parts in England's fightback after losing the first Test by 10 wickets.

Kevin Pietersen's unique abilities helped to put England out of sight in Mumbai, where spinners Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann shared 19 of the 20 Indian wickets, and James Anderson and Steven Finn's expert use of reverse-swing was telling in the latest victory.

"It was a monumental achievement," said Gooch, himself a veteran of three Test tours here but on the winning side in only one match.

Cook's team are already very different, and have the chance to become the first from England since 1984-85 to win a series here.

"We have come over and we know these conditions are sometimes alien to English players," added Gooch.

"We lost the first Test - we took a bit of a beating there - and India have set up the conditions in Mumbai and Kolkata, but our guys have responded magnificently and handled those conditions.

"Let's be fair; we've outplayed India in both the last two Tests.

"We're in the ascendancy."

India's selectors have responded by dropping three mainstays of their team - Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh.

England will take account, of course, but will not be distracted.

"India have made some changes to their squad, but we can't worry about what they're doing," Gooch said.

"We have to make sure we enjoy the moment - our guys deserve to celebrate - and then when we move on to Nagpur, where we know that conditions will produce another result.

"The home side are one down and will want to try and get level.

"We will try to clinch the series. We'll be prepared for that. We've got to repeat the way we've played."

It is obvious that, in Cook, they have a priceless asset.

Gooch cannot remember the first time, back in Cook's formative years, he saw the man who will surely soon overhaul his record England Test runscoring aggregate.

But it was quickly apparent that the teenage prospect had something about him.

Searching his memory, Gooch said: "To estimate that someone will have the sort of record and status he has in the game at the age of 27 - 28 on Christmas day - is difficult to gauge.

"But he's always been an impressive young man, mature beyond his years.

"From the time he scored his first Test hundred, (even) from the time he first came into the Essex professional set-up, he has been very mature about his cricket.

"He works hard at his game. We've spent hours and hours in the nets over a long period of time - and credit to him, he's the one who deserves to take the plaudits.

"He's worked hard at all types of his technique against spin, pace and swing bowling.

"He's had some low moments - as you do as a player - but now he's reaping the rewards for that hard work."

Cook has been a near instant success too, despite that first chastening defeat in Ahmedabad, in his new role as permanent Test captain after the surprise retirement of Andrew Strauss.

A transitional period, in these alien climes, seemed the most likely consequence of a vexed summer. But it has not been so.

"He's only new to captaincy. He's had a good start," said Gooch.

"He's led this team really well. He's still learning as a captain, and he'll continue to develop. "There'll be highs and lows along the way, but he'll take them equally and move forward.

"English cricket is lucky to have a player like him at the head of its [national] team.

"He knows exactly what he wants and he knows how to go about it. He works very hard - and, generally, that's a winning combination."