Cricket: England make languid start: Build-up to Texaco Trophy

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The Independent Online
IT WAS a subdued first day of term for England's cricketers at Edgbaston yesterday. Maybe it was because the new headmaster, Ray Illingworth, was elsewhere; maybe it was because so many former class-mates had failed their Caribbean examinations and not been invited back.

More likely, the flat atmosphere at England's first training session this summer was because it was simply too cold to work up a sweat, let alone any enthusiasm for nets and fielding practice.

Even so, two of the new boys, Steve Rhodes and Shaun Udal, were conscientious enough to have an extra get-to-know-you session after everyone else had headed for the showers and the third newcomer, Darren Gough, underwent the traditional first-day ritual of facing the media.

Naturally, he said his main ambition at present was to play in the opening Texaco Trophy match against New Zealand tomorrow and get an England cap to put alongside his Yorkshire one. Whether he will or not, Keith Fletcher, the England coach, was not saying, although he did point out that Gough and Phillip DeFreitas would have to 'push extremely hard' to displace Andy Caddick and Devon Malcolm from the Test team.

Fletcher, while technically doing the same job as last season, has effectively been deposed by Illingworth's appointment, at least partly, from his role as guider, protector and general right-hand man to the captain.

Not that he seems too bothered. It was the same laconic, vaguely careworn Fletcher yesterday. The first selection meeting under the new chairman had 'gone very smoothly. Things have changed. Ray is chairman so obviously he wants a big input. His job is to direct the way he wants things to go. But our cricket thinking is very similar. No one really disagreed with the players coming in - Illy is a very good judge of a player'.

Fletcher said that he had had three days off fishing since returning from the Caribbean. 'It is a heavy schedule, that is part of the job. With Australia coming up in the winter we are now going virtually non-stop to February.'

With that in mind, a winning start at Edgbaston tomorrow, and at Lord's on Saturday, is crucial. 'The players will be told very strongly that we cannot take anyone lightly. We need to win,' Fletcher said.