Cricket: Tufnell's problems threaten Test future: Illingworth fears spinner may be distracted

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The Independent Online
RAY ILLINGWORTH yesterday indicated that when Phil Tufnell's name comes up in selection, the phrase 'has he got any form' will refer not so much to his dealings with batsmen than with the police.

The new chairman of selectors, at Worcester to announce Michael Atherton's appointment as captain for the duration of the series with New Zealand, has taken a dim view of the way Tufnell's turbulent personal life has spilled into the courts.

'It is not an ideal situation,' he said. 'It would have to be taken into consideration when we pick the team.'

Tufnell spent last Thursday in police cells after a dispute with his former girlfriend over access to their 18-month-old daughter. Tufnell was charged with assault and remanded on bail until 12 May, two days before Illingworth's first selection meeting.

On Monday he had an altercation with the woman's father who was subsequently charged with grievous bodily harm. Tufnell needed hospital treatment and had stitches for a head injury.

'He can bowl, but can he bowl with this on his mind?' Illingworth said. 'You would not want it going on when the match starts.'

The squad, picked on 14 May, will be for the two Texaco internationals and will include some one-day specialists. When it comes to the Test side, Illingworth suggested, several new - or possibly old - faces will feature.

'Age is no barrier. As (fellow selector) Brian Bolus said, we have to stop the bleeding first. It is important for England to start winning.

'We played a lot of youngsters in the Caribbean and it proved you need some experience. You need a balance. I don't think Mike is completely happy with the players in the West Indies; there are areas where he feels one or two of them won't make it. But we will be tinkering with the team, not overhauling it.'

Illingworth is yet to talk to Graham Gooch but again stressed that he will not be considered unless he makes himself available to tour Australia this winter.

Atherton has initially just been made captain for the internationals and three Tests against New Zealand, not for the South African series.

'We felt 'we're a new regime, we'll give him the New Zealand series and take it from there'. I've spoken to Mike and told him there is no ulterior motive. Appointing him was a formality, he has thrived on the responsibility. I hope he remains captain throughout my (five-year) term of office, it will give us stability.'