Cricket: Lewis drops himself in it

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The Independent Online
Exhibiting a ruthlessness that their bowlers would do well to take note of, England's selectors yesterday dropped Chris Lewis from the Texaco one-day squad for arriving late at The Oval, some 12 hours after they had picked him.

Lewis arrived at 10.25am (for an 11am start), missed all of England's warm-ups and fielding routines, and although he attended a pre-match presentation of commemorative medals, his excuse of having had a puncture was not accepted by his captain, Michael Atherton.

According to the England coach, David Lloyd, players have to be in the dressing-room by 9.30, ready to start practice 15 minutes later. Unless prior permission is sought (which it was not) they also have to spend the night in the team hotel. Considering, then, that the team's hotel at Chelsea Harbour is less than 10 minutes from the ground, Lewis, puncture or not, was unfeasibly late, his Mercedes SL320 soft-top being one of the quicker cars about.

Whether or not his explanation was true, it was made worse by his lack of effort to either ring in or switch his mobile phone on. This was confirmed later by Lloyd who had tried regularly to contact Lewis, as well as checking to see if the player had left any messages with the Surrey office. A persistent offender where prompt timekeeping is concerned, Lewis also turned up 45 minutes late for practice when he was recalled for the first Texaco one-day squad of the summer against India, a misdemeanour that saw him fined by his team-mates.

However, although there was no fine this time, the harshness of the disciplinary action - Lewis will forgo a minimum of pounds 3,000 in match fees alone - surprised many. Raymond Illingworth, though, was adamant: "It may be tough action," he said at a noon-day press conference, "but that's the way we feel about it." Surrey have lent their support to this sentiment by promising not to pick the player for next Thursday's county match against Warwickshire.

Lewis has courted controversy ever since his Test debut in 1990. In between pulling out of matches with an assortment of ailments ranging from migraine to sunstroke, he has appeared scantily clad in a glossy magazine.

Even so, bursts of on-field brilliance have kept Lewis from disappearing into obscurity. However yesterday's decisive action suggest that someone is clearly at the end of their tether with his wayward habits.

Even Lloyd, a man who has been quick to champion his players, felt aggrieved. "I feel let down by what he's done," said the England coach. "He should have responded in a more responsible manner. After all, this is a Test match."

But if one promising career is perhaps about to end prematurely, another could be about to start. Dean Headley must have been delighted when he heard of his late inclusion. Blighted by an injury earlier in the season, the Kent fast bowler, following a splendid winter with England 'A', has shown electric form and two recent hat-tricks in the County Championship must have brought him close to selection anyway.

Headley apart, there were five other changes to the 13-man squad that played and beat India early in the summer. In come Robert Croft, Adam Hollioake, Nick Knight, Alan Mullally and Graham Lloyd, the son of England's coach. Out go Warwickshire's Neil Smith, the pinch-hitting Alistair Brown and the injured Mark Ealham.

The most surprising exclusion, however, on purely cricketing terms, is that of Dominic Cork who has been dropped rather than rested. Illingworth cleared up any confusion when he said: "We feel that Dominic has not been bowling that well and his ratio of runs per over has been high even for Derbyshire."

There is no doubt that Cork has struggled to maintain the startling impact he made in his first season of Test cricket. His tough combative nature is not matched by an equivalent physique and he has long had a specific set of exercises to do, to strengthen his wonky knees. According to Illingworth, he may yet be given some part of the winter tour off - "but only if he's prepared to work on exercises for his legs".

Graeme Hick, an automatic one-day choice throughout his international career, has also been left out. "We decided over the last two Tests to give other people opportunities," Illingworth said. "Opportunities that Graeme has had; and we've continued that policy with the Texaco."

His place goes to the in-form Graham Lloyd, whose positive and powerful strokeplay are thought to be better suited to the demands of the middle order than either Hussain's or Crawley's. As his father David was later pushed to comment - "he's a dominant one-day cricketer at the top of his game and a dangerous player."

England squad

England 13 for the Texaco Trophy one-day series against Pakistan, starting Thursday:

M A Atherton (Lancashire, capt), N V Knight (Warwickshire), A J Stewart (Surrey, wkt), G P Thorpe (Surrey), M P Maynard (Glamorgan), G D Lloyd (Lancashire), R C Irani (Essex), A J Hollioake (Surrey), R D B Croft (Glamorgan), D Gough (Yorkshire), D W Headley (Kent), P J Martin (Lancashire), A D Mullally (Leicestershire).