Guarded backing for Lloyd

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The Independent Online
As crash courses go, Lord MacLaurin's into the parlous state of the game he is now charged with overseeing takes some beating.

The new chairman of the equally new Cricket Board for England and Wales arrived in Zimbabwe last weekend to catch the tail-end of the Test series, and then sat through the embarrassment of the final two one-day internationals. Welcome to your new job.

Typically of the man who has been behind the march of Tesco to the top of the supermarket tree (every bit as competitive as international cricket), he was brisk and businesslike yesterday.

"I have a feeling that there are some fundamental problems wrong with cricket in the United Kingdom," he said. "And those are problems we have to address and we have got to put right. We quite clearly have a major task on our hands in restructuring and getting an adminis- tration that allows the England team to perform to its best."

MacLaurin is midway through visiting each of the first-class counties to discuss the way to transform the national side's fortunes, but yesterday he said there were three specific areas he was looking at. "A cricket academy is quite clearly on the agenda, as is the structure of our first- class game and the way we administer our tours," he said on Radio 4's Today programme. "Everything has got to be on the table. Everything has got to be looked at. Hopefully within about six months we will put a plan together which will be accepted by everybody and put our cricket on a different footing.

"I think where you have a serious problem, whether it be in business or in the administration of a sport, you take it apart bit by bit, analyse it and put it back together. That is what Tim Lamb [the chief executive of the Board] and I are doing together right now." As cricket followers know only too well, though, MacLaurin and Lamb are not the first to utter such sentiments.

MacLaurin refused to be drawn too far on the immediate futures of either Michael Atherton or the coach David Lloyd. He was, however, noticeably guarded in his vote of confidence in the pair. "I don't think it would be of benefit to me to talk about the captaincy or anything else at the moment. Michael is the captain. He is taking the side to New Zealand and it's up to me and everybody else to back him, and those who are in charge, to the hilt and wish them well and hope they do better in New Zealand."

He reiterated that message in a late-night meeting with Lloyd before the England team left Zimbabwe. "Change is necessary to help the England team," Lloyd said, "and Lord MacLaurin is fully aware of that. He's a doer and I'm sure he is going to get things done.

"But for now we have a squad of 16 players, with Dominic Cork about to join us when we get to New Zealand, and it is up to these players to put it right.

"To be brutally honest, we got what we deserved against Zimbabwe in these one-day games, although I believe I am quite right to repeat that we had the better of the Test series.

"We are looking forward to New Zealand and, even if we have a gruelling journey we will be arriving there with a smile on our faces and aiming to work hard. It's upsetting and it hurts that we have lost these matches but now we go to New Zealand to get down to practice. The captain also deserves our support and the support of his players.

"He's not in the best of batting form, either, but he played a couple of strokes yesterday that were like the real Mike Atherton, and I know that he's starting to come right. He's also the right man to lead the side."