London, Oct 15: Former England captain Graham Gooch now is the latest man to come out and speak about the allegations made by Kevin Pietersen in his autobiography. Gooch, however, chose to defend Andy Flower and Matt Prior as the blame game continues in England.
Gooch has rubbished Pietersen’s views in his controversial autobiography about former coach Andy Flower and wicketkeeper Matt Prior and also urged England players led by Alastair Cook to break their silence on the issue in a broader manner.
“Kevin Pietersen is entitled to have his say. He has been a match-winning player for England. I am sad to read his comments and I do not concur with many of his views,” Gooch told ‘The Daily Telegraph’ newspaper.
Gooch termed Flower as England’s anchor.
“I call Andy England’s anchor. As head coach he created a calm and committed atmosphere in the England dressing-room. He had great determination to prepare for every format of the game. He always looked to promote attacking ideas to win matches,” Gooch, who was the batting coach during Flower’s tenure, said.
“He brought a new belief to players following a period of turmoil – at least that’s what I noticed during my involvement as batting coach. He had strength of character and integrity, and as a student of the game was always looking to embrace new training methods and ideologies. He created a top-class atmosphere as mentor and motivator.
“When Kevin had been dropped for messaging South Africa’s players about Andrew Strauss in 2012, it was Andy who wanted to be conciliatory and build bridges. If the allegation over the message’s content was accurate, it was unforgivable and lot of people were saying there was no way back for KP after that episode. But Andy told me he was keen to repair the damage.”
Gooch said he does not remember about senior players bullying juniors for dropping catches.
“I certainly don’t remember any contretemps about dropped catches. Of course, you are trying to push the team to perform at its maximum and there are occasional flashpoints, but nothing I remember carrying over.”
The 61-year-old Gooch, who has played 118 Tests for England having led the country in 34 of them, feels that it’s time that the players stand by each other and reply back to the allegations.
“I believe Alastair and others should get on the front foot a bit more. The players may have been told to maintain silence but if I was still part of that dressing-room I would want to have my say irrespective of any media strategy from the suits.
“I mean when the captain and coach stand up in the dressing-room to give a speech, one of the strong messages is that we fight the fight together. But if you are not prepared to stand up to defend the culture in this sort of situation, I don’t see what credibility the other stuff has. For me, it is one and the same thing.”
But Gooch did criticise star off-spinner Graeme Swann for announcing his retirement mid-way through the Ashes.
“I don’t agree with what Graeme Swann did, I thought it was criminal to leave the tour at that stage. It made us a laughing stock. I cannot understand why he couldn’t stick it out until the end of the trip. It left a bad taste.”
Gooch also called Prior a ‘”team man” contrary to Pietersen’s claim
“Matt Prior is nothing but a team man and nothing but positive. Matt was a key player for England. He was our general in the field, a wonderful cricketer who provided backbone to the team. The sentiments that have been aired about him are pure fantasy to me.
“I was not privy to conversations that happened behind closed doors. But for me he was an exceptional bloke and a player who was a game changer. Ultimately, what is sacred to me is to play for your team and Matt Prior was exceptional at that.”
(With Agency Inputs)