Cricket: Lloyd's spin sourness set to rebound

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The Independent Online
DAVID LLOYD, England's emotional coach, could be in danger of losing his job after making ill-judged comments about the bowling action of Sri Lanka's off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan. Following talks between the Cricket Board of Sri Lanka and the England and Wales Board, in which the Sri Lankans registered their concern, the ECB is to seek an explanation from Lloyd before deciding whether any further action is required.

The comments, made by Lloyd on Sunday evening, referred to what he called Muralitharan's "unorthodox" action and were more innuendo than slander. However, the timing and tone - particularly the "I shall be making my views known in a report to the match referee" - were the sourest of sour grapes.

Yet if the chastisement that followed in the press the following day was not enough, he then harangued Geoffrey Boycott in the BBC's commentary box. Boycott, asked about his views on England's chances in Australia, remarked how England "might be better off getting a coach who kept his mouth shut."

Lloyd, who says he is looking forward to meeting his bosses, claims he and Boycott were not at loggerheads at all.

"Geoff and I had a really good laugh together," he said yesterday. "We even shook hands after our chat."

The version that has reached his superiors suggests otherwise, however, and judging from a statement by Tim Lamb, the ECB's chief executive, the matter, despite being dismissed by the match referee, is not being taken lightly.

"David Lloyd's remarks were his own and not in line with the position of the ECB, which is happy to abide by the ICC's ruling on Muralitharan's action," Lamb said.

"David has been advised that what he said was inappropriate and insensitive, and senior representatives of the Board will see him at the earliest opportunity. We are taking this and his public argument with a television presenter very seriously."

A passionate man, who tends to let his emotions get the better of him, Lloyd has been severely reprimanded once before - in Zimbabwe, two years ago, a dressing down apparently administered by chairman Lord MacLaurin himself.

On that occasion, the problem came after England drew a Test they should have won in Bulawayo. Afterwards complaints from the locals, who did not care for Lloyd's comments regarding the home side's tactics of deliberately bowling wide, were followed by his famous "We flippin' murdered 'em," line, which went on to became the clarion call of the tour.

A conscientious and popular coach, Lloyd may have transgressed once too often for the new image-conscious burghers of English cricket.

According to Richard Peel, the ECB's director of corporate affairs: "It is extremely important how the England team and those around them present themselves to the public. As the highest profile manifestation of English cricket they must behave appropriately."

But while there is no doubt that Lloyd behaved inappropriately, the seriousness of his comments rest with their interpretation. Unfortunately he is being judged by those who know him and his private thoughts, which in Lloyd's case is not necessarily a helpful thing.

Tour squads; Sports Letters, page 19