Cricket: Six and out for legends

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The Independent Online
TEST players who had been flown in from all over the world to take part in the two- day International Cricket Sixes at The Oval were left angry and out of pocket yesterday after the organisers called off the event.

Jeff Thomson, the great Australian fast bowler, and his compatriot, David Hookes, were even left without a return ticket home until The Oval authorities stepped in and stumped up around pounds 2,000 for their air fares.

For much of the day The Oval forecourt resembled a living Who's Who of the game as some of the great players of the last 20 years milled around waiting for at least one of the organisers to turn up. There was no sign of either Roland Butcher, the former England and Middlesex batsman, nor of Old Harrovian Simon Jacot, two of the directors of Cricket Legends Limited, as the midday deadline for the players to be paid came and went.

The floodlit tournament, put together at an estimated cost of pounds 250,000, had bought the services of 58 past and present Test players including former India captain Sunil Gavaskar and the new West Indies captain, Courtney Walsh, as well as England's Derek Randall, John Emburey, Chris Lewis, Allan Lamb and their captain for the event, Dermot Reeve. 'It's embarrassing,' Reeve said. 'This event has been organised by English people in England and they've brought in foreign internationals to play.'

Originally the players were told they would be paid half their pounds 1,000 fee at the end of the first day's play on Wednesday. But Reeve explained: 'At the close of play yesterday (Wednesday) I was told by Simon Jacot that the gate money with which they intended paying us had been put in a safe in the Surrey offices and that they couldn't get it out. But he said that didn't matter because we would be paid in full at midday today. He then did say that he only had 75 per cent of the fee and he had 12 hours to raise the rest. This morning I was told the backers had pulled out and there was no money available to pay the players.'

Cricket Legends yesterday issued a statement which said: 'The unprecedented dispute with the players before the start of play yesterday, as reflected in this morning's media coverage, jeopardised ticket sales today to the extent that the promoters of the tournament, Cricket Legends Ltd, believe that they can no longer fulfil their commitment.' It is understood that at around 8pm on Wednesday, the company's other two directors, Jane Lindquist and Paul Ledruillinec, resigned.

Jacot, whose company has not revealed the identity of the backers, was nowhere to be found yesterday. But Butcher eventually appeared - complete with a bodyguard - at 3.30pm. He spoke briefly in the Surrey offices to a couple of disgruntled players but was then asked to leave the ground.

The players' feelings were mixed. Emburey, a former Middlesex team-mate of Butcher, said: 'I'm just very disappointed with the whole situation. Roland got involved on the cricket side of things. It's the financial side that hasn't worked.' Randall said: 'Players have come from all over the world and they are going home penniless, with nothing. It's terrible. It's left a sour taste.'