Odd accounts of the accountable man

BOOK OF THE WEEK; One-Man Committee by Raymond Illingworth and Jack Bannister (Headline, pounds 17.99)
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The Independent Online
Fascinating? Quite. Controversial? Mildly (but not really in the over-publicised sections). Worthy of a pounds 2,000 fine and public humiliation for one of the authors and enforced resignation from a prominent position for the other? Absolutely not, but then that's what modern marketing can do for you.

Before you even read the book you have to admire the way the package has been worked out by the publishers with the newspaper serialisation and subsequent rumpus generating extraordinary publicity for a sports book.

The equally extraordinary embarrassment for the central figure is an unfortunate side-effect, of course. But then as the driving force for the book is Raymond Illingworth's desire to have a right of reply, the egg on his face is at least to some extent self-inflicted. So it is to be hoped that Illingworth feels that giving vent to his frustrations through 276 indignant pages of self-justification has been worth all the fuss. He has had his say, and how.

Let us begin at a rather convoluted beginning. The book is written more or less as a diary, with Jack Bannister laying down the background and Illingworth fleshing things out with the inside story of his thought processes (blunt), decisions (unarguable) and failures (somebody else's). So we start with Bannister charting Ted Dexter's resignation in August 1993, and the background to Illingworth's accession, which involved four months of public debate, Test and County Cricket Board politics, and the start of an ongoing theme - Illingworth v the former England captain and establishment man MJK Smith. Illingworth explains why he wanted the job (he must be wondering again now) and what qualities he hoped he would bring (good watcher, good judge of a player, good communication with players) to it.

With a parting dig at Dexter ("I inherited very little from him"), we are off into one of the main themes of the book - "the press got it all wrong, I'm completely misunderstood and life isn't fair" as he denies that he chose Brian Bolus and Fred Titmus as his first selection panel. As the whole process was widely and correctly reported at the time this - like far too many of the whinges that surface at regular intervals - is a less than startling revelation.

Things do improve, though, and the stories of the processes of England selections (which the TCCB took most umbrage at) are the most interesting for a reader not in cricket's inner circle.

The other notable - and most annoying - part of the book is what might be called Illingworth's Law, or "it was them wot did it, guv". Every moment of controversy during the past two years is laid at someone else's door - Mike Atherton, Keith Fletcher, Devon Malcolm and Smith are all regularly blamed for England's failures. And the man who said he would be accountable? Never.

THIS WEEK'S TOP 10 SPORTS BOOKS

1 Football Grounds Of Britain, Simon Inglis (Collins Willow; paperback, pounds 14.99)

2 Athletics 1996 - The International Track And Field Annual, edited by Peter Matthews (Sports Books Ltd; paperback, pounds 14.95)

3 The New Lords Of The Rings, Andrew Jennings (Pocket Books; paperback, pounds 6.99)

4 Statto's Euro 96 Guide, Statto (Headline; paperback, pounds 4.99)

5 Left Foot Forward, Garry Nelson (Headline; paperback, pounds 5.99)

6 The Complete Book Of The Olympics, David Wallechinsky (Aurum Press; paperback, pounds 19.95)

7 British Athletics 1996, edited by Rob Wittingham (Umbra/Old Bakehouse; paperback, pounds 9.95)

8 Raising The Stakes - The Modern Cricket Revolution, Alan Lee (Gollancz; hardback, pounds 16.99)

9 False Messiah - The Life And Times Of Terry Venables, Mihir Bose (Andre Deutsch; paperback, pounds 17.99)

10 The North and Latin American Football Guide, Serge Van Hoof and Michael Parr (Heart Books; paperback, pounds 28.95)

Chart compiled by Sportspages, 94-96 Charing Cross Road, London (0171- 240 9604), and St Ann's Square, Manchester (0161-832 8530)

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