Cricket World Cup: Stewart to discuss his future as captain with Graveney

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The Independent Online
ENGLAND'S CHAIRMAN of selectors, David Graveney, will sit down with the captain, Alec Stewart, as a matter of urgency to discuss his future role following the crushing disappointment of England's premature World Cup exit.

Since taking over the captaincy from Michael Atherton at the start of last summer, Stewart's form has suffered on all but a few occasions. The demands of leading the side, opening the batting and wicketkeeping have proved beyond even a player with his great appetite for work.

That has never been more highlighted than during the World Cup with Stewart scoring just one fifty in five innings. Those failures left England battling to overcome the early loss of their captain in all but the first match against Sri Lanka.

But as England's hierarchy discuss the possible candidates as a replacement for coach David Lloyd and prepare for a four-Test series against New Zealand, Stewart's situation is Graveney's main problem. Fulfilling his role as caretaker manager for the rest of the summer, Graveney will discuss all the options with Stewart - including the possibility of him stepping aside as captain.

"Now I must turn my attentions to the logistics of the job as caretaker manager, the people I'm going to use and the specialist coaches and, within a week, I want to sit down with Alec and discuss his position and role," Graveney said.

Stewart has already indicated he would like to continue as captain, but Graveney has urged him to use the intervening time to make an honest appraisal of the three roles he currently performs, particularly as he recently turned 36.

"It's quite a pressing issue," agreed Graveney. "People have made a lot of his three roles. It's a massive workload and the clock does not go back but he was batting at No 4 and captaining and wicketkeeping when he turned the series around against South Africa last summer with a century at Old Trafford. We have to talk and it's up to him to say to what extent the three jobs drain him."

Graveney insisted the England hierarchy have not discussed replacing Stewart as captain, claiming: "We're not seeking to cross that bridge at the moment, but Alec must be honest and I think he will be. He must admit it if it's too much to take on. He knows the pressures and responsibilities involved, but he's not a quitter and I didn't talk to him after the game because he was distraught and it was the wrong time. I want to speak to all the players involved in the World Cup, particularly those who didn't play, to explain the reasons why."

The World Cup exit denies England an opportunity to claim some vital exposure and makes victory in next month's Test series all the more paramount, particularly if the ECB want to attract high-calibre candidates as Lloyd's replacement.

Graveney said: "We must beat New Zealand and more than that, we must beat them in style. My job is temporary but I want to do it well. I've been asked my opinion about the new coach and it doesn't bother me if he's not English. If he brings the same passion that David Lloyd brought to the dressing room that will be great. When you have given as much as David Lloyd and we still haven't been successful, the players must look at themselves."