There is a saying that “Maturity comes with experience, not age” and Graham Gooch proved it as a cricketer for England. Graham Gooch had the maturity needed in his veins whether it was him as a batsman, captain or as a batting coach for England and it just grew as he became older!
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His professional cricket career took off in 1973 in a first-class match for Essex. Gooch was an integral part of the team being the leading run-scorer for Essex with 30,701 runs which includes 94 hundreds. He also went on to be England’s leading run-scorer in tests, retiring with 8900 runs from 118 Tests at a batting average of 42.58 until Alastair Cook surpassed his record in late 2016.
Gooch had an inauspicious test debut for England when he got out for a pair against arch rival, Australia in Birmingham in 1975. The next match, he scored the first runs of his test career, but could manage only 37 runs in total and was dropped in 1978. He had to bat in the middle order as regular openers, John Edrich and Dennis Amiss, were in stellar form amidst the self-exile of the other preferred and experienced test opener, Geoff Boycott.
The following year, he made his ODI debut against the mighty West Indies and scored at a snail pace having a knock of 32 runs off 69 balls. He played couple more ODI’s that year but got dropped, only to be reconsidered in 1978.
1978: The first time he opened for England:
In the summer of 1978, he was recalled back to the side to face Pakistan, albeit as an opener. He stamped his authority with 54 runs at the Mecca of cricket, Lord’s, against the lethal Pakistan bowling line-up comprising of Mudassar Nazar, Iqbal Qasim, and Wasim Raja. This was the innings that sealed his place in the test team if not as an opener as later that year, the then regular opener Boycott came back to regain his favorite opening position, thus pushing Gooch down to No.4.
While playing in a comeback ODI series against New Zealand, he smashed 94 runs off 129 balls, which came the first time he batted as an opener in ODI. The story repeated here too as he was dropped down to No.4 in favor of Geoff Boycott
1979 World Cup:
He batted at No.4 position for England in the 1979 World Cup and scored 210 runs in 5 matches at an average of 52.5 with 2 fifties. England was runner up in that World Cup as they lost the final against West Indies by 92 runs with Gooch scoring 32 off 28 balls.
Post World Cup and his willingness to travel to a rebel tour of South Africa:
In June 1980, Gooch finally scored his maiden test hundred against West Indies at Lord’s, 123 off 162 balls with 17 fours and a six after he was reinstated as a permanent opener in place of Mike Brearley, who was dropped due to poor form. A couple of months later, he finally scored his maiden ODI hundred, a 108 runs against Australia in Birmingham. This was also the first time in which the top four scored more than 50 runs in an ODI. Boycott scored 78, Bill Athey scored 51 at No.3 and Roland Butcher scored 52 runs at No.4 position.
The following year, he scored 2 test centuries against West Indies, but what followed was a dry run in the 1981 Ashes and he finally struck form on the tour of the subcontinent which included the first-ever international tour to Sri Lanka in 1982.
He then joined the rebel tour of South Africa in which he was the captain of the England team with Geoff Boycott, Alan Knott, and Bob Woolmer as teammates, out of which the latter three were never considered for the England team after that.
Gooch later reasoned that he was not given a place in the England team and hence he joined the rebel team which toured South Africa and he was banned for 3 years and finally in 1985 when he made a comeback to the England team.
In his comeback against Australia in 1985, he failed in the first two tests and scored a 196 in the last test of the series to propel England to a 3-1 win. Gradually his test batting average improved with every test series he played thereafter.
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He was in great form during the 1987 World Cup where he was the highest run-scorer with 471 runs from 8 matches. He even scored 115 runs against India to power England to the final.
Graham Gooch en route to 115 runs against India, Mumbai, 1987 World Cup
The following year, he was entrusted with the captaincy in place of David Gower. His first test as a captain involved a loss against West Indies, but subsequently won his first test as a captain against Sri Lanka but his ODI and test form tapered in 1989 and he dropped himself during the 1989 Ashes. Gower again returned to captain England.
As he turned 37 in 1990, the Indian team came to tour England. In the 1st test match, Gooch hammered a triple century, and his highest score, 333 runs came against the likes of Kapil Dev, Ravi Shastri, and Manoj Prabhakar. He drilled 43 fours and sent the ball thrice out of sight. His hunger to score more remain the same despie the 199 runs lead as he again stood tall for his team and made a resolute 123 off just 113 balls to take the lead to 471 runs. In total, he scored a mammoth 456 runs in that match at an average of 228. In the end, the tired Indian team was defeated by a decent margin of 247 runs.
The stamina and the hunger to score these kinds of runs at the age of 37 in international cricket definitely made him a legend in English cricket folklore.
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He again scored 116 runs in the next test at Manchester, thus becoming one of the test cricketers to score 3 consecutive hundreds in tests. And yes, all as a captain!
Graham Gooch lofts the ball on the course of his 333 runs against India, Lord’s, 1990
Come 1991, it was the first test match between West Indies and England, which was best remembered as Vivian Richard’s farewell series. A low scoring match, England first made 198 runs and bowled out West Indies for 173 runs. Batting 2nd innings, Gooch carried the bat and made one of the most memorable century of his career, a 154* against the likes of Curtly Ambrose, Malcolm Marshall, Courtney Walsh, and Patrick Patterson, who were the fastest bowlers of that era. He pulled, square cut, drove the ball handsomely towards the long-on region as England was bowled out for 252 runs in 2nd innings, thus giving WI a target of 278. West Indies was bowled for 162 runs which meant that England won by 115 runs.Embed from Getty Images
Graham Gooch scoring 154* against West Indies
1992 World Cup:
Gooch had an above-average outing as a batsman with 3 half-centuries in the World Cup held at Down Under. As a captain, he certainly got more disappointed after he took England in the final, only to drop a catch given by Pakistan skipper Imran Khan when he was batting on 9 runs. Skipper Imran went on to make a match-winning 72 runs and made the chase difficult for England, who ultimately lost the match and the World Cup by 22 runs. It was noted that his ODI form declined and he failed to make any score above 50 runs in ODI’s thereafter, while playing his last ODI in 1995, at an age of 41.
However, he continued to churn out test hundreds at will and retired from international cricket only in February 1995, with 8900 runs at an average of 42.58 with 20 hundreds and 46 fifties.
He was an effective medium-pacer too, who liked to bowl in seaming English conditions rather than overseas, and that is the reason he didn’t have much success as a bowler in international cricket as compared to County cricket.
Post International retirement:
He continued churning runs for Essex in the County circuit and became one of the few to score more than 100 centuries in first-class cricket and also became the leading run-scorer in List A cricket. The fun fact is that even the highest run-scorer in international cricket, Sachin Tendulkar has less List A runs than Gooch!
He finally retired in 2000, with nearly 45000 first-class runs and 22211 runs in List A cricket.
Gooch first coached Essex in 2001, and then became a batting coach for England in 2012 in the wake of poor batting performances against Pakistan in the UAE tour. His period also oversaw 6 double centuries in his first 15 months of his tenure but he resigned in 2014 in the wake of the drubbing from Australia in the Test and ODI series.
Graham Gooch was a fine cricketer who redefined success in various forms in cricket with experience and maturity, something which his juniors like Alec Stewart, Graeme Hick, and Alastair Cook emulated it gracefully.
Featured Image:- Gwynne Mack. Uploader was Kroome111 at en.wikipedia / CC BY-SA (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)
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