England's selectors were seriously considering dropping Nasser Hussain when they postponed the announcement of their touring party to the West Indies last week.
The former captain's place in the 16-man squad was strongly contested in the telephone discussions between the four-man panel. He came within a whisker of being replaced by the Middlesex batsman Andrew Strauss. Although the need to check on injuries to bowlers was given as the main reason for the embarrassing 24-hour delay in naming the squad, the conjecture about Hussain's form and durability is believed to have provoked heated debate.
The team coach, Duncan Fletcher, had publicly backed Hussain after the batsman's poor tour of Sri Lanka last month, when he averaged 11.5 in his two matches. The chairman of selectors, David Graveney, confirmed only that all the middle-order batting positions had been discussed.
"If the debate was robust then that is nothing new," he said. "That's what we're there for." The discussion not only casts doubt over Hussain's future but points to divisions on the panel between the need to plan a strategy for the future and the desirability of trying to win the next match.
Hussain was always likely to be under pressure to retain his place once he resigned the captaincy last July, but he scored a stirring century in his second match afterwards and was awarded one of only eight central contracts, worth around £125,000.
The squad are already suffering from premature disruption because, although the Glamorgan fast bowler Simon Jones has been picked after 14 months out, his place is subject to him proving his fitness on the Academy's tour of India.
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