An illustration of Graham Gooch for this week. Opening with Gooch was cricket’s equivalent of a WW2 Spitfire pilot, long on glamour but short on life expectancy. Stephenson, or Stan as he’s known, was one of 29 players used by England during that 1989 home Ashes series, and if they ever decide to have a reunion dinner, they’ll need to hire a pretty big room.
The hangdog expression and the drooped shoulders were essential ingredients in Graham Gooch’s default public image, but on the rare occasions he allowed himself to relax during his playing days, you discovered a genial companion with a nice line in dry wit. Hence, when he was once asked what advice he would give to a young batsman making his debut for England, Gooch replied: “I’d tell him to get more runs than I did.”
One nurdle down to fine leg for a single would have bettered Gooch’s 0 and 0 (caught Marsh, caught Marsh) against Australia at Edgbaston in 1975, the first man to bag ‘em, as the expression goes, on his England debut since one of the Grace brothers – Fred – also against Australia in 1880.
Unlike Fred, Gooch managed to avoid joining a fairly long list of England one cap wonders – although the former was a tad unlucky given that he died of pneumonia before the selectors could decide whether or not to give him another go. Gooch actually played another 117 Tests, and when he eventually got off the mark, it turned out to be the first of 8900 runs.
It is not inconceivable, though, that had he played in a slightly later era, when England selectors were a bit like those talent show panellists abruptly cutting short a dire audition – “Next!” – Gooch might have joined a club that actually has its own membership and tie. It was started by a former Essex team-mate John Stephenson, now the MCC’s director of cricket, who opened the batting with Gooch against Australia in 1989 and was never seen in a Test match again.