Dear Rev Andrew Wingfield-Digby: Some words of comfort for the chaplain of the England cricket team, sacked by Ray Illingworth. Today's reading: Fred Trueman's Third Epistle . . .

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Abandon all thought of taking Isaiah iii, 2 as the text for next Sunday's sermon. Perhaps, thanks to Raymond Illingworth's decision to dispense with your services as chaplain to the England Test team, you do feel 'despised and rejected'. But if you admit to being 'a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief', the chairman of the selectors will know his judgement is vindicated.

It was your pastoral role to which he objected - the provision of a ready-made shoulder and the invitation to cry on it should Graham Gooch and Devon Malcolm feel so inclined. Do not believe that it is only international cricketers who, according to Illingworth's Law, should keep their troubles to themselves.

Raymond - for some reason, always pronounced in the West Riding as if he were Mr Teasy-Weasy - lives by the message and moral of Fred Trueman's Third Epistle To Anybody Who Will Listen. The First ('fast bowlers are not what they used to be'), and the Second ('cricket is a sideways game') are better known. But the Third is by far the most philosophically important.

So I say unto you - yea though thou may be struck by the ball and even though it

be in a tender place, rub the bruise not. For to rub the bruise is to admit hurt.

And to admit hurt is to comfort him that struck thee. Lo it is written, never give the bugger any satisfaction.

It is that sort of attitude that made Mr Illingworth England's most successful post-war cricket captain. And you cannot expect him - just as it has been forbidden the use of effete sun-glasses and decadent mobile telephones - to have you wandering around the dressing room muttering about loving neighbours, forgiving enemies and turning other cheeks. It was when he overheard you telling Graeme Hick to put his faith in an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-merciful supreme being that he decided that you had to go. It was the 'all-merciful' that gave you away. He realised that you were not talking about him.

On the evidence, Mr Illingworth's undoubted - and much caricatured - high opinion of himself seems wholly justified. New Zealand were not the strongest side to visit England since Don Bradman's all-conquering Australians came here in 1948. But the style, as much as the size, of our victory gives much hope for the future.

Most of the players shaved before the match began. Mike Atherton either left his watch in the dressing room or sent it back to the advertising agency. England looked like a cricket team that was concentrating on cricket. The mark of Illingworth is upon them.

Raymond Illingworth is cricket's great utilitarian. If - as would be no more than justice - he becomes a peer, his motto would be 'concentrate on the essential'. The only miracle he needs is Robin Smith looking comfortable against spin bowling. I doubt if you can provide that. Like sun-block on cloudy days, you were unnecessary. So you had to go.

God bless,

Roy Hattersley

(Photograph omitted)

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