Cricket: World Cup - Now Hollioake is in the dock

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The Independent Online
THE SHADOW of controversy fell across England's fine victory over Sri Lanka at Lord's yesterday. First it was revealed that the International Cricket Council, the world game's governing body, had threatened to suspend any player who used a Slazenger bat that was painted blue then after the match the chairman of selectors, David Graveney, revealed that he had been forced to deal with another disciplinary matter, this time involving Adam Hollioake.

The Surrey captain and England all-rounder had responded inappropriately to barracking during the warm-up match against Essex at Chelmsford last Sunday. A V-sign which he flicked in jest rather than anger, according to Graveney, offended two spectators who complained to the police and then in writing to the England management.

The police requested that England deal with the matter internally and Graveney duly did. "We did not fine Adam," said the England manager, "but I have spoken to him and he accepts that he was at fault. The matter is now closed." Just a few days earlier, Hollioake's Surrey colleague, Graham Thorpe, had been fined pounds 1,000 for failing to turn up at a cocktail party.

And a third Surrey player could now become embroiled in unwelcome publicity. Alec Stewart, the England captain, is one of three players who is sponsored by Slazenger, the others being Graeme Hick and Andy Flintoff.

All three had welcomed the idea of having their bats painted blue and the plan was that Hick and Flintoff would use theirs yesterday (Stewart's bats were not prepared in time). But, according to sources close to the epicentre of the row, the ICC went puce with indignation at the idea and warned that if any of the players attempted to use a coloured bat they would be liable to immediate suspension.

No one from Slazenger was available for comment yesterday, but it is believed that there is no legal reason for the players not to paint their bats and it has been established that the paint would not have any effect at all on their performances. The issue is expected to be resolved next week. In the meantime Hick used a standard bat in compiling his unbeaten half century.

Another situation which has not been resolved is the ticklish one involving the members of Marylebone Cricket Club. And yesterday there were not very many of them at Lord's. The empty seats in the Pavilion prompted Chris Rea, MCC's head of marketing, to say: "It is embarrassing, there is no other word for it. Members bought all but 400 of the allocation of 8,000 for this match at a 25 per cent discount. It doesn't look good, there is no masking that. It is disappointing to see the empty seats, whatever the reasons."

Traditionally MCC membership entitles them to watch every match at Lord's free of charge, but not any more and they have to shell out pounds 45 for the pounds 60 tickets, which for the final will cost them pounds 75 instead of pounds 100.