James Lawton: Marsh is the way forward for a country living in past

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Rod Marsh was clearly outvoted by his fellow England selectors when they came to choose the wicket-keeper for this week's opening Test match against Zimbabwe.

Marsh was on the record as favouring his protége Chris Read against the admirable but now virtually historic Alec Stewart. We can be sure that the Aussie argued his corner. He might even have been tempted to suggest that as someone who could take Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson with one eye closed and a case of "tinnies" clanking in his head he did know a little of what he was talking about.

But the mould of English cricket is hard set. There is a crust of caution which is bomb-proof, a fact which maybe brings us to the real lesson of the latest selectorial fudge. Having been bold enough to appoint Marsh, who comes from the greatest winning tradition in cricket, why not take the move to its logical conclusion and sack his colleagues? Duncan Fletcher is a good old pro who has done some good work, but after recent humiliations he is surely running out of string. David Graveney and Geoff Miller are similarly scarred.

What English cricket needs, more than anything, is a serious dose of leadership. It needs someone prepared to throw away that mould, and have the nerve to back his own instincts - and stand and fall on that judgement. The trick is to pick out the winners and invest in them. Part of the investment is the willingness to put your own neck on the line. English Test cricket, along with the whole game, has been run by committee for too long. What is needed is individual nerve - and some familiarity with the process of winning.

The decision to retain Stewart is the gesture of a discredited past. Some like Marsh should be entrusted with the future.

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