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Graham Gooch reckons verbal barrage can be used in positive way by England

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 02, 2013

By David Clough in Adelaide

Graham Gooch

England's Graham Gooch speaks during a press conference at the Adelaide Oval. Picture: Anthony Devlin/PA

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England should treat every Australian sledge as a little victory, according to batting coach Graham Gooch.

He delivered a withering assessment of the team's performance in the first Ashes Test in Brisbane, claiming they "didn't compete" on their way to a shock 381-run defeat at the Gabba.

Time may be short if England are to get their Ashes campaign back on track in the second Test in Adelaide this week, because the schedule then moves quickly on to another Australian stronghold at the WACA in Perth.

England's trouncing in Brisbane was notable not just for their double collapse – ten wickets fell for the addition of just 18 runs across two innings – but the apparent animosity between the teams on and off the pitch. Both camps have since tried to calm the atmosphere, insisting the sledging – which cost home captain Michael Clarke almost £2,000 in an International Cricket Council fine – was no worse than the norm in the modern Test arena. They have also both made it clear the barracking will continue with gusto in pursuit of the urn.

To former England captain Gooch, who confirmed that Joe Root and Ian Bell are the two candidates to replace Jonathan Trott in the number three batting slot, there is a skill to combating the sledge.

"There's no rocket science," he said. "You advise technically, you advise mentally.

"If someone comes with sledging, people deal with it in different ways. Some people it motivates, makes them play better, more determined; some people it can unsettle."

Gooch believes batsmen just need to ensure that no amount of verbal provocation diverts attention from the most essential contest.

"Generally sledging is about getting you to play the man and not the ball, to get your focus off the ball," he added. "In my career, players I've seen who've dealt with it best either smile at the opposition or take it as a compliment. Generally, if you get sledged, you're doing OK."

By that yardstick Joe Root must be Gooch's star pupil, after he greeted match-winner Mitchell Johnson's apparent barrage of insults during England's second innings in Brisbane with a wry grin.

Gooch's England tutorials are just as likely to cover cricket's mind games as the refined technical nuances of bat against ball. He will continue that process too, albeit in the full knowledge that whatever he says it ultimately comes down to the player.

"That's what I get paid to do," said the 60-year-old. "If he wants to take that advice, that's up to him."

Root has emerged as the most likely contender to move out of the middle order to bat at three after Trott left the tour due to an ongoing fight against a stress-related illness.

That will mean the 22-year-old Yorkshireman is deployed in his sixth different batting position in less than a year since his Test debut.

Gooch said: "You start off with a plan, and you'd like to stick to it all the way through – but players have to be adaptable. If these things come along, someone has to move and do the job. Whoever moves to number three – and it's probably fair to say that Joe Root and Ian Bell are the two candidates – I'm sure they'll stand up for England."

Tim Bresnan has been added to England's Ashes squad and is in the reckoning to play in Adelaide this week as a third seam bowler, following his recovery from a stress fracture in his lower back.

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