Cricket: Stewart's appeal to Lloyd

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AMIDST THE confusion created by the imminent departure of David Lloyd, the England coach, the World Cup song was launched at Lord's yesterday by its creator Dave Stewart, formerly one half of the Eurythmics. But if the catchy tune is seen primarily as a way of trying to get young people hooked on cricket the England captain, Alec Stewart (no relation apparently), was hoping that it would not be the coach's swansong after all.

"Whether Bumble [Lloyd's nickname] was packing in or not after the World Cup, we'll still be doing our best to win," Stewart said. "If we do win it, hopefully someone can change his mind about carrying on. He loves being England coach and he's brilliant at his job."

Lloyd, who revealed that he would be stepping down as team coach after the tournament, was not at Lord's yesterday, though he had been 24 hours earlier, when he met with officials from the England and Wales Cricket Board to press for an extension to his contract. Not unsurprisingly they demanded the right to make that decision after the World Cup, a time frame Lloyd felt unable to accept.

"It was a very amicable meeting," said Tim Lamb, the ECB's chief executive. "There is a whole host of factors that have to be considered before you re-engage a head coach and England's performance in the World Cup was one of those factors. We respect David's wish to have assurances over his future as early as possible, but we simply didn't feel able to give him those assurances now. It's one of those decisions where you are damned if you do make it and damned if you don't."

However, in the murky world of sport, one decision tends to beget another and it will not be long before a replacement for Lloyd will have to be announced. Coincidence or not, early speculation has centered on South Africa's outgoing coach Bob Woolmer, who later played down the rumours.

Speaking yesterday morning on Radio 5, Woolmer said that, although possibly tempted by the England job, he was looking forward to a long rest once the World Cup had been concluded. Yet if Woolmer was implying that a long rest would rule him out, Lamb scotched the notion that immediate availability was a prerequisite.

"If we have to make an interim appointment for the Test series against New Zealand we will," said Lamb. "Obviously we'd prefer continuity but, if we have to, we'll take as much time as is needed to make the right decision for English cricket." According to Lamb the net for candidates will be cast wide and will not be restricted to British nationals.

The method for vetting them will not be quite as obliging though, and a shortlist will be compiled by the international teams department of the ECB, headed by former Nato man, Simon Pack. Once an individual has been singled out he has to be endorsed by the England management committee [EMAC], presumably after consultation with the England captain.

But if that was all rather dull and humdrum, the indoor school at Lord's was a riot of colour and activity as a bevy of celebrities - for some reason known as ambassadors - donned pads and coloured shirts to bat against Darren Gough or bowl at Neil Fairbrother. Caprice, the wonderbra model used to launch the England kit last October, was also there, though it was the song that ultimately stole the show.

"All over the World", as the tune is known, comes with two video versions. The first, made by Stewart himself, borrows heavily from the film One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest and depicts white-coated lunatics - some felt they must be umpires or the Barmy Army, others the ECB - breaking out of the asylum and joining kids playing a cricket match.

The second video, the official one that will be widely used by TV coverage of the World Cup (the BBC will still use the Booker T & the MG's song "Soul Limbo" to open their final broadcasts for four years), shows more typical cricket action from the teams competing. Either way, the song and the videos are bound to get people talking and foot tapping. Along with the World Cup and a new cricket coach, that is just what English cricket most needs.