England selectors brought to call

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The Independent Online

England's selectors had better make sure their answers are as polished as their shoes when they meet at Lord's this morning, after being summoned there by Lord MacLaurin to explain their side's woeful form in the NatWest series.

MacLaurin, along with chief executive Tim Lamb, director of cricket John Carr, and Brian Bolus, are seeking a prompt review of England's one-day cricket. Yet, although this is not thought to be unprecedented in itself, making it public knowledge is.

Convening a meeting of this sort with such indecent haste also has a touch of the panic button about it, and yesterday a radio station conducted a poll over who should be the next England coach, a move David Graveney, the chairman of selectors, said he found "insulting." Yet, even if the odd speck of blood does find its way on to the carpet, the official line from Lamb is that Duncan Fletcher has the total confidence of the ECB.

"This meeting is not a witch hunt," insisted Lamb at Lord's yesterday. "But when you lose six matches out of six, it is not good enough, you owe it to supporters to have an inquiry.

"Although there were clearly mitigating circumstances with injuries, it would be right to analyse our performances, see where we went wrong and look to make improvements."

MacLaurin has long emphasised the fact that the England team are the shop window of cricket in England. With that in mind, this pow-wow is more likely to be window dressing than crisis management. Although surprised that he and the selectors were being summoned before the bitter pill has been fully digested, David Graveney, the chairman of selectors, is certainly not expecting a carpeting and welcomed the dialogue.

"A meeting like this had to happen, and better sooner than later," said Graveney. "We have learned a lot during this tournament. Everyone is disappointed but we have to look at it sensibly and move forward.

"The Board want to know what we're doing to put things right and that's fair enough. We have learned some harsh lessons this summer and we understand how people feel. But no-one should be pushing the panic button."

If where they hope to go – the World Cup semi-finals – is known, how they get there is less clear. Fletcher's route is to play more one-dayers and England's next date, with 11 successive losses in tow, is with Zimbabwe in late September for a five-match one-day series. With a move to return to playing the best technical batsmen, rather than so-called specialists in biff-bang-pow, playing more internationals is the fast-track to burn-out.

If young players lack the required standards at county level to compete at the top, it is because of the drop in both the numbers and quality of overseas players. Not wishing to unduly denigrate those playing now, there is a world of difference between playing against Somerset with Jamie Cox in the side than taking them on when they had both Viv Richards and Joel Garner to call upon.

After Thursday's humiliation at the hands of Australia, Fletcher revealed he was going to put structures in place to identify the best 25 one-day players in England, with an emphasis on youth.

"We have between 20-25 one-day matches before the next World Cup and we need the individuals we identify to play in most of them," Fletcher said on Thursday. "But we'll assess things again when we're half-way down that track." Judging by the promptness with which today's meeting has been called, cricket's top brass require something more definite a little sooner.

* The England bowler Andrew Caddick sustained a hairline fracture to the knuckle on his left hand when hit by Australia's Brett Lee whilst batting during Thursday's NatWest Series match, but is expected to be fit in time for the first Test at Edgbaston on 7 July.

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