Angus Fraser: Gough cannot waltz back into the side

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The Independent Online

While Pakistan's batsmen were flogging Andrew Flintoff, Stephen Harmison, James Anderson and Liam Plunkett at the National Stadium in Karachi on Thursday, there was a suggestion that Darren Gough was the only player benefiting from the assault. Gough is England's most successful one-day bowler but he declined the offer to play five matches in Pakistan so that he could compete in the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing. After winning the show on Saturday evening it appears that he made a wise career decision.

After collecting his prize, Gough indicated that he now wanted to return his focus to cricket and tour India with the England one-day side in March and April 2006. England's stand-in captain, Marcus Trescothick, would have loved to have been able to call on Gough's experience as Pakistan amassed 353 for 6, but it is to be hoped the selectors, who announce their touring squads early next month, look elsewhere.

Gough has served England well for the last 11 years, and it was great to hear of him wooing voters with his fancy footwork. Everyone who has played with him will hope the success enables him to set himself up when his playing days come to an end.

But the England selectors cannot allow players to pick and chose. It goes against most of what Michael Vaughan's team stand for. Yes, Andrew Strauss and Vaughan returned home to attend the birth of their children, and Flintoff is set to ask for paternity leave in India, but this is different.

Gough's decision was akin to Flintoff refusing to go to Pakistan because he could earn more money living on the success of last summer's Ashes than he would on England's tour. Thankfully, Flintoff remains a serious cricketer.

Gough's stock appears to have risen, which is proof that you are perceived to be a far better player when you are not in the side than when you are in it. Gough could possibly play in the 2007 World Cup, but he is not the force he was. One only has to look at last summer's figures against Australia.

In 156 career one-day games, Gough took 234 wickets for England at an average of 25.99. He also conceded just 4.37 runs an over, a quite brilliant achievement in an era when a total of 220 rarely won a game. Yet against the Aussies he took seven wickets in eight games at an average of 40.5 and leaked almost six runs an over. Age, and more than 60,000 competitive balls bowled, has taken its toll. Gough could still be used but not in the capacity suggested by Harmison at the weekend.

Harmison, who is a doubt for today's fourth one-dayer in Rawalpindi thanks to a throat infection, suggested that the England and Wales Cricket Board should allow Gough to be the team's bowling coach. England's bowlers would be wise to pick his brain and learn how he used to bowl in situations like those experienced in Karachi, but I cannot see him filling the void created by Troy Cooley's decision to return to Australia.

The ECB is being blamed for Cooley's departure but the criticism appears harsh. It is true that the ECB's delay in offering Cooley an extended contract was seized upon by Cricket Australia, who offered him a three-year deal to do the same job in Brisbane as he has here, but the rolling full-time contract the ECB eventually offered was better than the initial one.

As a proud Australian, Cooley was eventually going to accept an offer to work with Ricky Ponting's side, and English cricket should be grateful for the work he has done. Yet it will be strange for Flintoff, Harmison, Simon Jones and Matthew Hoggard, fast bowlers who have benefited from his expertise, to see Cooley wearing a green and gold tracksuit and not a red, white and blue one in a year's time.