Cricket: The art of going to ground: Glenn Moore reports on a man whose absence made the hacks grow fonder of bad news

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HE WAS not there at the start and he was not there at the end. Ted Dexter's reign became characterised as much by his absence as his presence.

When England lost his first Test match in charge - by 210 runs to Australia at Headingley in 1989 - Dexter was in London. The Sun screamed 'Dexter wasn't even there' and the honeymoon was over before it had begun.

From then on Dexter did not have a chance. He was criticised if he did not show up and, thanks to his habit of making inane comments whenever faced with a microphone or notebook, criticised when he did.

The popular conception was that he was always haring round the M25, golf clubs in the sidecar, but - not least because knee and back injuries left him unable to play golf as recently as this April - that was not quite true.

Apart from his job only being a part-time one it entailed a wider brief than just the national team. On Sunday, for example, he was watching the Under-19s win at Chelmsford and in the winter saw the A team in Australia and Under-19s in India.

But his absence from Headingley this year when Graham Gooch resigned was a mistake, and so was his non-appearance yesterday.

He had reputedly gone to ground in London, always a good hiding place for those on the run. The answerphone at his Ealing house burned hot with use, while outside reporters camped. The same applied to his nearby public relations company offices while, given that he had played golf after hearing of Gooch's resignation, the local courses were scoured.

At the ground yesterday, Ken Lawrence, the Test and County Cricket Board's media relations manager, passed Dexter's typically obtuse resignation notice around a press box increasingly oblivious to the slow death being applied on the pitch.

'It does take the gloss off our victory a bit,' Allan Border said. 'All the papers will be full of Dexter and not us.'

The Australian captain could be forgiven for suspecting a conspiracy. In 1989, the story of Mike Gatting and his rebel tour to South Africa broke the day they won the Ashes. This year, Gooch resigned the day they won the Ashes, and now this. Like a struggling government, English cricket has a knack of releasing all the bad news on the same day in the hope that some of it will be hidden. Or maybe it is simply that there is a glut of bad news.

THE TCCB STATEMENT AND DEXTER'S REPLY IN FULL

TCCB STATEMENT

'IT HAS been agreed with Mr Dexter that his term of office as chairman of the England Committee will terminate on August 31.

'Mr Dexter had already informed the chairman and senior officers of the Board prior to the start of the current Test series that he was not seeking re-election after March 1994.

'Furthermore, Mr Dexter had previously volunteered to finish in the autumn of 1993 to give the new England chairman more time to settle in before the next home season. It is this suggestion that the Board has now adopted.

'The Board will in due course consider whether an autumn rather than a spring changeover should be adopted as normal practice.'

TED DEXTER STATEMENT

'I have thoroughly enjoyed my four and a half years in office. I saw it as my job to try to improve the overall performance of English cricket at all levels internationally.

'I am obviously disappointed with the results of the current series.

'I pass on good wishes to my successor. I wish him well and look forward to seeing England back on top.'

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