Surrey seeking support

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The Independent Online

Surrey are still trying to oust Ray Illingworth from his post as the chairman of the England selectors, and last night were in the process of soliciting support from the other first-class counties with a view to making their feelings known when the Test and County Board executive committee meets at Lord's today.

And while most of Illingworth's critics remain resigned to his reappointment, following David Graveney's withdrawal from the election on Friday, an indication of the strength of the opposition is their belief that had the vote gone ahead Graveney would have scraped in by a majority of one. A straw poll by one of the counties found Graveney winning 10-9, with one of the 20 voters (the 18 first-class counties plus one each from MCC and Minor Counties) abstaining.

Surrey yesterday canvassed the 17 other counties as they attempted to gauge the level of unhappiness. Mike Soper, the Surrey chairman, said: "I am not happy with the situation as it now stands. I think something has to be done now by the TCCB. My main concern is that we now have to endure another six months.

"And if we are going to find at the end of the year - since Illingworth has said he will not tour again - that we are going to change, then whoever comes in is going to do so cold, facing a tour to Zimbabwe and New Zealand."

Soper feels that with India and Pakistan touring England this summer a new man should be appointed at the latest to take charge for the Pakistan series. "Then at least he would be given a chance to experiment with a new squad, or a new idea. I care about English cricket, and if we don't do anything we are just going to lurch to another problem. I don't want England to do badly this summer, but we all know that everybody in the world is getting better and we are not.

"By his own admission Illingworth said, `I'm in charge. This is where the buck stops.' We lost six out of seven one-dayers and the Test series to South Africa and we were humiliated in the World Cup. What else are we supposed to do? This is not going to go away. With a bit of luck we may be able to force the TCCB's hand sometime this season."

John Barclay, the former Sussex captain who was England's assistant manager on their winter tours, is gaining support as an alternative to Illingworth, but there is also growing anger that Graveney was forced to withdraw at all.

The Professional ers' Association, who employ him as chief executive, felt that there would be a conflict of interests, but left things very late before telling him. Dennis Amiss, the Warwickshire chief executive, said: "We had no indication that they were going to stop Graveney from standing. If the PCA didn't want David Graveney to stand why did they leave it until the last minute? That at least would have given the counties who wanted change now, rather than later, the opportunity of proposing someone else."