The other Illingworth receives his Test call-up

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The Independent Online
It was only a matter of time before the name R Illingworth appeared on England's team sheet, and before this summer is out, the chairman and manager will probably have added captain, physiotherapist, spiritual adviser, coach driver, and i/c catering to his burgeoning c.v.

However, Lord's were still insisting this morning that while the R Illingworth selected in England's 12 to face the West Indies in the opening Test at Headingley was indeed a Yorkshire-born spinner of advancing years, it was a chap by the name of Richard rather than Raymond.

And so, until Thursday morning at least, we will just have to take their word for it. One thing, however, can be stated here and now, and without much danger of contradiction. Raymond would have been much the more logical pick.

Illingworth, Richard that is, has previously played in two Test matches - both against this opposition in the 1991 home series - and useful cricketer though he is, some would say that this is two Test matches too many. His last delivery in Test cricket, bowled to Vivian Richards at Edgbaston, was last seen disappearing in the general direction of Birmingham's Bull Ring, and on all previous evidence, Illingworth is about as likely to turn a Test match as he is to turn a cricket ball.

If this was the biggest surprise in the squad announced yesterday, it was not by much. Despite Alec Stewart making it patently clear that he regards the England wicketkeeping gloves as the equivalent of a pair of handcuffs, he has been called upon to camouflage the lack of a batsman/bowler all-rounder for the 14th time in Test matches, and his position as Michael Atherton's opening partner has gone to Robin Smith.

Smith's England career has gone into sharp decline since the tour to the West Indies two winters ago, during which time Keith Fletcher made such pointed comments about Smith losing his focus through his business interests, you half expected Smith to walk out to bat with a vodka and tonic, large cigar, and an Arthur Daley hat.

Smith has opened the batting in Test matches before, including the second Test in India in 1992-93 when Graham Gooch was struck down by a dodgy prawn, and in the one-off Test against Sri Lanka the same winter. England lost both, although Smith acquitted himself pretty well, making a half- century in Madras, and a century in Colombo.

The two specialists considered to open with Atherton were Trevor Ward, of Kent, and Jason Gallian, of Lancashire, but ("we wanted to stick with the people we know," Raymond said) England have once again proved that they will never require the services of Gamblers Anonymous.

Illingworth, Raymond that is, telephoned Stewart on Saturday to twist his arm over the wicketkeeping position. "Deep down," he said, "Alec would prefer to open and not keep wicket" which, I think we can take it, is code for Illingworth having to hold the receiver at least three feet away from his ear.

Illingworth, Richard that is, will definitely play on Thursday despite England's previous record of jettisoning spinners on the morning of a Headingley Test, which means they will omit one of Devon Malcolm, Phillip DeFreitas, Peter Martin and Angus Fraser. Stewart and Graham Thorpe will be interchangeable at Nos 4 and 5, with Mark Ramprakash at six.

The other spinners discussed along with Illingworth were Min Patel, of Kent, and Richard Stemp, of Yorkshire. Philip Tufnell did not rate a mention, which gives some indication of what was on his school report after Australia, while Illingworth, Raymond that is, declined to elaborate on whether he himself (given his specialist knowledge of Headingley) was among "certain off-spinners" who came under consideration.

Of his namesake, Illingworth said that he was "a good pro who won't let anyone down" which is about as upbeat a reference as the Worcestershire spinner used to get in Mickey Stewart's day, when the official line was that he was "a good man to have in the dressing room". On whether he was a good man to have outside the dressing room, England were less forthcoming.

Illingworth, Raymond that is, said that selection was made in the awareness of having "made a mess of opening Test matches in recent series - especially with Lord's coming up." In other words, given England's poor record at HQ, it's about time we started panicking at 0-0 rather than 0-1.

It is now pertinent to recall the words of the captain after the Ashes defeat by Australia last winter. "We have made no progress here at all. This tour has proved that we have to invest more in younger players, and I implore the selectors to do so. There is no other way to go." This has had such profound, far-reaching effects that the player who probably regards himself as the unluckiest of all at missing out is Eddie Hemmings

ENGLAND SQUAD (First Cornhill Test v West Indies, Headingley, Thursday): M A Atherton (Lancashire, capt) Age 27, Tests 45; R A Smith (Hampshire) 31, 53; G A Hick (Worcestershire) 29, 32; A J Stewart (Surrey, wkt) 32, 45; G P Thorpe (Surrey) 25, 15; M R Ramprakash (Middlesex) 25, 15; P A J DeFreitas (Derbyshire) 29, 43; D Gough (Yorkshire) 24, 7; P J Martin (Lancashire) 26, 0; R K Illingworth (Worcestershire) 31, 2; A R C Fraser (Middlesex) 29, 24; D E Malcolm (Derbyshire) 32, 32.