Gooch follows Botham into the selection race

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The Independent Online
Cricket

HUGH BATESON

After England's leading wicket-taker, the country's leading run-getter entered the great selection race yesterday.

If Graham Gooch, who was nominated by Essex yesterday, and Ian Botham win the votes of the first-class counties for the two vacancies on the selection panel no one will be able to complain that they do not have the experience for the job.

Like Botham, Gooch says he is bursting with enthusiasm for the job: "I would very much like to be involved," he said yesterday. "My heart and soul was with England when I played and was captain. I don't think we can say we have been playing very well lately. I think we have talented cricketers but there is room for improvement.

"I don't personally put the blame on Raymond Illingworth and Mike Atherton. I think the players, collectively, have to take responsibility. We have all got to share responsibility in English cricket and move things forward so we improve.

"I don't think everything is bad. We have talent and we can beat people."

Gooch and Botham will be seen as something of a dream ticket by some and Gooch did nothing to dispel the notion. "I played a lot with Ian and we had our fun and games together but he is a good guy and he has the interests of English cricket at heart," he said. "I can only see Ian, if he does get involved, coming up with some great ideas."

Nominations for the post closed at midnight, with an interesting field developing covering most of the spectrum of cricket opinion. Ray Illingworth, the chairman of selectors, is expected to recommend Fred Titmus and Brian Bolus, while Kim Barnett, David Graveney and John Edrich are also standing. The 18 counties, who were denied a vote on the chairman when Graveney withdrew, at least have the consolation of sending Illingworth a clear message of their mood through the election.

Essex's secretary, Peter Edwards, though happy enough to propose Gooch, complained that the process was doing the game few favours. "There has just not been enough information from Lord's about this issue and, that's one of the reasons why a fairly embarrassingly large list is now forming.

"The counties should have been given some parameters, and some guidelines about the selectors' job. The whole issue doesn't seem to have been thought through enough."

No date has yet been set for that postal contest to end, but, with so many contenders, there is a chance that a second ballot might be needed later to sort things out.

Already, the teams for the England A versus the Rest fixture, at Chelmsford from 20-23 April, have had to be chosen by Illingworth alone in the absence of any other selectors.

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