Lloyd cuddle has a catch

Simon O'Hagan
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DAVID LLOYD says he thinks England's cricketers need a bit of a cuddle. One can safely assume that Ray Illingworth will not be joining in as defeated players trudge off the field and into Lloyd's warm embrace.

Quite how Lloyd, England's newly appointed coach, and the chairman of selectors will resolve their contrasting methods of motivation will be one of the more interesting themes of the summer. Having resigned from the job of England team manager, Illingworth can be expected to reduce the number of verbal kicks up the backside that he has dished out so freely over the last two years. None the less, the TCCB's latest attempt to deliver the management it thinks the team needs looks like conciliation on the one hand and confrontation on the other.

If it is true that Illingworth's strictures was one of the reasons the England team lost morale over the winter, the players are unlikely to have that excuse under Lloyd. Peter Baxter, producer of Test Match Special, has got to know Lloyd since he joined the TMS team as a vivid and often hilarious summariser and has a tale from last summer that illustrates the relationship he has with his players.

As coach of a Lancashire team who had made a pretty good start to the season, Lloyd was puzzled to receive a letter from a supporter complaining that this was the worst he had ever seen the side play. Lloyd tried to contact the writer, but without success. A few weeks later another letter arrived from the same correspondent, making the same criticisms. Again Lloyd was unable to track down the man who had written it. This went on for the rest of the season until Lloyd was finally let in on the joke. The whole thing was a "wind-up" on the part of the Lancashire dressing room, and Lloyd appreciated it as much as anybody.

That kind of camaraderie inevitably raises the question of whether he gets too close to his charges. "There is no doubt that David is immensely popular at all levels of the game," said Barry Wood, Lloyd's former opening partner for Lancashire in the 1970s. "But that's not necessarily a good thing."

Wood remembers how the famed Lloyd humour came out when he was appointed captain of Lancashire. "He was always quick-witted, the life and soul of the party. But if I had a criticism to make - and I should stress I think he was a very good captain - it's that he was sometimes too familiar with the players. When things aren't going OK and you have to make unpopular decisions, it can go awry. As a leader you've got to have the respect of the players, but I felt when unpopular decisions were to be made he didn't make them."

As a renowned after-dinner speaker, Lloyd understands the importance of always leaving your audience wanting more. It would be quite an achievement if Lloyd's England could do likewise.