Cricket: Clamps on the wheels of succession: Test and County Cricket Board defers naming chairman of selectors

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The Independent Online
FOR anyone expecting to see a plume of white smoke floating out of Lord's yesterday, followed by the announcement of Ted Dexter's successor as chairman of the England committee, it was always a forlorn hope. The Test and County Cricket Board moves in many ways, many of them mysterious, but almost never with any great velocity.

The resolution after yesterday's discussion was to hold another one 'some time' in October. The subject, to use a muttered aside from one of the county chairmen emerging from the meeting, has been 'parked' - although a better word, given that this one could rumble on until the spring meeting in March, might have been 'clamped'. However, the board's logic in 'refusing to be rushed', as its chief executive A C Smith said afterwards, is spot on. Dexter has headed a new-look committee charged with revitalising English cricket for four and a half years, at the end of which the Test team is a shambles. There is no future in plonking someone at Dexter's desk and saying: 'Why don't you have a bash at it, and we'll take another look in a few years' time.'

Smith confirmed that the county chairmen are to address a re-definition of the Dexter role, including the possible amalgamation of his job with that of the cricket committee chairman, and also debate the selection process. On the latter subject, they would do better to start today.

England's winter tour party to the West Indies will be chosen on 13 September, by almost as many selectors as there will be players on the aeroplane. The list is: A C Smith, M J K Smith, the tour manager, Keith Fletcher, the team manager, Ossie Wheatley, the cricket committee chairman, Dennis Amiss, one of the summer selectors, the captain, Micky Stewart, the director of coaching, and Frank Chamberlain, the board chairman, albeit without a vote. Had Dexter not resigned, there would have been nine of them, and why the physio does not get a vote heaven only knows.

Dexter, who was largely brought down by public opinion, but at least partially torpedoed by the counties, fired a volley back at them during yesterday's meeting by bemoaning the production line of sow's ears that Dexter and Co were expected to turn into silk purses. Ken Lawrence, the TCCB spokesman, said: 'Ted made a plea from the heart, asking whether the 18 counties could consider themselves the centres of excellence they ought to be. In his view, the evidence was that they were not, and it would take an awful lot of money, energy, and trust in the England committee to put that right.'

Following this, Smith said: 'Ted received a warm and generous round of applause for his immense contribution over a number of years.' This would have been partly genuine recognition of a hard-working man, and partly recognition of one of life's eternal truths - you are never quite as bad once you have gone.

Smith also went into a Lamontian style green-shoot discourse, saying that there were 'early signs that four-day cricket' was 'having the desired effect'. This was almost as optimistic a statement as one made earlier in the day by Fletcher, when he said that 'England have not had too many breaks in this series, and that there is really not that much difference between us and Australia'. Good grief. Two resignations (Dexter and Graham Gooch) and another member of this summer's war council in urgent need of a long lie down.

Cricketer's diary, page 30