Gooch: We're not here for the beer or beaches... just the Ashes

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The Independent Online

For Graham Gooch it all started in the Ashes 35 years ago. He went out at Edgbaston as the rough-round-the-edges kid who had been blazing a trail down Essex way and made a pair. And now here he is as England's batting coach on this tour.

In the years in between he has been captain, manager, selector, oh and the world's best batsman. But he is as excited about what lies ahead in the next two months as by any of the previous Antipodean challenges.

"Every Test match excites me," he said. "You spend a lot of time preparing, practising in the nets, honing your game as cricketers, as coaches and when you're leading up to a big series you get that sort of tingling. That's what you do it for. That's what drives you forward.

"Certainly, we have got a squad who are driving themselves forward, they are preparing and playing with purpose, every practice session has got quality about it.

"There is no going through the motions and it is all geared to one thing. We have not come here for the weather, we have not come for the beer, we have not come for the beaches, we have come to win the Ashes, it's as simple as that."

Nobody could have put it more plainly. Gooch's record against Australia never truly recovered from the abysmal start as a batting apprentice of 21 years old. But he ended up playing 42 Tests against them, only Colin Cowdrey having appeared in more. Gooch took part in three Ashes-winning series (1978-79, 1981 and 1985) and five losing ones (1975, 1989, 1990-91, 1993 and 1994-95, his finale). He knows what it takes to come out on top.

"Over the last two decades they have been the best side in the world," Gooch said. "They're tough to beat, with good, competitive cricketers. We have got to get our game right and if we do that we should be able to match them.

"English and Australian players get on pretty well but do they want to beat each other bad? They want to beat each other real bad.

"They don't mind shaking hands afterwards and having a chat, being mates, but when you're on the field it's no hold barred, it's what you grow up with. For me it's a clash of cultures, the way the histories of the two countries have developed, it's more than just a sporting contest.

"Long may it be so. To go out there is a great honour for each player on each side, to walk out there and represent their country in a match of such importance."

He just sounded as though he would not mind doing it one more time.