cricket is caught in the middle, according to John Rawling in the
Guardian. Rawling also suggests that chairman of selectors,
David Graveney,should try to diplomatically resolve the issue.
More in the article below.
'England will be stumped if Marsh quits as a selector'
John Rawling on a test case for cricket diplomacy as row over
wicketkeeping divides coaches
Monday May 17, 2004
It is hardly one of cricket's best kept secrets that Duncan Fletcher
and Rodney Marsh don't exactly see eye to eye. Loathing might be too
strong a word, but dislike is not. The two England selectors had a
major fall-out over the decision taken by the England coach and the
team captain Michael Vaughan to drop the Nottinghamshire wicketkeeper
Chris Read and replace him with Kent's Geraint Jones for the final
Test in Antigua on the recent triumphant Caribbean tour. And a
sensible reading of the rumblings coming out of the selection meeting
for Thursday's first Test against New Zealand at Lord's suggests that
the scarcely concealed antipathy continues.
Perhaps it is a classic case of two strong personalities who just
happen to rub each other up the wrong way. On the one hand, there is
the Zimbabwean Fletcher, a man who is fiercely loyal to the team
ethos. His power base has unquestionably increased since his
selectorial appointment, and the suspicion grows that he would like
official confirmation that he alone has the final say in such matters.
In the opposite corner Marsh is a no-nonsense type who was, quite
simply, one of the finest Australian Test players of all time. And,
because he might suspect that, deep down, Fletcher does not give two
hoots for his opinions - or anybody elses - when push comes to shove,
it seems Marsh is feeling just a tad unloved and undervalued. Whatever
the reason for the row, and the simmering resentment just below the
surface, the upshot is that English cricket stands to be the loser if
Marsh decides to concentrate on his job as director of the National
Academy and say that being a selector is more hassle than it is worth.
Read and Jones are eminently likeable lads caught up in a political
issue. Jones certainly did his cause no harm with a robust century
against the tourists at Canterbury on Saturday. He is clearly a decent
bat who should acquit himself well, but Marsh is apparently still
seething at what he views as a policy change to select Jones rather
than Read. With some justification, Marsh apparently believes the
change was steam-rollered through by Fletcher. And, to add to the
insult, Marsh only learned that Read had been dropped by reading
Ceefax. Not surprisingly Read was left out of the squad named for
Thursday's first Test with Jones chosen after being publicly assured
by Fletcher that he would be "given a good run" to prove he can be the
England No1 behind the stumps for the summer.
Fletcher is perceived to be doing a good job with the England team and
has a good working relationship with Vaughan, but one can understand
Marsh's point. After all, with 355 catches and stumpings in a 14-year
Test career for Australia, Marsh does know a thing or two about
keeping wicket. More than that, he has been able to watch Read's
development at close quarters at the academy where Read has been a
star pupil. Marsh was the man who championed Read's inclusion in the
England team, and certainly feels slighted that he was excluded from
the decision-making process when Read was dropped.
The ruthless logic employed by Fletcher and Vaughan is that Read is
not a good enough batsman to be keeping wicket for his country, and
that while Jones is no Adam Gilchrist, he might chip in with more runs
down the order. It is an argument that kept Jack Russell out when Alec
Stewart was favoured, earned Alan Knott selection for years ahead of
Bob Taylor and, going farther back, put the run-making of Jim Parks
ahead of the more talented keeper in John Murray.
Yesterday the chairman of selectors David Graveney spoke of "a
breakdown of communications," adding that it had always been known
that the captain and coach would pick the team on tour. "The problem
was that understanding had never been committed to paper. Rod and
Duncan had a full and frank discussion about the issue. There are four
of us on the selection panel [the other member being the former
England off-spinner Geoff Miller] and we all have strong opinions
about who should be in the team. There are a lot of views to be
considered. If we all thought the same, we could do it in 30 seconds
over the phone."
Now Graveney has duly written down a full protocol for selection, home
and away, but it would be no surprise if Marsh was still considering
his position as a selector. However, when asked if Marsh was
contemplating resignation, Graveney said a little guardedly: "As far
as I am aware, no."
As combative a keeper as there has ever been, even in his playing days
Marsh was never afraid to share his views, nor to tell anybody "Mate,
you're talking crap" when the situation demanded. He played the game
hard and bridled at anybody failing to give him what he saw as proper
respect. I recall a mild-mannered reporter from a Northampton evening
newspaper proffering the view in print that the 34-year-old Marsh of
1982 vintage might be "getting a little long in the spike to be
playing Test cricket". Later he was to be pinned against a wall in a
conversation that began along the lines of "So you think I'm too old.
And how many Test caps have you got?"
Marsh remains a man of drive and vision with great ability as a coach.
Graveney was at pains to emphasise: "Rod has done a fantastic job with
the academy." He is more in touch than anybody with emerging talent.
He wants to see youth given its head and, although Graveney would give
no details of what was said, I would be amazed if Marsh had not
lobbied for perhaps Paul Collingwood or Andrew Strauss to be given the
nod for the first Test ahead of the fading Nasser Hussain who, if the
largely non-competitive Tests against Bangladesh are taken out of the
equation, has averaged only 24 with the bat this winter. If Fletcher
is consistent in his desire to field the best team, surely Hussain
should be ditched.
Marsh might sometimes seem hard work to Fletcher, but any coach should
benefit from the knowledge of a man who must be kept at the cutting
edge of the English game. If Marsh were to say, "Forget it, I don't
get paid for being a selector, and if Fletcher won't listen to what I
say what is the point?" then the English game would be the poorer.
Fletcher may be doing an excellent job, but Marsh's input must be
respected and, whatever diplomatic skills might be entailed, Graveney
would do well to keep him involved.