Cricket Diary: Capel casts doubt on the benefit

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The Independent Online
THIS is probably the most vital season of David Capel's career. It is unconnected with a recall to the Test side, though that was possible; it has little to do with the scoring of runs, the taking of wickets, the holding of catches, though they would be welcome.

The Northamptonshire all- rounder is in his benefit year, the period in a player's life which usually falls between maximum achievement and honourable retirement, and all being well not so distant from the first as to persuade the punters to keep their hands in their pockets because they feel the second cannot arrive soon enough.

A benefit is a player's nest egg (there are 13 others being hatched this summer) and as Capel said: 'Really, all I have done for the past 15 years is make a living out of the game and nothing more. I have played 15 Tests and 30-odd one- day internationals but my bills and mortgage are there to pay the same as everybody else.'

There was no rancour or grievance in this. He was merely observing that cricketers may be stars for six months of the year, but they are usually poor stars, often with limited job prospects after a younglifetime spent treading the greensward. Like probably the majority of cricketers Capel, 31, would like to see the benefit system's demise.

'You get lucky being chosen and it isn't something that's guaranteed,' he said. 'Some players hope they can stay around long enough to get one. I'm not sure it should be like that. I'd like to think there could be a better way of paying players throughout their careers.'

A county player's wages are still modest (Capel mentioned a possible pounds 13,000 for a young first- team player) and the sums being openly discussed for the big names are as distant as pools wins for most cricketers.

As long as the odd player can still reap truly vast rewards from a benefit it is unlikely that the mood for change will become irresistible. This is hardly new. In 1904 George Hirst received more than pounds 3,000, in 1948 Cyril Washbrook got pounds 14,000, both huge sums at the time, and in 1980 Jack Simmons raised pounds 128,000.

All benefits are tax free. That principle was finally established in the House of Lords in 1927 when James Seymour, the Kent batsman, won his court case against the Inland Revenue involving the proceeds of his benefit match played in 1920. Perhaps Richard Ellison may have uttered a prayer of thanks for his county forebear as he banked the pounds 190,000 he received for his benefit last year.

Capel will not make that amount because Northamptonshire simply does not possess the cricketing base or the affluence of Kent. But he will probably make more than most Derbyshire players, who tend to have struggled in recent years.

The injuries - the latest to a knee - which have kept him out of the side for most of the season have been a mixed blessing: not playing keeps you out of the public eye but ensures you have the time to meet and talk to them. Capel is popular because he has been a splendid county cricketer (and almost a very good Test one) and he is a Northampton lad. He hopes to play on for five or six years after this summer.

'After that I should think everybody will have had enough.'

IF they had thought of it in time this year's county beneficiaries could have formed a team and taken on, well, just about anybody. Raymond Illingworth could make do with them if necessary.

From the 14 players seeking the public's support for a better future it is possible to select a near-perfectly balanced team. It is short only of off-spin. The veteran Phil Carrick would be asked to manage the side. His batting order would doubtless be Hugh Morris (captain), Tim Curtis, Alec Stewart (vice-captain), Paul Terry, David Smith, Capel, Jack Russell, Gordon Parsons, Neil Williams, Neil Mallender, John Childs.

This would leave no room, sadly, for Asif Din or Ole Mortensen but both would be valuable squad members. The match would be held at Trent Bridge because Nottinghamshire are having a club benefit this summer. And if that lot do not raise upwards of pounds 1m between them then we probably do not deserve to have had the benefit of them at all.

LORD'S has been an autograph hunter's paradise this week. Were they film stars being encircled on Thursday morning? No, merely Bob Barber, the former England opener, 58, and Jackie McGlew, the ex-South Africa skipper, 65, being touchingly besieged by hordes of men not much younger than themselves.

ODDITY of the week turned out not to be Richard Stemp wearing sunglasses while bowling at Harrogate with the wicketkeeper Richard Blakey similarly attired. It worked well enough but beach cricket was hard to drive from your mind. The curiosity value of this was surpassed because the first four Leicestershire bowlers in both Yorkshire's innings were Millns, Parsons, Simmons and Wells. This was possibly the first time in history that the surname of each of the opening quartet ended with the letter S.

NORMAN GIFFORD, the Sussex coach, who has been made an honorary life member of the MCC, was 12th man in the 1968 bowling averages. He says: 'With a lot of work we're developing cricket down here. We've got a well-balanced side and I'm very hopeful. I'd really like to be with the first Sussex side to win the Championship, and this could still be our year.'

(Photograph omitted)