England players offered cash bonuses to help prevent slide

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The Independent Online

In an attempt to inspire England's cricketers to great deeds and maintain their position as the No 2 side in the world, the England and Wales Cricket Board is considering providing Michael Vaughan's side with performance bonuses. England will slip from second to fifth place in the world rankings should they fail to defeat Sri Lanka in the third Test, which was scheduled to start this morning in Galle, and any player who scores a double hundred or takes seven wickets in an innings could be in line for a 5,000 bonus.

Team win bonuses have long been part of England's pay structure, with substantial payments of 200,000 or more being shared among the players on a pro rata basis should the side win a Test series containing four or more Tests. But this will be the first time that members of the team have been given personal incentives.

The parameters were based on two outstanding individual performances during last winter's Ashes. In Adelaide, Paul Collingwood scored 206 and Matthew Hoggard took 7-109 but, ironically, they failed to prevent their side falling to a six-wicket defeat to Australia. Kevin Pietersen would have been the last England player to qualify for a bonus after scoring 226 against the West Indies at Headingley during the summer.

Players enjoy these bonuses, seeing them as suitable reward for an outstanding achievement, and Vaughan is keen for them to be introduced. Such incentives can, however, be counterproductive. They can cause players to be selfish in their actions, placing their desire to reach 200 in front of the team's quest to score quick runs.

They can place the captain in a difficult position too. There may be times when sentiment rather than the match situation affects his decision-making. A bowler has six wickets but the game dictates that another bowler should be bowling does he give him one more over or remove him from the attack immediately? In a tight game the difference could affect the result of a game.

The personal rewards are competitive when compared to those a team will receive for being in first or second place in the ICC rankings at midnight on 31 March, the cut-off date for deciding who is the best side in the world. In 2007 Australia received US $175,000 (87,000) for being top while England, who were second, divvied up US $75,000 (37,000).

England falling to fifth is a predicament Vaughan is very wary of. "The ratings are important because you never want to go down them," said Vaughan. "But, even so, I do believe there are a lot of good things happening around the team at the moment. There are a lot of good young players around the side: Alastair Cook, Ravi Bopara and Stuart Broad.

"Stephen Harmison is back and Matthew Hoggard, if available, is bowling well. All the batsmen are playing in a controlled fashion too. If we keep working the way we are, keep progressing, Test match wins will come sooner rather than later."

Sri Lanka will be the team that replaces England in second place should they avoid defeat over the next five days. It would be a rise that would complete an excellent 2007 for Mahela Jayawardene's side, who reached the World Cup Final in April only to lose to Australia.

"If we win this Test we shoot up to second in the world and that is a very good incentive for us," he said. "We have been pretty consistent as a team in the last year, not just at home but away too. We have competed well against the best in the world.

"Finishing the year in second place after getting to the World Cup Final would be very satisfying not just for me but for a whole group of players. Everyone has put in a lot of effort and as a group of players we have done brilliantly. The youngsters have stepped up to the plate too when they have been asked to and I am very happy with the all-round effort."

* lThe Pakistan Cricket Board has denied Rao Iftikhar Anjum permission to join Glamorgan next summer. The pace bowler was to be the county's overseas player for 2008, but the PCB has decided to retain him in the country because of a packed international calendar.