Cricket World Cup: Old Trafford plan kept under wraps

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The Independent Online
LANCASHIRE ARE keeping their security arrangements for next Tuesday's potentially explosive World Cup match between India and Pakistan at Old Trafford under wraps, following talks with the police.

Club officials met with the Greater Manchester Police and local authorities yesterday to discuss the handling of the Super Six match between two rivals currently involved in military skirmishes in Kashmir.

The Lancashire chief executive, Jim Cumbes, refused to give numbers of the expected security force for fear of inciting trouble but it is predicted that it will be the most heavily policed cricket match ever in England. "We're not being complacent and are planning accordingly," Cumbes said. "Our objective is for all fans to enjoy what potentially is a wonderful day's cricket between two fine sides and to ensure safety for all concerned."

David Graveney, England's chairman of selectors, has blamed the contract dispute before the World Cup for his side's premature exit. Graveney cited the protracted negotiations over money which overshadowed their preparations as one of the main factors behind England's sorry performances.

Speaking on the Sky Sports' World Cup Centre programme, he revealed that the trip to Sharjah in April was undermined by the players' resentment about what they felt was an unsatisfactory contract for the World Cup, and Graveney said: "This rather unseemly dispute about contracts and the money involved with the players... unfortunately started the campaign for the World Cup on the wrong foot. It could have been handled in a far better way. The point has been made that if Zimbabwe win the World Cup they will get less money than England got at the present stage. They talked about the honour. I have no dispute with the players who have represented England about their honour to play, but there comes a time when money has to take a back seat - regrettably that was the wrong start."

Graveney denied that Alec Stewart's multiple roles were a contributory factor. "There is a view among the selectors that the pressures of being an international captain, asking Alec to keep wicket and also bat high up in the order, is an immense task," he said. "But we should note that even in the South African series, the innings that turned that series was his large hundred at Old Trafford - we have taken that on board."

Another captain under pressure is Sri Lanka's Arjuna Ranatunga, the country's state-owned media yesterday joining demands for his dismissal following his side's poor showing in the World Cup. The Daily News said that, while Ranatunga's contribution to Sri Lankan cricket was immense, it was time he bowed out gracefully.

"For some time, Sri Lanka cricket could do without Ranatunga," the paper said. "He is getting flak from all corners because he has been hanging on to the job for too long."

The Sri Lankan team are due to return home today and are expected to be subjected to more criticism, but Ranatunga and the vice-captain Aravinda de Silva have chosen not to arrive in Colombo with the rest of the party.

The Daily News added that administrators over the years had made Ranatunga "a prima donna" of national cricket which made it difficult for selectors to ask him to go or sack him. "To persist with senior cricketers whose contributions on the field are not what they used to be... is to invite frustration among the many youths who are knocking on the doors for recognition," it said.