England players may be withdrawn from county matches next season if David Graveney, the chairman of selectors, thinks it is in the national team's interests.
An executive meeting of the England and Wales Cricket Board at Lord's next week will be asked to give Graveney the power to order counties to rest players. At the moment England players can be rested only if county clubs agree to the selectors' request.
England's hierarchy and Lord's officials agree that something needs to be done to reduce the amount of cricket that leading players are expected to play, especially because an unrelenting international schedule now awaits England over the next 18 months.
Ian Botham, speaking at a lunch in London yesterday, said that central Lord's contracts for the leading players would now be a logical next step.
The former England all-rounder said: "Someone like Graham Thorpe, for example, should not have to play for Surrey very much at all outside of the international schedule.
"And, if we did it properly, our Test players would play only three or four Championship matches a season.
"In Australia you don't see their top players playing Shield cricket. Glenn McGrath, their best fast bowler, has only played once for New South Wales in the last three years."
Botham believes that getting beaten 3-0 by Zimbabwe in a one-day series last winter "was the best thing that could have happened to English cricket".
In a foreword to the new Benson and Hedges Cricket Year, Botham criticises England's players for their attitude in Zimbabwe. However, he is optimistic that Mike Atherton's team will do well in the West Indies this winter.
"If ever the West Indies were there for the taking on their home soil then it is now, and I think we will win or come close to it this winter," Botham said.
"I also think it will be to England's advantage if Brian Lara is made captain of the West Indies because that will increase the pressure on him."Reuse content