Five days of confusion over the future direction of the England cricket team ended at Lord's yesterday with Ray Illingworth standing down as team manager and the game's authorities looking for a new coach for the national side. Illingworth is to continue as chairman of selectors, with David Lloyd of Lancashire the favourite to work alongside him as coach.
Following last week's confusion, when Illingworth's only rival for re- election as chairman of selectors, David Graveney, was forced to pull out of the contest under pressure from his employers at the Professional ers' Association, the situation degenerated into farce even before the Test and County Board's 10-man executive had assembled at Lord's to discuss England's bleak winter.
Illingworth had chosen to pre-empt some of the debate by announcing in a national newspaper that he was standing down as England team manager, while remaining as chairman of selectors.
The TCCB claimed it knew nothing of this decision and only late in the day did it acknowledge Illingworth's new role, and the consequent vacancy it created, by announcing: "The executive committee have decided they will appoint a coach, not manager, for the duration of this summer only. An announcement will be made in due course."
The TCCB is therefore apparently willing to return to a structure which had previously been considered inappropriate. Illingworth had always maintained that there was room for only one at the top, and to this end Keith Fletcher was ditched as manager to allow Illingworth to take on his two roles.
No names were being mentioned officially last night, although there can only be a handful of candidates: David Lloyd, Phil Neale, John Emburey and, as an outside bet, Ian Botham. Of those, Lloyd would appear to be the favourite. He said in a radio interview yesterday: "Everybody, I think, is ambitious. And everybody wants to further themselves, to better themselves. If anybody at international level perhaps says: `We'd like you to do this', you'd think seriously about it."
Lloyd added: "It's nice to be linked with such an important job but at the moment I am the Lancashire coach only."
Illingworth will continue as chairman of selectors until the end of the 1996 season. Having insisted that he is the dressing room type, the ingredients are there for a clash of wills. It is also unclear what will happen to the specialist coaches, John Edrich and Peter Lever.
The TCCB also announced that the selection panel will comprise Illingworth, two elected selectors and, when appointed, the team coach and captain. Papers went out to the counties last night for nominations for the two selectors. The selection panel will be responsible for the selection of the England team for the six Cornhill Tests (three each against India and Pakistan) and the six Texaco Trophy one-day internationals, as well as the winter touring parties. After that, their responsibilities cease.
It is expected that it will take at least a fortnight before the result of the ballot for the selectors will be known. However, a TCCB source indicated that the question of the coach's position would have to be settled before Easter. The season begins on 13 April and the first Texaco Trophy match is on 23 May.
Mike Soper, the Surrey chairman, said last night: "I'm just sad it's dragging on, but if they come out with the right result, then fair enough. My only concern is for English cricket. I just want this to be sorted out as quickly as possible for the sake of the game."
Whatever appointments for this summer are made, it seems certain that there will be further changes later in the year. The TCCB said yesterday that the working party under David Acfield "will be making their recommendations to the Board meeting in August with regard to the long-term administration, selection and management of England teams". More time for more things to go wrong?Reuse content