Lloyd's insensitivity spins out of control

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A CONCLUSION reached easily this week is that England's cricket coach, David Lloyd, has improved a talent for embarrassing his employers. Another is that only a severe reprimand will do when Lloyd appears before the authorities at Lord's.

What other response can there be to the insensitivity of remarks that called into question the action of Muttiah Muralitharan, whose 16 wickets at The Oval brought Sri Lanka a first ever Test victory in England?

It was pathetic enough that England continued to patronise Sri Lanka - a country doubtless still referred to in the Long Room as Ceylon; awarding them only one Test - without Lloyd disputing the legality of their mesmeric off- spinner.

Lloyd, speaking ahead of his appearance before the England and Wales Cricket Board, said yesterday, "I can't go into specifics but this sort of thing is all part of the job."

Really. The impression held here is that Lloyd was hired to bring about advancements in technique and teamwork, not to make a tactic out of controversy.

Unfortunately, these days it becomes more and more difficult to come across any international sports figure who is able to put patriotism into proper perspective. Success on the fields of play heartens communities and countries, but why does everything have to be so intense?

Reading and listening to the remarks of players, you have to wonder what they were brought up to believe in and what their priorities are. Not long before his 90th birthday last week, Sir Donald Bradman gave a rare interview in which he stated that "sledging" would not have been tolerated under his captaincy. People who played with and against the most prolific run-getter in history leave you in no doubt that Bradman always played hard ball and took every personal advantage. But they speak, too, of his respect for the game's tradition.

Last week, Lloyd's indiscretion was brought into sharper focus when England's captain, Alec Stewart, conceded graciously that his team had been out- played by Sri Lanka and Muralitharan was out on his own in the off-spinning department. As for a dodgy action, Muralitharan's has been cleared under the closest scrutiny.

If, as it seems to be, that is not good enough for Lloyd, he should have directed his suspicion through the proper channels. Instead he made a meal of it, bringing down the force of Geoff Boycott's bluntness. The angry exchange of words that then ensued in the television commentary box made Lloyd seem even more ridiculous.

Sadly, it is not an isolated description. Bowlers and fieldsmen make themselves look ridiculous in celebration and with incessant appealing. Batsmen look ridiculous when making it obvious that they are in disagreement with an umpire's decision.

What happened to dignity in sport? As everyone knows, the recent football World Cup finals were besmirched by cheating. This week, David Ginola of Tottenham admitted that he attempts to con referees into awarding free- kicks.

The publication of Tony Adams' autobiography reveals an aspect of Glenn Hoddle's approach to the World Cup that would have caused no small amount of consternation when the Football Association had a reputation worth speaking about. Hoddle's explanation for choosing Alan Shearer ahead of Adams as England captain was that it increased the possibility of gaining free-kicks.

Two weeks ago Uriah Rennie was commended in this and other prints for showing yellow cards to players, including Shearer and Gianfranco Zola, who attempted to persuade him that they had been unfairly challenged during the match between Chelsea and Newcastle.

Last week Rennie came under fire from Roy Hodgson and Martin O'Neill, respectively the managers of Blackburn Rovers and Leicester City, after adopting a similar policy.

If anything now goes in sport, a good question is where is sport going? Who is setting the standards anyway? Not the directors of Newcastle, who dumped Kenny Dalglish after only two games of this season. Not Ruud Gullit, who put himself in line for the job while Dalglish was still in office.

We had better be aware of what is happening in sport, for it already reveals the sort of attitude that awaits us.