Cricket: Botham's England warning

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The Independent Online
IAN BOTHAM has criticised England's decision to allow members of their World Cup squad to play in county matches during the build-up to this summer's tournament.

The former England captain believes the selectors could have made a major mistake in allowing their 15-strong squad to play for their counties immediately after returning from their disappointing Coca-Cola Cup display in Sharjah.

Lancashire's all-rounder Ian Austin has already been forced to pull out of his county's current Championship match with Leicestershire due to a thigh strain and Botham fears other players could suffer similar injuries playing the county game.

"Form is difficult to judge at this time of year and I think it's a mistake to see players playing county cricket before the World Cup," Botham said. "It's stupid to risk someone picking up a hamstring strain or something like that.

"I get the impression the boys are all playing county cricket now because they didn't play very well in Sharjah, which I don't agree with."

Botham feels England should have sent the squad on an Australian-style bonding session.

"I'd have sent them away en bloc out of the way for five or six days to get to know each other and do a bit of bonding," he said. "The Australians do everything together and it reflects in the way they play."

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