CRICKET: Lloyd escapes with `severe reprimand'

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DAVID LLOYD, the England coach, yesterday escaped severe censure after meeting with his employers, the England and Wales Cricket Board. Instead, his thinly veiled comments over the bowling action of Muttiah Muralitharan, made as England struggled to a 10-wicket defeat against Sri Lanka at The Oval, have brought him a second warning in two years.

In a statement yesterday, Tim Lamb, chief executive of the ECB, said: "Following his inappropriate comments about the Sri Lankan off-spinner, Muttiah Muralitharan, and his subsequently reported altercation with a television presenter, David Lloyd has been severely reprimanded, warned about his conduct and left in no doubt as to the responsibilities that go with such a high-profile position. The matter is now closed and David goes as coach to Dhaka and to Australia with our full support."

The meeting, which was attended by Lamb, Simon Pack, the international teams director, and Lesley Portlock, the personnel manager, was not a disciplinary one. Sri Lanka, despite their captain Arjuna Ranatunga's outburst, in which he said he "couldn't care less if Lloyd lost his job", had not officially complained, merely asked the ECB to investigate.

Lloyd, a popular coach, is generally reckoned to have done a good job since taking over in May 1996. A highly strung and immensely patriotic man, he unfortunately allowed his private feelings to spill out into the public domain. Zimbabwe, where he was warned following a drawn Test England should have comfortably won, was a case in point.

For former players of Lloyd's generation, suspect actions are an emotive subject. One former Essex spinner, when told by a local radio reporter that Muralitharan had been cleared by an ICC panel, said: "Who was on it? Eric Bristow and Jockey Wilson?" Although it did not befit his position as coach, it was those sentiments that Lloyd was echoing with his ill- judged innuendo.

Having pondered his actions, the England coach, whose contract expires after next year's World Cup, was suitably contrite. "I am sorry for the offence that I have caused," he said.