ECB gives injured trio central contracts

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The Independent Online

Loyalty is an honourable trait, but the England selectors' devotion to the nation's Ashes-winning heroes is in danger of becoming misguided following the decision to award central contracts to Michael Vaughan, Ashley Giles and Simon Jones. Vaughan and Jones have been ruled out of the visit to Australia in November, and Giles will need to prove his fitness while England are in India during October's Champions Trophy if he is to make the trip.

Yet the trio's absence, and long-term uncertainty over their future, has not prevented the England and Wales Cricket Board from offering the triumvirate lucrative deals, worth in excess of £130,000. When match fees are added an England player can expect to earn more than £350,000 per annum if he plays both Test and one-day cricket - Vaughan, who would be on a top contract, will take home a minimum of £175,000. Each has spoken positively about making a full recovery from a career-threatening injury, but there is a real possibility that at least one of them will not play for England again.

Heaven knows what Chris Read has made of it. The England wicketkeeper put in encouraging performances during his two Test appearances against Pakistan, yet he has not received a contract. Nor did the man he replaced, Geraint Jones, but placing the pair in the same position is unlikely to fill England's current gloveman with confidence.

David Graveney, the chairman of selectors, said: "With intense competition for the wicketkeeping position at present, the ECB's International Teams Group has concluded that no one wicketkeeper meets the criteria for the award of an England 12-month central contract. The selectors can, of course, award summer contracts to individual players from next April if we feel that performances on overseas tours merit this - and I am sure that both Chris Read and Geraint Jones will be competing hard to demonstrate their value to the team this winter."

The decision to overlook Read would be acceptable if the selectors had taken the same stance in previous years. But this has not been the case. Paul Collingwood was awarded a central contract 12 months ago even though he made just one appearance in the Ashes, and money is an issue. What it comes down to is that the selectors are keener to reward past performances than potential.

The compassion shown towards Vaughan, Giles and Jones is probably due to the fact that each was injured while playing for England. But sport at the highest level is tough and if a player is not capable of doing the job he is paid to do he is of little use to anyone.

Graveney said: "The selectors were keen to demonstrate our support and faith in those players who are recovering from long-term injuries but remain an important part of our plans as we prepare for an intensive programme of international cricket... over the next 12 months."

Alastair Cook and Monty Panesar are worthy recipients of their first central contracts. The pair made England debuts in the same Test against India in Nagpur during the winter and have performed with distinction. The 13 contracts offered is the highest number since their introduction in 2000.

Central bank: Contract players

I R Bell (Warwickshire)

P D Collingwood (Durham)

A N Cook (Essex)

A F Giles (Warwickshire)

A Flintoff (Lancashire)

S J Harmison (Durham)

M J Hoggard (Yorkshire)

S P Jones (Glamorgan)

K P Pietersen (Hampshire)

M S Panesar (Northants)

A J Strauss (Middlesex)

M E Trescothick (Somerset)

M P Vaughan (Yorkshire)

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