GRACIOUSNESS is almost as rare in modern-sport as grace under pressure - yet there was a supreme example of it to cheer the heart.

Graham Gooch, arguably England’s greatest opening batsmen, this week discovered that his lengthy association with the national team - first as a player, then as a batting coach - was over.

England captain Alastair Cook, to whom Gooch has been a mentor since he broke into the Essex county team so brilliantly served by Gooch and then on through to his breakthrough as the current national opener and on-field-leader, felt it was time to initiate a change.

The decision to axe Gooch from the national backroom team must have been exceptionally painful for Cook.

Their association spans decades with the revelation that as a child Cook actually queued pitch-side at Essex to get the autograph of his batting hero Gooch.

It must have been an anguished scenario too for Gooch to find that his protégé was now effectively ending his coaching involvement with England which started five years ago.

Yet did the 61-year-old Gooch flounce, pout, chuck his toys out of the pram, fling his bat into the dressing-room, run to the red tops to say how he had been betrayed, head for the self-indulgent arena of Twitter to express his outrage?


Gentlemen Gooch was the epitome of selfless humility.

Declaring himself to be “sad” at the decision, the Essex man who is still England’s record Test run scorer - though Cook, ironically, looks to be the closest batsman to overtaking that 8,900 haul - said he fully respected the need to freshen things up.

Added Gooch: “In my opinion Alastair is the right man to captain England, he commands respect and will always put his body on the line for his country.

“He will face many challenges and have many more tough decisions to make before his journey ends.

“Over the last decade or so he has been the ultimate professional to work with and it has been an honour to see him develop.”

In a subsequent radio interview, Gooch said there was no chance of any hard feelings and insisted he would remain great friends with Cook “forever”.

What a refreshing change from the oft-exploding detonations of petulance and righteous indignation in football.

Even last weekend we had Newcastle’s under-fire manager Alan Pardew blaming everyone bar himself for a team that has slid from a European challenging place to a record run of six successive defeats.

Then there was Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers carping at how Chelsea parked “two buses” in the clash at Anfield which the Blues won 2-0.

That follows the regular weekly mantra around football - no matter in what division - of one team moaning that their rivals made it difficult for them. What do any of them expect? The opposition to let them run riot? “After you, dear old stick, kindly pass and advance and put the ball in the onion bag.”

In contrast Gooch remained composed and generous in his reaction to what must have been a bitter blow.

Gooch’s good wishes also extended beyond his deep friendship with Cook adding: “I would like to wish Peter Moores and Alastair all the very best as they look to rebuild the fortunes of the England cricket team.’’ Now the pressure is patently on the transformation wrought by England since the Ashes debacle of last winter.

Moores, the former England coach is now back in charge as successor to Andy Flower, and former Yorkshire seconds coach Paul Farbrace is part of the new team. And, as we all know, a certain batsman has also been jettisoned.

Cook, who said he will still seek one-on-one coaching advice from Gooch, is of the old school who is now part of the new school.

If he can show the same measure of dignity as the outgoing Gooch then England will surely regain the world’s top spot.

THE law of sod flashed in deep green this week to leave your columnist red-faced.

In last week’s accompanying what’s on TV column, I speculated at just how po-faced the world’s snooker players were.

Well, blow me down with a feather, world number one Neil Robertson annihilated that perception when he struck a stunning milestone at the Crucible during the world championships.

In his win over Judd Trump the wizard of Oz racked up his 100th 100-plus break - not of his brief career - but of the season.

How he enjoyed the moment, punching the air like an FA Cup final-scoring ace or a batsman reaching a ton at Lord’s. Joy unconfined and richly deserved.