Illingworth to stay after rival withdraws Graveney makes farcical withdrawal

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The Independent Online


After the debacle of the World Cup, English cricket is suffering more embarrassment today after David Graveney's bid to oust Ray Illingworth as chairman of selectors ended in farce.

The 43-year-old players' union leader withdrew his opposition to Illingworth little more than 24 hours after his nomination by Warwickshire and Surrey was confirmed by the Test and County Board.

Ballot papers had been issued to the 18 first-class counties who, along with the MCC and Minor Counties, were to have delivered their verdict - effectively a vote of confidence in the current England regime - by Tuesday morning. That vote will now not be necessary, leaving Illingworth to continue unopposed as chairman for the forthcoming home series against India and Pakistan.

Illingworth, whose new contract will only run for six months, said last night: "I am very pleased to remain in the job, which as ever I will do to the best of my ability. I would like to thank the people that have supported me, and I know that if there had been a vote there were a lot of counties who would have gone for me. I'm very grateful to them.

"As for this summer, I have my own ideas about what I will be doing - but first of all I want to discuss them fully with the TCCB's executive. That's what I shall be doing over the next few days."

Behind Graveney's withdrawal is the insistence of the Professional ers' Association, for whom he is full-time general secretary, that he could not combine both roles, partially from a practical point of view but also taking into account possible conflicts of interest. It was on their instructions that he stood aside.

The terseness of Graveney's reaction last night betrayed his disappointment at having to make the choice. "As a paid employee of the Professional ers' Association, I accept the instruction of the president and the chairman," he said.

"I would like to take this opportunity of thanking Warwickshire and Surrey for nominating me and any other counties who might have supported me. I apologise for any distress this decision may have caused. It has always been my wish to serve the game to the best of my ability and I shall continue to do this in the future."

The PCA supported Grave-ney's election as a selector a year ago, but clearly felt the chairmanship to be a position he could not combine with his union duties. Tim Curtis, the chairman, confirmed they had instructed him to stand down, explaining that the PCA had given "further consideration to his nomination as chairman and decided there would be unacceptable difficulties for the association".

In particular, they foresaw problems over his representation of players in disciplinary matters and of having to address the media wearing different hats. He has only recently, for example, been advising Devon Malcolm over the TCCB disciplinary action set in motion in response to the Derbyshire bowler's comments about Illingworth made after the South Africa tour.

The Lord's hierarchy can hardly be held responsible, but this episode reflects little credit on those involved. It is an embarrassment to Graveney, and to the PCA, who knew nothing of the nomination until it was made public on Wednesday, by which time Graveney had outlined plans he proposed to put forward, if successful. "I spoke to David about the matter for the first time only today," Curtis said. "Had we been able to talk earlier, the PCA would not have had to issue the kind of statements we have made today."

There are deeper ramifications for the England management structure. Straw polls indicated that the counties were divided only 10-8 in favour of Illingworth, Graveney having struck a chord with plans for greater delegation of responsibilities and an emphasis on including current and recent players in the set-up, Ian Botham and Mike Gatting among them.