Cricket: TCCB orders shaven image for England

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TED DEXTER has lost neither his support nor his job from the Test and County Cricket Board after England's recent humiliation in India. The chairman of the England committee is not noted for admitting to any errors he might have made, and on this particular issue, the board (publicly, at any rate) seems inclined to agree with him.

The TCCB's chief executive, AC Smith, said after yesterday's spring meeting at Lord's that there had been 'no acrimony and no demand for resignations' after the official inquest on the winter whitewash, although some might prefer to describe it as the official whitewash on the winter inquest.

However, having exonerated Dexter, the TCCB then revealed that it is certainly not complacent, and its latest blueprint towards re-establishing England as a feared Test-playing nation involves, believe it or not, issuing the captain with a stick of shaving foam and a razor.

In terms of the captaincy, Graham Gooch is still considering whether to fall on his Wilkinson Sword, and yesterday's comments from Dexter - who appeared far more concerned about Gooch's 'designer stubble' than England making charlies of themselves on the field - may yet persuade him to pack it in.

Dexter revealed that the county chairmen's chief concern during the Indian trip was not the cricket at all, but the dishevelled appearance of some England players - particularly during the presentation ceremony which followed the final Test in Bombay.

'The board has asked the England committee to reconsider the whole matter of our dress code and overall appearance,' Dexter said. In direct reference to Gooch he added: 'There is a modern fashion for designer stubble and some people believe it to be very attractive, but it is aggravating to others and we will be looking at the whole question of people's facial hair.

'I hope,' he concluded, 'that we can come up with something that's agreeable to all parties.' So there we have it. England's master plan for the West Indies next winter will not only involve weights, sprints and press-ups at Lilleshall, but several hours per day under the hair drier, accompanied by facials and manicures from a beauty parlour consultant.

'We were already concerned about the look of the team before the Bombay presentations,' Dexter said, 'and when I spoke to manager Bob Bennett, he agreed that they had slipped from their normal good standard on a couple of occasions. We want the team's image to be right at all times.'

If the players find this a bit rich, they have every reason, given that they are contractually obliged to wander around looking like human sandwich boards in tracksuits, hats and T-shirts with various sponsors' logos plastered all over them. As for the public, they would probably prefer England (or more to the point, the people who pick the team) to smarten up in the cerebral department.

Whether or not England should have gone to India with doctors, chefs, oxygen masks (Dexter has yet to announce the results of his Calcutta smog investigation) and crateloads of disposable razors, some people think it might have been a reasonable idea to have taken a Test-class left-hander and a specialist wicketkeeper.

Dexter, though, managed to skirt around these issues by saying: 'The main problem was that India played to a very high standard.' Dexter, who has 12 months of his contract as chairman of the England committee still to run, made this observation on the day that Sri Lanka were presumably playing to a very high standard as well, by winning the one-day international in Colombo.

Dennis Amiss was re-appointed to the selection panel yesterday, and the board's plans to stamp out ball-doctoring this summer will now involve umpires' inspections at the end of every over, and the batting side's choice of a replacement in the event of any skulduggery.