Cricket Diary: Waiting for a declaration in the benefit game

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The Independent Online
Benefits are in the news again. Or at least, Robin Smith's benefit is. Those of Dermot Reeve and Paul Prichard, on the other hand, have been notable for not being anywhere near the news. Not since the money-raising finished, that is.

Smith, you may remember, was swift to declare the amount his benefit raised in 1996, a precise pounds 202,896. It has since transpired that some pounds 150,000 has gone down the Swanee, or anyway it has not reached Smith. His former accountant faces charges connected with the missing cash.

While Smith has been admirably open in stating how well the public supported him, the financial rewards heaped on Reeve and Prichard for long services rendered are still unknown. Neither has yet announced how much they received in donations last summer.

As the Diary reported back in May, 12 of last year's 15 beneficiaries had declared. Allan Lamb of Northants said then he had no intention of making the figure public. It was, he added, between him and the taxman, which seemed a bit odd since part of the attraction of the benefit system is that the sum, comprising of unsolicited gifts, is supposed to be tax free.

Reeve and Prichard were said still to be counting (which sounded promising from their standpoint) and precise details would be revealed later. We are still waiting. Keith Cooke, from the chief executive's office at Warwickshire where Reeve had his benefit year before retiring and departing for Somerset as coach, said they had asked his benefit committee several times but had been rebuffed.

"It's always been the case here that players' benefits have been disclosed. After all it's the members and the fans who contribute. We're not exactly pleased with the situation but there's nothing we can do about it. Dermot's not here anymore apart from anything else.

"We wouldn't like to think it was going to affect the benefits of other players, clubmen like Andy Moles and Tim Munton, whose benefit is coming up next year. We're disappointed."

There was no comment from Reeve's benefit committee although it has been reported elsewhere that it has been decided not to issue a figure. Essex meanwhile have promised that Prichard's result will be revealed shortly, "when the NatWest final is out of the way". The club and their beneficiary have usually gone public by now but according to the county, eight months after the fund-raising stopped, "there are still one or two complex matters to be sorted out".

Few cricket fans begrudge cricketers their benefits - particularly, as it happens, those honest, devoted journeymen who are so much derided - but keeping from the public what the public provided would not seem to augur well for the future of the system.

AS anybody who has heard of the MacLaurin Report will realise, the great summer game needs to broaden its public appeal. There was good news on this front last week from a surprising source.

The Sun's annual survey among its women readers to discover what it describes as the "100 Top Hunks" included no fewer than three cricketers. This lagged somewhat behind footballers (who numbered 13, with David Beckham the hunkiest of all the hunks) but, importantly, was more than any other sport.

There were but two tennis players, one athlete, one rugby player amid the dozens of film idols and soap stars. The cricketers, all new entries, were Shane Warne (43rd in the list), Ben Hollioake (62nd) and Darren Gough (85th). The three-conference Championship and the proposed National One- Day League might or might not do anything for the nation's cricket. But they might make cricket glamorous again and do wonders for the game's hunk representation.

INFORMATION Technology, you may not be surprised to hear, is causing cricket a slight difficulty. Not that the game has been slow to embrace the Internet.

Those with computers and modems can gain access to several sites which divulge masses of information. The ECB itself has one which it has proudly announced in this summer Test match programmes and on the back of "Raising The Standard".

And therein lies the problem. The site's computer address is based at Lord's and is given as www.lords.org. The internet takes no account of apostrophes. A whole generation will grow up thinking of the great ground as a gathering of nobles and never know that it was Thomas Lord's.

Book mark: "At a special meeting of the Advisory Committee at Lord's on 20 December 1961, it was thus decided to inaugurate a one-day knock- out competition. The decision to proceed was, apparently, carried by the smallest possible margin. It was felt by many that the traditionalists, bred and nurtured on three- and five-day cricket, would decline any interest in such a hit-and-miss idea, departing as it did from so many of the well- established basic principles of the game." From The Gillette Cup, 1963 to 1980 by Gordon Ross, the history of the oldest one-day competition from its inauguration as the First-Class Counties Knockout Competition, which became the Gillette Cup and has been, since 1981, the NatWest Trophy.

nursery end

It is an open secret in Championship circles that Melyvn Betts, the Durham fast bowler, was once described by an extremely prominent England batsman as the worst bowler he had ever faced. Betts, 22, was a rookie then in a poor Durham team and not so much an apprentice as a work experience kid trying to perform with the skill of a craftsman. He was raw and inaccurate but he was fast. Injury then blighted his progress but on Thursday Betts took 9 for 64 against Northants. It was not only a personal best but the best return for Durham and the latest impressive spell by a young English bowler. Nobody should get carried away but Betts (nickname "Alpha") from Sacriston has shown he possesses two priceless assets: the willingness to fight back and the ability to learn.

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