England batting coach Graham Gooch admits preparation time for the first Ashes Test is now “minimal” at best after a second successive washout at the Bellerive Oval.
England have a maximum of five days of play ahead of them before they meet Australia in Brisbane from November 21, and first-choice players Kevin Pietersen, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann have yet to take the field.
They sat out the drawn tour opener in Perth and then watched captain Alastair Cook and Michael Carberry pile up an unbroken opening stand of 318 here before rain set in for the next two days.
The tourists spent Friday huddled indoors under leaden and pouring skies – while a storm broke around them over a leaked document, detailing the refined culinary requirements they will be demanding from their hosts at this winter’s Ashes venues.
Gooch believes England will benefit from the strict diet plan leaked to the media but jokingly lamented the absence of one of his favourite puddings from the menu.
Details from an 82-page document drawn up by England’s performance nutritionist Chris Rosimus were published in the Sydney Morning Herald, outlining meals which could be served to England players, including piri-piri breaded tofu with tomato salsa, a quinoa and cranberry breakfast bar and a mungbean curry with spinach.
As leaks go, it is clearly not as damaging as the leaked Australian dossier on England’s weaknesses in 2009, in which English players were varyingly described as “lazy”, “shallow” and “flat” and a group who “love being comfortable”.
Gooch was prepared to join in the banter to an extent but insisted diet and nutrition was a serious business in the pursuit of success.
“I was a bit disappointed that beef Wellington and jam roly-poly were not on that list,” he joked, adding that some of the foodstuffs which do feature are not necessarily his favourites.
“I’m not sure they’re on my list in the eating establishments I go to. That’s probably why my waistline is like it is.”
But he added: “The England team try to cover every angle for their preparation, and it’s totally professional to be putting out a list of preferable foods if you can get them.
“So the nutritionist has done his job, and I think we’re all very happy with that. I think that’s right and proper.”
Gooch certainly has more pressing concerns as his charges’ rain-enforced inactivity leaves them with a clutch of under-bowled bowlers and batsmen either unsure of their position in the order or, in Pietersen’s case, without an innings yet on tour.
“The guys – some of them haven’t played – want to get some time in the middle; the bowlers want to iron out any little flaws in their run-ups, and just get their rhythm,” he said. “Certainly, if you’re sitting in the dressing room, you get that sort of malaise as well of just sitting around and it’s difficult, because the enthusiasm goes a little.
“So they do need to be out there, because time is short now – five playing days left before the first Test. That’s minimal, isn’t it?”
An unconvincing forecast for next week in Sydney, where England are due to play their final four-day warm-up match against an Australia Invitational XI is hardly helping either.
Gooch has dodged the rain by heading inside with some players, but has had to leave those involved against Australia A to wait at the ground for a break in the weather.
“I have been to the indoor nets with a few players yesterday and today, and no doubt we’ll be back there tomorrow if the rain stays around. You make the best of it, but it’s not ideal.”
It is hard to imagine, after Carberry’s 78 at the WACA and unbeaten 153 here that he will not be retained as Cook’s opening partner, with Joe Root instead deployed in the middle order.
Gooch said: “An opportunity arose in that first game when Alastair had the stiff back, a condition he’d suffered with in the past, and Michael got a game and took his chance there.
“We wanted to see a little bit more of him in this game, and he’s done his chances no harm of playing with 150.
“He’s got a second opportunity here, a couple of innings, and he’s done very well.
“You want all your players to show form, so he’s put a bit of a marker down for himself.”
Carberry should not necessarily get too comfortable just yet, though, with Gooch adding: “Joe’s batted in the middle order when he started, so those options are still open – and I don’t think the team selection is finalised yet.
“Obviously not being on the field – and seeing other guys bat as well – that complicates it a little bit. Always, I think you have an idea of what your side might be, but getting the batting line-up exactly right comes from watching a few matches. I don’t think the side is completely settled at the moment.
“Some of the other players have not had much of an opportunity. But Joe Root has batted in the middle order and he’s opened, and I’m sure the team will be comfortable with him doing either.”