Cricket: ECB to break with tradition by appointing Graveney

English cricket's chairman of selectors is named today. Derek Pringle reports
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They may have started with a blank sheet of paper, but sometime today the England Cricket Board, or at least the England management committee arm of it, will have to ink in the name of the new chairman of selectors. It may not be the most important decision they will ever have to make, but it is still one of the most traditional.

However, what it clearly promises not to be - due to an alarming lack of candidates - is the hotly debated contest it was last year, when Ian Botham joined in the stampede to try to topple Raymond Illingworth, the recently departed chairman.

The lack of interest is probably not coincidental - following the aftermath of Illingworth's near-despotic reign, all talk has been about lowering the profile of the job. If, for once, those words are converted into action - and under Lord MacLaurin they ought to be - then the new chairman will, in the Australian tradition, probably be little more than the unsalaried convenor of selection meetings.

The likely, indeed just about only candidate for the job especially since Graham Gooch decided to play one more season with Essex, appears to be David Graveney, a former player with Gloucestershire, Somerset and Durham, and currently secretary of the Cricketers' Association.

Unlike last year, when the counties could nominate and then vote for candidates - a situation that caused the election to be fought more in the media than the county boardrooms - this year's election is being held in-house. But although this meant that virtually anyone could have been proposed, the identity of candidates was to be a strictly guarded secret.

Should Graveney be appointed, he will be the first cricketer without Test experience to have held the position. More worrying though, is that the unpaid position is bound to conflict with the salaried one he currently holds as secretary of the Cricketers' Association. It is a conflict that has twice prevented him from running in the past, and one that was only finally resolved last January, when his employers finally acceded to him running for office.

The most sensitive compromise, however, will be in the area of discipline, and should an England player err, as Mike Atherton did when he misled the match referee after the soil in pocket incident at Lord's, Graveney could end up playing both defender and prosecutor.

On that occasion, Illingworth used his powers as chairman of selectors to impose the maximum fine possible on his captain. There is nothing wrong with that, except that Graveney would also be expected to be the player's representative should he appeal and the matter is taken before the Discipline Committee.

It is a conundrum that will not have escaped Lord MacLaurin, the ECB's chairman and an apparent stickler for detail. Once he and the other six members of the England management committee, chaired by the Lancashire chairman Bob Bennett, have decided upon their man, they will thrash out the exact nature of his brief before announcing their choice to the public.

As a means of downgrading the importance of the chairman of selector's role further, it is felt that MacLaurin would also like to appoint a full- time and fully salaried manager to be with the England team both at home and abroad. If that was the case then any disciplinary matters would be better served under his jurisdiction and not that of the chairman of selectors.

With an Ashes series just around the corner however, MacLaurin will probably wait until the end of the summer before setting any such wheels in motion. All of which means that if Graveney's name appears writ large this afternoon, then someone else will have to be in charge of the mortarboard and cane.

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