Cricket: `Mediocre county cricket' to blame, says Hussain

NASSER HUSSAIN, the England captain, has blamed the mediocrity of county cricket for the national side's alarming decline.

England fell to the bottom of the unofficial world Test rankings on Sunday as they lost the final Test and the four-match series to New Zealand and Hussain suggests that the team's development is being hampered by the domestic structure.

"We have the cricketers but we need a system of selection and unity to get the best out of them," he said in an interview on the BBC's On Side on Monday night. "Our system at county level is not the best but at Under- 19s we are the best in the world. Unfortunately some players get lost in the mediocrity of county cricket."

The English counties have responded to the mounting criticism of its structure by agreeing to implement central contracts, which will be handled by the England and Wales Cricket Board, for the leading players.

Tim Lamb, the ECB spokesman, said the central contracts were essential to establish a "settled squad of international players capable of performing well consistently".

However, other English cricket followers have joined the growing number of people to voice their opinions about the demise of the England team. John Major, the former British Prime Minister, yesterday blamed the lack of any heroes within the team.

"The problem is, I think there isn't a superhero at the moment," the politician said. "When one appears, as I'm sure one will, I think that will make a big difference," he said. "But we do need to begin to win Test matches again and we do need some people that instinctively the public will identify with as being a great cricketer."

Kenya, who finished in last place in this summer's World Cup, have added their opinion to the issue and accused England of not being willing to compete against them.

Anil Sarkar, the Kenya Cricket Board secretary, said England had rejected an invitation for an unofficial Test in Nairobi in October. "I think England know they could be embarrassed. I think we would beat them," Sarkar said.

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