The decision that lit the blue touch paper in September was the omission of David Gower, not so much a cricketer, more a national institution, but Keith Fletcher, the England team manager, said yesterday: 'We (the selectors) thought we picked the best squad at the time, and we feel just the same today.'
Ted Dexter, chairman of the England committee, was even more blunt. In a comment reminiscent of his 'I am not aware of any errors I might have made' following England's 4-0 thrashing by Australia in the summer of 1989, Dexter said: 'They (the MCC dissidents) assume there is a lot of support for what they are doing, but we don't know that. I've not had much of a postbag on the subject.
'This is just a knee-jerk reaction from people who, I don't think, are necessarily aware of what the itinerary is,' which was presumably a comment on the fact that England's winter programmed contains twice as many one-day internationals (eight) as Test matches.
Dexter's comment that 'the nature of the job is making unpopular decisions, but whether this one is remains to seen' will not have done much to change the minds ofthose who think he is out of touch with public opinion. He also said today that the MCC dissidents 'don't appear to know how we arrive at these decisions', which is not only spot on, but probably goes for 90 per cent of the country as well.
Fletcher reiterated his comment that Gower was a 'quality player' and would certainly be in the frame for the Ashes series next summer. He added however: 'Everyone thinks they can do a better job than the selectors, but I do think the MCC people are now carrying things a bit far. There must be better ways of spending pounds 17,000' - the estimated cost of calling the special meeting, which will be held early next month.
Gower also believes enough is enough. Speaking from Australia where he is engaged in cricket commentary work, the 35-year-old batsman said: 'I was hoping the MCC members would drop the matter before it got to a special meeting. I have got over the fact that I am not going to India to play cricket this winter. Still, the people who have called the meeting regard it as a matter of principle and I really should not stand in their way.
'The depth of feeling they are showing is extraordinary. But whatever voice of protest is raised, it is not going to make any difference. I have always said the selectors do their job in good faith.'
The decision on Tuesday to press ahead with the special meeting, rather than accepting a 'strongly-worded letter' to be sent to the selectors, probably hinged on the fact that the MCC committee declined to involve themselves directly. By offering to send the letter 'on behalf of some of our members' rather than on behalf of the MCC itself, the committee hardened the dissidents' resolve to press on.
Ultimately, however, it matters not a jot what the MCC thinks. The England selectors are called to account only by the Test and County Cricket Board, and although their performance is subject to annual review by the county chairmen, Dexter and Fletcher are in possession of two and five-year contracts respectively.
Gower, 8,231 still not in, page 25
Border and Hughes fined,
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