`Put Botham in charge'

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Ian Botham should be given total responsibility for knocking the England team back into shape, according to Allan Lamb.

The former Test batsman believes Botham and Graham Gooch are the best candidates to join Ray Illingworth's panel of selectors, but he said yesterday: "I think the situation we have got into is farcical. Illy has stood down as supremo, so we need to replace him with someone else. Instead, we are going back to the old system of a coach and a chairman of selectors and I think that's wrong.

"One man should be in charge and he should pick the selectors he wants. I would say to Ian Botham `go and sort it out. We'll pay you to get English cricket right'.

"If he cocks up, then you get someone else. But it's no use sitting on the fence."

Botham is one of eight men standing for two vacancies on the selection panel with counties due to vote next week.

Test and County Board officials have expressed grave doubts over Botham's nomination because of his extensive media commitments, while some people believe that Gooch - another former England captain - would not be able to devote enough time to the job because he is still playing for Essex.

Lamb could not understand where the difficulty might lie. "I can't see where there's going to be a problem. These are just the sort of people who should be involved. It's time to get younger men in."

According to Lamb, however, the best solution is another person to replace Illingworth. "Ian would have to give up his media work to do it, but that wouldn't be a problem if we paid the right money for the job," he said.

"As it is, David Lloyd faces a mammoth job as coach and if I was Illy I would stand down altogether if I wasn't allowed to pick my own selectors."

Lamb, meanwhile, has not entirely abandoned hope of playing one more season for Northamptonshire, but he admitted the odds were "heavily against" that happening because of a forthcoming book and his refusal to have the manuscript vetted by Lords ahead of publication.

Lamb is guaranteed one match this summer, however. He will lead an international team against Robin Smith's England XI at Highclere, Hampshire, on 16 July.

Paul Adams, South Africa's exciting spinner, has been invited to turn out for Lamb's side, along with more established internationals, like Courtney Walsh and Aravinda de Silva. Smith's team is expected to include Mike Atherton, Graeme Hick and Dominic Cork.