Cricket: Assurances sought from Stewart: Rob Steen on the stance taken by Surrey in the wake of cricket's ball-tampering affair

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The Independent Online
ALEC STEWART'S position as Surrey captain and heir apparent to Graham Gooch at national level may be in jeopardy should he fail to convince his county that he is as determined to eradicate ball- tampering as they evidently are.

Having come clean over charges of altering the condition of the ball by illegal means - and in so doing exposed the timorousness of the International Cricket Council - Surrey have now warned Stewart that he must persuade the general committee that he intends to prevent any repetition when it convenes in December to nominate next season's club captain. The England vice-captain, who is due to take over from Gooch for the one-off Test in Sri Lanka next March, led his county on two of the four occasions on which umpires have reported misdemeanours.

'Clearly, we will not appoint Alec if there is the slightest doubt that he will get us embroiled in this sort of thing again,' Derek Newton, the Surrey chairman, said yesterday. 'We've been taken to the cleaners by the umpires on four occasions. I couldn't care less if other clubs are doing it. We've cheated and we've been caught. It's horrid. We have to stop it.'

Stewart is on holiday, safe, for the moment, from the flak that has been flying around The Oval since the Test and County Cricket Board imposed a pounds 1,000 suspended fine on the club last month and prompted the inquiry that announced its findings on Monday. Even though legal and practical constraints have prevented Surrey from identifying the guilty parties, the captain, contends Newton, must carry the can. Along with all the other members of the playing and coaching staff contracted for next summer, Stewart will soon receive a letter 'reminding (him) of the laws of cricket in general and Law 42.5 in particular'.

Newton rejected any possibility of a connection between the resignation of the club secretary, David Seward, and the latter's failure to pass on a letter of warning from the TCCB to the chairman following allegations of malpractice at Guildford in 1991. Seward elected to give the communique to Ian Greig, Stewart's predecessor as captain, and it was this, claimed the internal committee of inquiry, that stopped action from being taken to address the issue fully. In a move described at the time as 'a natural progression', Seward left to take up a position at a golf club before the start of the inquiry. 'You don't land a job like that at two days' notice,' Newton reasoned.

That Surrey are anxious to make amends was made plain by the recommendations of the committee's report. Stewart, or whoever is captain, will henceforth be required to compile a report for the club's senior management after every match, making mention of any umpires' warnings. He will also hand the ball over to the umpires at the fall of each wicket and the end of every over, a practice that Surrey proposed be taken up on a nationwide basis.

The report also suggested that the TCCB should empower umpires with instant sanctions in the case of any contraventions of Law 42.5, and refer immediately to the county concerned any reports of such breaches. 'We're trying to take a positive stand,' Newton said. 'I hope the TCCB appreciate it.' Whether the fence- sitters at the ICC will show their appreciation, is another matter.

(Photograph omitted)