Test cricketers go to charm school

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The Independent Online
The Labour Party has done it, the Tories did it years ago and now the England cricket team are to bring in the professionals to smarten up their image on the campaign trail.

England's history of flying the flag on tour to the far corners of the globe is littered with diplomatic incidents, and HQ at Lord's has decided that a PR make-over will prevent the kind of misconception that the team suffers from a "superiority complex".

Every player involved in the winter tour of Zimbabwe and New Zealand, plus five or six others on the fringe of the senior side, are to attend a two-day charm school next month which will teach the team that tact can be just as effective as tactics.

David Lloyd, the England coach and one of the forces behind the initiative, knows full well that a few unchoice words can do a lot of damage. After annoying the Zimbabweans with claims that England had "flippin' murdered them" in the drawn First Test, he later explained that his players were under-performing because they preferred "the food, climate and people of New Zealand". For bigger gaffes, however, few come close to the comment of Ian Botham - part of the England coaching team this winter - who in 1984 said that Pakistan "is the sort of place every man should send his mother-in-law for a month, all expenses paid".

A present England player, the bowler Phil Tufnell, whose signature tune "Cigarettes and Alcohol" by Oasis gives the PR gurus plenty to work on, summed up his feelings on the 1993 tour of India thus: "I've done the elephant. I've done the poverty. I might as well go home." Michael Atherton caused offence at last year's World Cup for his response to persistent questioning by a local Pakistani journalist. "Will someone remove that buffoon," an exasperated England captain said.

Now all is to change. "The seminar will take the players through the whole issue of training them to represent their country," Lloyd said of his new sporting ambassadors. "We will look at the problems we had in Zimbabwe, and we will discuss what is coming up. The whole subject of preparing players will be addressed."