Graeme Hick, Jack Russell, Chris Lewis and Mark Ramprakash were singled out as 'disappointing' as were the bowlers en masse. But, the new chairman of selectors said at Lord's yesterday, 'it is time England stopped running scared'.
'I want to beat both New Zealand and South Africa this summer and win the one-dayers. We are not playing to our potential.'
Illingworth reiterated his disquiet at the idea of players, such as Graham Gooch, refusing to tour and said that while missing the occasional tour was fair enough, missing them all would not be allowed. He added he will speak to Gooch soon.
After Ted Dexter's gliding on the astral plane, Illingworth's reign is going to be firmly rooted to the ground. Players are going to show commitment and performance or they are going to be out and, as one exchange underlined, he will not mind telling them. 'There are some areas that need improving,' he said.
'What areas in particular?' the media asked.
'Middle-order batting, bowling and wicketkeeping,' Illingworth replied.
'That does not leave much.'
'Oh, I've plenty to work on,' he added with relish before going on to the positive aspects of England's West Indies tour. 'We've done quite well since Trinidad and the opening partnership is very good; I'd be reluctant to have Alec Stewart keep wicket again. I would want to play more bowlers, five batsmen is enough, with five bowlers you should be able to stop the opposition passing 350; if you can't do that you can't win the match.
'Mike Atherton has done very well. Before the Oval Test I would have gone for Mike Gatting with Atherton as vice-captain but he handled that very well as he has the West Indies.'
Illingworth has been less impressed with Lewis - 'A magnificent athlete but he should be turning in performances by now'; Hick - 'He has not got enough runs, a bad summer could be his last'; Russell - 'Disappointing, he's missed chances and we must look around'; and Ramprakash - 'He has done the hard part and then got out, he cannot keep getting chances.'
He was also concerned about the fitness of the bowler, Angus Fraser. 'They have been worried about him playing in back-to-back Tests in the Caribbean, let alone getting through this season and then the Ashes tour.'
As for their successors, Illingworth said: 'I have a list of 50 names, including the current side, who I want myself, Brian Bolus and Fred Titmus (his fellow selectors) to look at. We will have to get our skates on; we need to pick a team by 15 May.
'We are in a transition period and I think it was correct to go with young players; we had failed with experienced players. But that is not to say all experienced players are ruled out for the summer. My feeling is that an experienced player at three or four may be a good thing.
'In the West Indies Robin Smith should have batted at three and I will be talking to Keith Fletcher about that.' Illingworth backed Fletcher's suggestion that Smith was becoming distracted by his interest in 'making money'. 'It may have been a good reminder to him. You do need to be one-eyed about playing Test cricket. If I had had the year Robin Smith has had I would want to concentrate solely on my cricket.'
When asked how players could be encouraged to do so, he added: 'You can soon enlighten players who are not concentrating: you say to them you are not playing in Tests, that concentrates the mind.'Reuse content