The Ashes Inquest: Golfer who is looking for a bit of reverse swing
Sunday 21 January 2007
What may have been a daunting task for anyone else appears to be a challenge Ken Schofield is positively relishing already. Schofield, the executive director of golf's European Tour for 30 years until his retirement in 2004, will head the review of English cricket's international performances over the past four years, including the high of winning back the Ashes in 2005 and the recent disastrous defence Down Under.
"Obviously, the phone call came out of the blue, but I had no hesitation in taking on the job," Schofield said. Nor is he concerned about stepping into a different sporting arena. "Whatever the sport is, I'll do whatever I can to help.
"My job now is to get into the committee room, listen to the expert group on the panel, talk to everyone who we need to talk to and take the findings to the board. I'm there to be independent and open-minded, but also to add the voice of a supporter of a game I am passionate about."
It may sound like a humiliation too far for English cricket that a Scot from golf is having to sort it out. But the appointment of the 60-year-old Schofield is not a surprise to those who know him, and his vow to undertake the task "without fear or favour" was a typical response.
Golf is only one of Schofield's sporting passions. The son of a Lancastrian, he was both kicking a football and batting and bowling from the youngest possible age. "Anyone who knows me will know I am passionate about cricket and football as well as golf, and would not be surprised that I have had a career in one of those sports," he said.
"It happens that I had a long career as an administrator in golf, but I follow cricket and football just as closely. I read as much about what is going on in those sports as in golf, and anyone who knows me from golf will know that is extensively."
High-profile voices such as Geoff Boycott and Bob Willis should be in no doubt that Schofield is already fully cognisant of their views, as well as all the issues that have dogged the recent tour, such as the injuries, the selection issues and doubts about the preparation.
When Schofield joined the fledging European Tour as a press officer in 1971, their offices were at The Oval. The link between Surrey and golf continued after Schofield became the executive director and the Tour moved to Wentworth.
Since his retirement, Schofield has worked on two committees at Surrey County Cricket Club. Having met the Bedser twins at The Oval, Schofield has been their neighbour for the past 26 years, and although Eric died last year, Schofield will have received a first-hand account from Alec, who has been in Australia.
By coincidence, Schofield travels to Dubai this week for the GolfEx conference and is then due to continue to Australia for a family get-together. His committee, featuring Nasser Hussain, Angus Fraser, Nick Knight, Hugh Morris, Micky Stewart and Brian Rose, will report in March.
Although some are billing it as a strategy to win the Ashes in 2009, looking too far ahead after the last Ashes triumph might have been one of the problems this time. Putting equal importance on every Test series could be one of Schofield's recommendations. "Look at the way the Australians have played with such utter conviction since they lost the Ashes," he said.
"They had the Super Series but they did not treat it like an exhibition. They went out to grind the Rest of the World into the dust, and they have been grinding everyone else into the dust ever since. It is the same with Tiger Woods. When Tiger enters an event, he is there to win. Not just the majors, which are like the Ashes for him, but if he goes to Dubai he is there to defend the title, or if he goes back to Bay Hill he wants to win, even if he has won it four times before."
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