Cricket: Gooch and Gatting out

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IT MAY be 24 hours before England select their team for the final Test, but heads have already started to roll. After three and two years' service respectively, Graham Gooch and Mike Gatting are no longer required as selectors. Instead, the England and Wales Cricket Board has placed responsibility for selecting England teams with three men: the chairman of selectors, David Graveney; the England captain, Nasser Hussain; and the incoming coach, Duncan Fletcher.

The changes were hardly unexpected, coming amidst general disquiet about England's recent performances against New Zealand, though they have come far quicker than many imagined.

As former England captains, both Gatting and Gooch will be kept on as advisers, though neither will attend selection meetings or have a vote. Speaking after the announcement yesterday, Gatting, although sounding hacked off, said there were no hard feelings. "I suppose in effect we haven't done very well and with a new management team coming in, they want to do things differently," he said. "If that's the way [they] want to do it, I'm happy."

Also speaking yesterday, Lord MacLaurin said the ECB had "focused on a policy that which would best fulfil the interests of the England teams for the longer term." Perhaps, but one cannot help the impression that the real reason for getting rid of Gatting and Gooch is because they kept outvoting the chairman.

Their selections tended to be based on those with proven track records, rather than on those who might blaze a trail. Whether their absence will free up the thinking process is a moot point, and one that will no doubt be discovered when the crucial three meet up tomorrow.

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