Cricket: Smith made tour manager

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The Independent Online
M J K SMITH was yesterday appointed England tour manager for this winter's trip to the West Indies, but in terms of the vacancy for Ted Dexter's job as England committee chairman, it is a case of two and two adding up to, at best, three and a half.

The former England batsman and Warwickshire chairman remains a strong candidate to move into Dexter's office at Lord's, but that might still not be sorted out until closer to the start of next season than the end of this one, and in any event, the two jobs are totally unconnected.

Smith, 60, was approached a month ago, and after initially asking for 'time to think about it', finally accepted during the Edgbaston Test, before the announcement that Dexter would not be seeing out the last six months of his contract.

The position of tour manager is essentially unglamorous, sorting out itineraries, talking rhubarb at embassy functions, making dinner speeches, taking top level decisions such as whether the team will turn up wearing tour blazers or tracksuits with beer labels stuck all over them, making sure the team bus turns up on time (fat chance in the West Indies) and occasionally phoning Lord's with a problem.

Diplomacy and a relatively unflappable temperament are required, qualities with which Smith is generally associated, but more often than not, it finally boils down to who can spare the time to do it. In this respect, Smith, who recently sold his interest in a Warwickshire country club, and is now more or less a man of leisure, fits the bill nicely.

He takes over from Bob Bennett, the Lancashire chairman, who was tour manager in New Zealand and Australia two winters ago, and again in India last year. Bennett, who spent most of his time in India checking the newspapers for bomb blasts, and attempting to locate Indian Cricket Board officials to find out a) the identity of the next venue and b) whether the team were going by plane, rail, road, or skateboard, will probably be the first to send Smith a good luck telegram.