With a full meeting of the TCCB scheduled for 17 August, an ideal opportunity presents itself for a thorough rethink of the way in which we run English cricket at senior level. The subject has rarely been discussed more widely than in the last six months, as defeat has followed defeat. What is wrong, and how can it be put right?
A look at the short history of the England Committee is instructive. it was set up by the TCCB in the winter of 1988-89 following the report of a Working Party consisting of the then chairman, Raman Subba Row, and the chairman of cricket, Ossie Wheatley. They had reported briefly at a special meeting of the Board on 19 January, 1989 and in March the de facto appointment of Ted Dexter was ratified and the England Committee formed, comprising its chairman, the team manager (Micky Stewart), the tour manager when appropriate, the chairman of cricket and the chief executive (A C Smith). The captain could be co-opted.
The Committee would select the captain and vice-captain, the team being selected by the chairman, the team manager and the captain. It was suggested that the selection process would use a group of current county captains, umpires and county coaches. The idea was to get away from the short-term policy of simply picking the next Test team and to evolve a long-term strategy for the production of good players from age-group cricket upwards.
Clearly, the high hopes with which the England Committee set out have not been fulfilled, and the TCCB now has to decide how those hopes can be revived in the future, particularly with the appointment of a young, intelligent and articulate new captain, in whom we all have great hope.
The lack of a clear definition of the various roles and ultimate responsibilities of the various chefs in the England kitchen has not helped and many feel that the broth has been spoiled by the proliferation of the cooks. Do we really need a chairman of cricket, a chairman of England, a team manager, and a captain?
A yearning for simpler days is inevitable and should be seriously considered. An amalgamation of the rules of the cricket and England committees could be effected and the return of an elected panel of, say, four selectors including a chairman could be as effective in the future as it has been on many occasions in the past.
The temptation when the holder of an office departs is always to fill that office as quickly as possible. In the case of the England captain that is essential and desirable. The same cannot be said for the chairmanship of the England Committee. The way forward now is for the TCCB to discuss, openly and frankly, at next week's meeting the options available to us and go back to our counties and discuss the ideas to which we have been exposed. We can then return to December's board meeting ready to discuss with open minds such proposals as might be on the table and to take our decisions coolly and rationally. If we are not ready to do that in December then nothing will be lost in further discussions leading to a decision in March.
Some counties will favour setting up a working party of experienced people to take the views of all those qualified to give them between August and December and that is worth considering. The important point is that this time we should get it right and if that takes time and deep consideration, then so be it.
There is no panic over the selection of the West Indies tour party. That can safely be left in the hands of the new captain, the team manager (Keith Fletcher) and the extra selector (Dennis Amiss) recently added at the insistence of the counties. No earth-shaking decisions then need to be taken at England level before next season. A decision taken next March would be in plenty of time.
When these decisions have been made, we can then decide on the proper person to fulfil whatever new roles emerge. Many names have been floated already - Smith, Brearley, Boycott, Illingworth et al. There is no harm in talking to them and others and testing their availability and commitment, and their ideas of the role that they could play while the other discussion process is still going on.
What is vital is that whoever assumes responsibility for the England team in the future should be a person willing to give time and take trouble to go around the counties and to talk to captains, coaches, senior players, umpires and county committees. There is an enormous wealth of wisdom, experience and, above all, goodwill waiting to be tapped and the next man to take responsibility for England cricket must be a man willing to take his pitcher to that well as often as is necessary.Reuse content