English great Gooch backs Bairstow to come good


England great Graham Gooch has backed Jonathan Bairstow to become a “successful Test player” after some early struggles against aggressive fast bowling. Yorkshire batsman Bairstow, 22, who has played just two Tests, looked uncomfortable against the short ball last time out on national as West Indies quick Kemar Roach gave him a working over before dismissing him for four in his only innings in England’s nine-wicket second Test win at Trent Bridge.
But Gooch, a former captain and one of England’s greatest opening batsmen, said it was too soon to say that Bairstow, the son of former Test wicket-keeper David, had a weakness against fast bowling.
“You don’t judge a player on just a few good balls,” Gooch, now England’s batting coach, said after Thursday’s first day of the third Test against the West Indies here at Edgbaston was washed out without a ball bowled. “I don’t think there’s any player that’s ever played Test cricket that hasn’t punched one (a ball) away in front of his face at some stage.
“Having been there myself, seen the ball right there, it’s not a nice experience,” added Gooch, whose Test career started with a dreaded ‘pair’ (two noughts) against an Australia attack boasting fast bowling greats Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson at Edgbaston back in 1975.
“You have to cope with that sort of bowling,” insisted Gooch, some of whose best Test innings were played against the fearsome West Indies fast bowling attacks of the 1980s and 1990s. “I don’t think you should make judgements on just a short passage of play. “He (Bairstow) has to cope with the pressure of playing at the highest level and I think he’s got a good attitude, he’s an excellent player and, as far as I’m concerned, he will be a successful Test player.
“I think he had discomfort (at Trent Bridge) with a few balls against a good fast bowler. When you first come in, every batsman is vulnerable.
“If you’re saying ‘do I think there’s a problem?’, then the answer is no.”
Unlike Gooch’s time as a player, when the likes of top quality Test fast bowlers such as West Indies duo Malcolm Marshall (Hampshire) and Joel Garner (Somerset) were stalwarts of the county circuit, it has been suggested Bairstow is at a disadvantage because the world’s leading quicks are no longer involved in the English first-class game.
But Gooch insisted: “There’s going to be the odd quality bowler around in county cricket. One thing that’s not there in county cricket, you don’t get the sort of tension you get in Test cricket. The pressure is that much more at the highest level.
“That’s something every Test player, every top sportsman, has to cope with — performing under pressure.”
England have an unbeatable 2-0 lead in this three-match series against the West Indies and Thursday’s washout did little for the tourists’ prospects of improving upon a record of just two wins in their last 32 Tests.
“We are disappointed there was no play because we said if we could get a win in a Test in England, it would be an achievement for the team,” said West Indies captain Darren Sammy.
“We need as much play as possible over the next four days to accomplish this,” added Sammy, whose side lost the series opener at Lord’s by five wickets.
“We now have to go all out for the win…The weather outlook for the next few days does not look to bright, so we will keep our fingers crossed that whatever play we can get, we will look to win those sessions.”