Graveney takes on testing selection challenge

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The worst kept secret in English cricket was confirmed yesterday when David Graveney was appointed chairman of selectors. But if a lack of suitable candidates meant his election was a foregone conclusion, the addition of two current players, Graham Gooch and Mike Gatting, to serve as selectors came as a surprise.

It could, however, be three, if the trio decide to continue to give the captain a vote in selection, a decision thought to be about even money at present.

Gooch, of course, has done it all before having managed to combine being a player and selector last season. But if he professed to be comfortable with his dual role, it was not, apparently, always to the satisfaction of the previous chairman of selectors, Raymond Illingworth.

The main problem will be a logistical one and convening a meeting place for selectors playing in different parts of the country will not be for the geographically inept. Unless a satellite link-up can be organised or a sponsor for weighty mobile phone bills found, the get-together before the third Test in July when the selectors will be coming from Southend, Headingley and Worcester (presuming Atherton is still captain) ought to keep the motorway police on their toes.

It is a challenge, Graveney, now 44 and appointed until the end of February 1999, claims he is looking forward to. "I would like the season to start tomorrow," he said, perhaps forgetting it is the rampaging Australians who will have to be encountered.

"It's a fantastic challenge and I can assure people that myself and the other selectors will work tirelessly to identify those with the ability and the passion that will be necessary to beat Australia."

Graveney's appointment, along with those of Gatting and Gooch, to roles once thought to be for ex-cricketers in their dotage, reflects a general move to involve those closest to the modern game. Only the trio's ties with various "rebel" tours to South Africa will raise eyebrows, and some will no doubt find their present loyalty to English cricket a little too rich to swallow down whole.

In a change from their unofficial position a few months ago, the England Management Committee have decided that Graveney's position will be a salaried one. But although Tim Lamb, the chief executive of the England Cricket Board, would not divulge the amount, it is thought that he will have to take a commensurate cut in salary from his other job as general secretary of the Professional Cricketers' Association to offset any tax implications involved.

Three months ago it was thought that holding both positions would be incompatible, particularly if players needed to be disciplined. However, as such matters now rest squarely with Bob Bennett, the chairman of the EMC, Graveney's role is one of co-ordination and consensus or, as he puts it: "Turning an `I' situation into a `we' situation."

He is said to be a player's man, although in truth he moves with equal facility between both dressing and committee rooms. He is a shrewd political animal and he will bring a touch of Tony Blair-like ability to soothe those still uncertain about the changes going on around them.

n Sussex will be without their highly rated left-arm paceman, Jason Lewry, for more than half of the 1997 season. Sussex were hoping that Lewry, who undergoes an operation to repair a stress fracture of his lower back on Monday, would be fit by the middle of June. But the 25-year-old says he will not be able to resume light training until the end of June.