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Atherton `happy' with management

Michael Atherton yesterday defended the management of the England team in the wake of the disappointing Ashes tour. The England captain spoke of a lack of unity after the fifth Test defeat in Perth and, earlier in the tour, appeared to hint at differences of opinion with the chairman of selectors, Raymond Illingworth.

But, speaking on BBC television yesterday, Atherton insisted he was happy with the current set-up. "I think the management structure's fine," he said, adding: "I'm very happy with my role in selection at the moment. We have a five-man selection committee on which I have a vote and I'm perfectly happy with that."

Atherton said he was misquoted over claims that he wanted a greater say in selection, although he repeated his call for younger selectors. "I've enjoyed working with Raymond," he said. "I know a lot of the press and media try to talk about a conflict between us but to my mind there's never been that.

"We have our differences but we're quite happy to talk about them. That's the whole point of a selection debate. You don't want people coming in with the same ideas all the time."

He added: "The game changes, Test cricket changes. It's becoming a more dynamic game and I think you need players and people with recent experience to pass on their views."

Atherton, who called for the emphasis on county cricket to be on quality rather than quantity, attempted to explain his "lack of empathy" comments. "We had six or seven replacements on the tour so, when you get up to bringing 22 players out, it makes it very difficult to get a kind of close-knit unit which you want on an Ashes tour.''