TCCB rejects Illingworth demand

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Power to the people, or more correctly to the 18 first-class counties, was the message to the England chairman of selectors, Raymond Illingworth, following the Test and County Cricket Board winter meeting at a bleak and blustery Lord's.

The TCCB's cricket committee had put forward a recommendation - naturally welcomed by Illingworth - that he should be allowed to overrule a county's use of an England player if it was felt to be in the best interests of the Test side.

But while not being thrown out, the 20-strong board refused to sanction any such increase in the England supremo's powerbase. Instead they declared their sympathy for Illingworth and compromised by inviting him to tackle counties on an individual basis as and when the need arose.

If that was something of a foggy decision, the one concerning players with dual nationality such as England-born, Australia-raised Andrew Symonds, who has just been named in Australia's preliminary World Cup squad of 20, was mystifying. In September, Symonds, 20, rejected an invitation to go on the England A tour to Pakistan, fuelling speculation that although he said he would make himself available for England when he first signed for Gloucestershire last summer, his international ambitions lay "down under."

To this end the board has produced a declaration of intent, to be signed at the start of each season independently of any contract the player may have with the county.

Unfortunately the board is as yet unsure if such a declaration is legally enforceable. But if Symonds makes it into Australia's final 14 for the World Cup it will become academic, since he will disqualify himself from playing county cricket as an England qualified player in future.

Gloucestershire's secretary, Philip August, said last night: "Andrew has not yet signed a contract to play for us in 1996. But if he does, we don't anticipate any problems."

OTHER DECISIONS: Proposed 1 January 1996 handover of power to new English Cricket Board deferred indefinitely while working party delves deeper into ramifications and complications of new governing body. Benson & Hedges Cup reduced from 55 overs to 50 and to be played in two sessions, with interval between innings. Overs in Championship to be reduced 104 for first three days (from 110) and to 96 on fourth day (102). Heavy rollers maybe used during matches. Prize money has been increased in all domestic competitions: Britannic Assurance County Championship winners to earn pounds 65,000 (last year pounds 55,000) with prize money extending ninth-placed team with pounds 5,000. Championship to remain as one division. Prize money increased in other competitions (winners only): NatWest Trophy: pounds 42,500 (last year pounds 35,000). B&H Cup pounds 40,000 (pounds 35,000). AXA Equity & Law Sunday League: pounds 40,000 (pounds 35,000).