Cricket; Illingworth shoulders England's burden

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The Independent Online

Just in case anyone was in the slightest doubt, Ray Illingworth has spelled out where the power will lie on England's tour of South Africa this winter. With him.

The England tour party leaves tomorrow and, as chairman of selectors and tour manager, Illingworth has made it clear that he will use his unprecedented powers throughout a daunting programme that starts with a five-Test series, continues with seven one-day internationals against South Africa and winds up with a World Cup campaign in India and Pakistan.

"I can't play for the players but I'm sure I'm going to be judged on what happens this winter," Illingworth said. "I've been involved in the game a long time and I back my knowledge. Maybe I've given way on selection matters once or twice when I shouldn't have done. But I have overall say this winter and there won't be a tour selection committee, as has been the case in the past."

Illingworth's working relationship with captain Mike Atherton has not always been ideal during its 18 months of operation, but the 63-year-old Yorkshireman suggested there would be no change in his attitude.

"I'll be picking the teams and chatting to Athers from time to time", he said.

But, Illingworth added, there was mutual respect between him and his captain. "I'm prepared to take Mike's thoughts on board. He's good. He makes a lot of sensible comments. We'll work together. I'll write down the team I think we should play, Mike will put down what he thinks and there'll probably be an odd position we'll argue over."

While Illingworth continues to insists this will be his only winter in charge, he added: "Although my contract ends after the World Cup, I would like to do another summer if things go all right and people are happy with me.

"I wasn't unhappy with our 2-2 draw against West Indies but I will be very disappointed if we don't win the Test series in South Africa.

"The players have backed me and the captain over the last six months by putting in some hard work. If they keep putting in 100 per cent they've got nothing to fear from me."