Illingworth to quit after summer

Stephen Fay hears the chairman of selectors say why he has had enough

In a sudden outburst at Headingley yesterday Ray Illingworth said that he would not stay on as chairman of selectors after the summer even if England won all six Tests.

"What has been happening has made me determined to walk away from this job and from cricket totally and completely, at the end of the summer," he said. "If you were in my position you would say the same. But I can hold my head up and say I have tried my best for England. Not everyone can say that."

Illingworth talks like a man who scents a conspiracy designed to squeeze him out of his job. And that is not as daft as it sounds. The evidence appeared in yesterday's Daily Telegraph, where Christopher Martin- Jenkins speculated that next week Illingworth "may yet decide that he has had enough of intrigue, and resign". The assertion, unsupported by hard evidence, provided a bizarre climax to a week with so much rain about that there had been plenty of time to gossip about the publication of Illingworth's account of his reign so far.

Illingworth did not appear in the press box at Headingley until England's innings was well under way, and the conversations that preceded his appearance failed to dispel the speculation. One of the selectors, David Graveney - who had been willing to run for the chairman's job two months ago - said: "That's for him to decide. I haven't seen any sign of it yet." Not exactly a ringing endorsement. But while the chairman himself was absent, the story was like Hamlet without Claudius.

Claudius arrived at tea-time, and declared that he had only just learned of the Telegraph article, and that he had not read it because he had not bought his reading glasses with him. I offered him mine, and he pored over the article silently. When he had finished, he peered through the spectacles and announced: "They didn't get it from me." Any speculation about his thoughts had been put into his mind, as it were, by people who might not be sorry to see him go.

Illingworth's long-term position is now clearer but the confusion of the past week raises a question: is there something rotten in the state of English cricket, or has it all been just a storm in a pint pot?

Although Illingworth's book - robustly titled One Man Committee - is not published until 13 June, he would have preferred that Hodder Headline had waited until Christmas, but he had a contract, and they said they wanted it out in the summer.

Serialisation, which began last week, has given his opponents a chance to strike. The attack was led by Derbyshire, followed up by Lancashire, with Surrey and Warwickshire willing to pepper him if he weakened.

Devon Malcolm is the catalyst. Illingworth is especially hard on the Derbyshire fast bowler, blaming him for England's disintegration on the second day of the Cape Town test in January.

Derbyshire have asked the TCCB to investigate but, unlike the players he selects, Illingworth is not contractually obliged to submit his manuscript to the Board. It would be hard to persuade a jury made up of English cricket-watchers that there should be one rule for the players and another for the selectors. But Illingworth is not likely to be moved - either by natural justice or the enmity of a small group of conspirators.

Derbyshire protest, page 28

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