Daily Telegraph

NASSER HUSSAIN’S resignation as England captain has highlighted serious shortcomings in the way the England and Wales Cricket Board are being run.

Last week, there were no words spoken between Nasser and David Morgan, the ECB chairman. Nor did Hussain have any communication with Tim Lamb, the ECB chief executive and the highest paid official in English cricket.

Indeed, though Lamb has left messages for Hussain on his mobile telephone since the resignation, Hussain has still to respond to the man who was his ultimate paymaster.

Had Ian MacLaurin still been chairman of the board, he would have tried hard to persuade Hussain not to resign.

Lord MacLaurin, who left the ECB last year, told me: “I would have had a chat with Nasser and tried hard to persuade him not to go. I have written to him to say what a good job he has done.”

MacLaurin knows all about captains wanting to give up in the middle of a Test series. Back in 1997 as Australia wrapped up another Ashes series, Michael Atherton, the then captain, wanted to quit before the last Test at the Oval.

MacLaurin recalled: “Grav [David Graveney, chairman of the selectors] rang to say Athers wanted to quit. I had a long chat with him and I persuaded him to change his mind and carry on as England captain. We went to win the Oval Test and he took the team to the West Indies that winter.”

Atherton, in his book Opening Up, recalls that MacLaurin made “me feel as though I would be letting people down and running away”.

Last week, however, when Nasser rang Graveney at his home in Bristol to say he wanted to quit, Graveney, apart from getting into his car to drive to Birmingham, reported to what he calls his “line managers” — John Carr, head of cricket operations, and Dennis Amiss, chairman of the international team management group.

Morgan was kept informed since, as chairman, he has to approve the choice of captain but this was more of a formality. There was never any danger of Morgan trying to imitate MacLaurin.

It is very different to how the Australians run their cricket. There, a major decision like a captain being changed would have involved the chairman of their board and certainly their chief executive.

Lamb’s explanation is that this reflects the change in the way English cricket is now run, a change that has come about this summer.

Now Lamb concentrates on running the business, while the cricket decisions are the responsibility of Carr. Lamb is not convinced that MacLaurin was right in trying to persuade Atherton to stay. He said: “Was that such a good thing? I am not sure.”

He also brushes aside any suggestion that the way Hussain has gone reflects the split that developed between the players and the board over whether England should play their World Cup match in Harare, though the changes have been brought in following the debacle over the Zimbabwe affair.

That affair, to which Hussain made a reference in his article in the Sunday Telegraph explaining his decision to go, saw the Hussain-Lamb relationship reach its lowest level and, despite Lamb’s protestations, it has clearly not recovered.

Lamb argues that running the business end of English cricket is a tough enough job but it has become tougher.

Lamb’s greatest headache is the next television deal. The present deal runs until 2005 but negotiations for it must start next season. The ECB will this year earn £65 million, nearly 80 per cent of it coming from television.

If, as looks likely, Channel 4 do not bid, this will bring cricket back to the BBC. However, that could cut income severely and force major, unpleasant changes for English cricket.

Lamb said: “This is pure speculation. I am sure we will have more than one terrestrial channel bidding for cricket.”

© Mihir Bose


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