Cricket: Illingworth set to face music

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The Independent Online
The sun may be shining and England's sportsmen may be winning, but this summer's feelgood factor has yet to permeate the inner sanctum at Lord's. That is where the Test and County Cricket Board's disciplinary committee today meets with Raymond Illingworth, in order to decide whether his book, One Man Committee, has breached board regulations by divulging selectorial confidences.

If it has, Illingworth may find himself walking away from the meeting with UB40 in hand. However, given the old-hat nature - at least in cricketing circles - of the revelations, he is far more likely to receive a sharp rap across the knuckles instead, particularly when the two other charges - those concerning his comments over Devon Malcolm and the timing of the serialisation of his book - have both been dropped.

For those who believe authority should set a good example, it is still a sensitive issue. That is understandable, but regardless of the gravity of Illingworth's misdemeanours (which in this lurid age of kiss and tell are about as wounding as a gnat bite) the date and venue of the meeting could scarcely be worse timed.

For one thing, it is too close to an important Test match and therefore an unwelcome distraction for the players. Any resulting action over Illingworth other than a stern reprimand is bound to overshadow whatever happens on the pitch on Thursday.

There is also a general feeling that with England playing like a team again the agenda has moved on from the knee-jerk reaction of those discontented with Illingworth, following an abysmal winter and World Cup.

Apart from Lancashire and Derbyshire, who levelled the initial allegations in response to Illingworth's version of the Devon Malcolm affair, most people just appear thankful to see England settled and playing positive cricket again.

All the same, it is unprecedented to have the chairman of a national selection committee hauled before the ruling body's beaks. It is less surprising, however, when you know Illingworth and his abiding belief that he is never wrong.

As a product of the Yorkshire dressing-rooms of the 1950s and 60s where power was rarely absolute, and never went unquestioned, it is little wonder that Illingworth is obsessed with self-justification and having the last word.

He claims he wanted the book postponed until the end of the year. The fact that he did not insist is perhaps evidence of his perceived indomitability. Unlike first-class cricketers or umpires, he is not bound by a specific gagging clause in his contract.

To his critics, that is not the issue, and as an employee of the TCCB he is still subject to the disciplines of the board. Unless the committee are persuaded that a dangerous precedent might be set, Illingworth should come away with just his and the board's legal fees to pay for. If so, the cricket and the book signings can begin.