Illingworth prepared to battle for job

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The Independent Online
Raymond Illingworth is ready to fight a leadership battle in order to stay on as England's chairman of selectors this summer. While Mike Atherton wants time "to reflect" in the wake of World Cup elimination and another generally depressing winter, Illingworth will not resign.

"They tell me there's a lobby at home to get rid of me," he said. "We'll see what happens but I've told them all along I'd like to carry on next summer and that's still the case.

"I'm not going to hang myself if they get rid of me. I can walk away and enjoy myself. We have to start afresh next summer but that doesn't mean eight or nine changes."

His determination to fight on is backed by Dennis Silk, chairman of the Test and County Cricket Board. While warning that the game "will die" in this country if the lessons of the World Cup humiliation are not heeded, Silk said that sacking Illingworth would simply make him a "scapegoat".

Illingworth, whose two-year term as chairman ends on 31 March, as does his 12-month appointment as team manager, said: "If the counties put forward other people to be chairman [of selectors] then there will have to be a vote. I'm prepared to defend my corner.

"As long as players are fighting and giving 100 per cent I'll go along with them. The only thing I can't stand is people who lay down and die and I've had no complaints on that score."

In Silk's view, England's malaise was not down to Illingworth alone. "England have been on a serious downward spiral for a long time now," he said. "This is no cycle that will suddenly end. I just hope that the events of Saturday and of the past few weeks will start to concentrate peoples' minds."

John Emburey, the England A team manager, believes Atherton should stay. "The boys have got to come home, be honest and have a chat about what has happened or hasn't happened.

"There's not a replacement for Mike Atherton in the team and I think he should keep the captaincy. He's been playing well and the team have let him down."

David Graveney, secretary of the Cricketers' Association and an England selector, believes the seriousness of England's decline should dictate a deeper reaction than merely a change of personnel at management level.

Graveney wants an urgent appraisal of England's present problems, with a special general meeting called at Lord's if necessary. "You can only talk around the subject for so long," he said. "What we need now is for someone to do something about it. We must get our top players properly prepared, mentally and physically, for international cricket.

"One thing that does concern me, generally, is that sport doesn't seem to get very high on the agenda in England... unless we fail."

World Cup update

SATURDAY'S QUARTER-FINALS: Sri Lanka (236 for 5) bt England (235 for 8) by five wickets; India (287 for 8) bt Pakistan (248 for 9) by 39 runs.

TODAY'S QUARTER-FINALS: South Africa v West Indies (at National stadium, Karachi, Pakistan, 4.00) (Live on Sky Sports, 3.45).

New Zealand v Australia (at M A Chidambaram stadium, Chepauk, Madras, India, 9.00) (Live on Sky Sports at 12.00).

SEMI-FINALS: Wednesday 13 March: India v Sri Lanka (at Eden Gardens, Calcutta).

Thursday 14 March: Karachi winner v Madras winner (at Punjab Cricket Association stadium, Chandigarh, India).

FINAL: Sunday 17 March: (at Gaddafi stadium, Lahore, Pakistan).

England in 1996

Test series against South Africa

Newlands (5th Test): Lost by 10 wkts

One-day international series v S Africa

Cape Town: Lost by 6 runs

Bloemfontein: Won by 5 wkts

Johannesburg: Lost by 3 wkts

Pretoria: Lost by 7 wkts

Durban: Lost by 5 wkts

East London: Lost by 14 runs

Port Elizabeth: Lost by 64 runs

World Cup: Group stage

Ahmedabad: Lost to New Zealand by 11 runs

Peshawar: Beat UAE by 8 wkts

Faisalabad: Beat Netherlands by 49 runs

Rawalpindi: Lost to South Africa by 78 runs

Karachi: Lost to Pakistan by 7 wkts

Quarter-final

Faisalabad: Lost to Sri Lanka by 5 wkts

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