Illingworth hits back at criticism

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Ray Illingworth has bitten back over criticism of his man-management skills by a disillusioned sponsor.

Confirmation that Patrick Whittingdale, the head of a City fund management firm, is not renewing a pounds 1m deal with English cricket came as no surprise, but Whittingdale explained his decision by launching a thinly-veiled attack on Illingworth for his treatment of captain, Mike Atherton, and bowler Angus Fraser.

Illingworth's response yesterday was particularly prickly. "How long has he been involved in the game on the inside? How long have I been involved?" he asked.

"Any sponsorship is welcome, of course, but not at any cost. What I feel is most irritating is all the criticism we're having and we haven't started yet."

Whittingdale's money has been used since 1991 to help both England senior and A teams prepare for their winter tours. Micky Stewart, the former manager, often described the cash as "essential".

But Whittingdale remains unrepentant about his comments. "I'm not pretending to know about cricket or to be a cricket expert," he said. "What I'm saying is that in any walk of life you are not going to create a winning team if you make the captain grovel."

Whittingdale is not alone in believing that Atherton was left dangling on a string through March and April while Illingworth flexed his muscles after being made manager as well as chairman of selectors.

"Scalding your players through the Press is very bad man-management in my opinion," Whittingdale said. "I really don't think that under the current management we are going to go forward."

Whether or not the Test and County Cricket Board seek a replacement sponsor has not yet been decided.