Cricket: Thorpe fined pounds 1,000 by England

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The Independent Online
IT WAS a less than auspicious start to England's World Cup preparations but the message to the players was loud and clear. This is a no-nonsense management team, as exemplified by the fine that was imposed on Graham Thorpe yesterday by England manager David Graveney following a breach of discipline the night before.

"Graham Thorpe has been fined pounds 1,000 for his non-appearance at a function last night," Graveney explained. "He has apologised to myself, coach David Lloyd and the players and the matter is now closed."

It represents a sizeable chunk of Thorpe's basic fee from the England and Wales Cricket Board, which is believed to be in the region of pounds 15,000. And the fact that the Surrey left-hander could have been fined a maximum of pounds 1,500 is an indication of how seriously England regard the incident, or indeed any such breach of discipline. Graveney added: "It is important to us that we remain a collective unit on and off the field. Being together at all times is a crucial factor to our success in the World Cup."

England were due to meet Kent members on Wednesday night but, after a day practising hard at Canterbury, Thorpe apparently did not feel like spending an evening out and, according to unconfirmed reports, when he was told that the team coach was ready to go he declined to leave his hotel room. "As far as I was concerned his reason was not satisfactory," said Graveney, who attended the two-hour function at the St Lawrence ground with the rest of the party. "There was no explanation from Graham this morning and I therefore felt it was necessary to fine him, which I did after consultation with the captain and coach. I then informed Lord's of my decision."

Graveney made it clear that the players have certain duties which they must fulfil off the field. "There are functions to attend in our host counties," he said. "The build-up is busy, meeting members, supervising coaching sessions with youngsters and so on, but it is the same for all the teams. We have dealt with this matter quickly and sensibly. Graham knows where he stands and he took a full part in today's practice session and this incident will not be held against him." Thorpe, who had no comment, subsequently requested that the fine be donated to a charity.

But he should be less than charitable when he takes part in today's first warm-up match against Kent - he is unlikely to be left out for fear that such a move is seen as further punishment by the management.

The match has an edge to it in that England, who play further warm-ups against Essex at Chelmsford on Sunday and Hampshire at Southampton on Tuesday, include Kent's Mark Ealham in their side, while the Kent team features two England rejects, Matthew Fleming and the fast bowler Dean Headley.

Fleming, the Kent captain, said yesterday: "The players are desperate to do well. We had 400 members last night to meet the England players - I think they are more excited about this match than they were about the Benson & Hedges Cup final at Lord's a couple of years ago.

"We have a few players who feel they have something to prove, including Dean Headley, although I don't feel I am one of those. I have played 11 more one day internationals than I thought I ever would. I presume I was close, but not close enough when it came to World Cup selection. I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't rather be playing for England, but I can't worry about that."

Fleming does not think he is even on stand-by. "No one has told me that I must miss sex for the next six weeks so I presume I am not on the list," he said.

ENGLAND (v Kent, Canterbury, today) From: N V Knight (Warwickshire), A J Stewart (Surrey, capt, wkt), G A Hick (Worcestershire), G P Thorpe (Surrey), N H Fairbrother (Lancashire), A Flintoff (Lancashire), A J Hollioake (Surrey), V J Wells (Leicestershire), R D B Croft (Glamorgan), D Gough (Yorkshire), A D Mullally (Leicestershire), N Hussain (Essex), A R C Fraser (Middlesex), I D Austin (Lancashire).

Photograph, page 31