Now this is an intriguing development. Chris Silverwood has asked Darren Gough to be England’s bowling coach during the tour of New Zealand. At first I thought this was a full time appointment but alas it’s just a short-term consultancy role. Goughie is still committed to his media commitments long-term by all accounts.
Personally I think this is a fantastic appointment. Yes I’m a little biased, as Gough is probably my favourite ever England bowler, but I also think he can offer a hell of a lot. There’s far more to Darren Gough than the bravado and entertainment value. Some will always see him as daft as a brush, but he actually knows a huge amount not only about fast bowling but also adopting a positive mindset.
Although Goughie’s coaching credentials are limited, and therefore some will accuse Chris Silverwood of nepotism for appointing a Yorkshireman he knows well, it’s worth pointing out that Gough has experience of coaching with England U19 and the full England team.
Yes this experience was limited, and occurred a couple of years ago in 2017, but those who watched Sky’s In the Zone series, which featured a bowling masterclass with Goughie, will know that he’s both a good communicator and has an awful lot of good stuff to communicate.
Am I fussed that Darren Gough is now predominantly a media personality? Not really. If Mike Atherton was appointed as a batting consultant on a short-term basis then I’m sure we’d all have confidence in him. What’s more, Gough actually has the specific expertise that England require if we’re going to progress as a team team. Here’s why …
Winning abroad is the biggest challenge facing England’s Test team. It’s been this way for years. We win at home when the ball moves around but our attack frequently looks toothless once we arrive in Australia and India etc. As one of England’s best modern bowlers overseas – and certainly the best exponent of reverse swing we’ve ever had – Gough is perfectly placed to help the team in this crucial area.
Most England bowlers have much better averages at home than they do overseas. But Gough was different. He averaged 30 in England but 27 in Australia, 27 in Pakistan, 19 in New Zealand, and 19 in Sri Lanka (he never had the opportunity to play in India). The only place he didn’t bowl well was South Africa.
Darren Gough was often at his best when the pitches were flat and traditional English seamers struggled. He was quick, skiddy, aggressive, and learned how to use the crease and alter both his wrist and arm / body position to reverse swing the ball and makes things happen.
When other bowlers had run out of ideas, Gough was often outstanding. What’s more, although many simply saw him as England’s joker, he actually worked extremely hard in practice and also thought about his craft a great deal. Basically there were brains behind the beaming smile. There’s also little doubt that England’s players will respect him.
The other reason why I think Gough is a good appointment is his mental approach. He was always extremely positive and brilliant at dealing with hostile crowds. In fact, he used the sledging from Australian crowds to his advantage and ultimately won them over. He’s very popular down under.
What’s more pressure never really seemed to affect Gough. Who would’ve thought that he’d win Strictly Come Dancing Although it’s obviously a bit absurd to cite a dancing competition as evidence that he’ll make a good bowling coach – doing a good cha-cha-cha is obviously a slightly different vocation, ahem – I do think England’s bowlers can learn a thing or two from Gough about embracing pressure and enjoying the occasion rather than letting anxiety consume them.
It also worth mentioning that Darren was always known as being an excellent teammate who lifted the dressing room when things were going badly. Losing dressing rooms can be a difficult place to reside – especially on long tours. Having someone like Gough around can raise spirits and motivate the players.
Although it’s likely that England will appoint a different bowling coach long-term, I personally hope that Gough stays in and around the squad in the same way that England have involved former batsmen like Marcus Trescothick and Jonathan Trott. I’d certainly love Silverwood to get Gough involved the next time we tour either Australia or the subcontinent.
The other thing that makes Gough’s appointment so intriguing is that he’s often been very critical of the ECB during his time as a pundit. One wonders whether Ashley Giles and the authorities actually know about this? After all, it’s extremely unusual for the ECB to employ boat-rockers.
During the Kevin Pietersen sacking controversy, for example, Goughie was very much on KP’s side. He mocked the ECB’s list of Pietersen’s supposed misdemeanours live on TalkSport, said Andrew Strauss’s decision not to recall KP when he became Director Of England Cricket was ‘personal’. He also argued it was a myth that Pietersen was unpopular in the dressing room.
More recently Gough was very critical of Ed Smith’s appointment as National Selector. He said exactly what most supporters were thinking at the time:
It’s jobs for the boys again by the look of it. He’s one of Straussy’s mates. It’s not surprising they are changing the selectors. There has been no real plan to selection – it’s been all over the shop. Ed Smith is a very intelligent man, Cambridge-educated. But whether he gets selection right is another issue.
Oh to be a fly on the wall when Big Ed walks into the dressing room two days before the first test.
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