Cricket: Botham called in to beef up England

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The Independent Online
IAN BOTHAM has been appointed as an "observer" to the England cricket selectors along with the Leicestershire manager, Jack Birkenshaw, who is among the favourites to succeed David Lloyd as England coach.

Their brief, in the wake of a disastrous and humiliating World Cup, will be to report back to the England selection panel - Graham Gooch, Mike Gatting and chairman David Graveney - during he course of their existing work. At present, Botham, whose exploits with bat and ball for England were legendary, is a television commentator.

"We already have an unofficial network of contacts throughout the game to help the selectors in the assessment of players," Graveney said. "But both Jack and Ian have vast cricketing knowledge and experience, a proven record of success and see a large amount of cricket during the course of the season."

The pair will not be salaried England and Wales Cricket Board staff but will be paid when asked to attend matches outside their normal commitments.

An ECB spokesman said that Birkenshaw's candidacy for the coach's job would not be affected. "The two matters are unconnected," he said. "This neither rules him in nor out."

Although no deadline has been set for Lloyd's successor to be named, the ECB has whittled its shortlist down to four, who will be interviewed within the next week. Apart from Birkenshaw, those with strongest credentials include the English-born South African coach Bob Woolmer, the Australian former Sri Lanka coach Dav Whatmore and Zimbabwean Duncan Fletcher.

At the same time as appointing a coach, the ECB is expected to announce a strengthening of the captain's position, which probably means a bigger say in the team selection process.

India stun Pakistan, page 25