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More heads roll

IS there some connection between the ascent of Nasser Hussain to the England captaincy and the throwing out of the old bulldogs, Graham Gooch and Mike Gatting, from their roles as selectors? Indeed, it is time to ask whether Mike Atherton was hampered in his role as leader because of the presence of these two old warhorses?

It is difficult to say but it seems reasonable to assume that the presence of someone like Gooch would have been a handicap to anybody who has some sense of direction. Gooch may well be rated as the best England batsman of the last 20 years but the fact reamins that he is not the best person to lead others out of trouble. The same goes for Gatting.

And the fact that these two gentlemen rarely see eye to eye on matters cricketing or otherwise would not have helped bring any more clarity into English cricketing policy than exists at present -- or indeed, has existed, for the last decade or so. Their disappearance from the scene must surely be cause for rejoicing.

It is difficult to believe but just last summer there were wild scenes of rejoicing in England and everybody was convinced that the worst had passed. South Africa had been conquered in a Test series and there was talk that the Australians would have to work hard if they intended to retain the Ashes. Even the fact that the new captain was not the best communicator did not in any way curb this flow of talk.

Talk is all it proved to be. The next few months were a tale of gloom. The Ashes turned out to be sadly one-sided. The few guns which boomed were sidelined in a hurry and the World Cup proved to be nothing short of a disaster. Quick medicine was needed, else the patient would go into a coma -- such was the prescription. Stewart was axed and the tables were changed around.

But it looks like even that cannot do the trick. Hussain (and in his absence, Mark Butcher) have not been able to breathe any kind of revival into the flagging English team. And so, the next alternative was resorted to -- sack the men who pick the teams. Out went Gatting and Gooch. Three cheers for English cricket. Or is it premature?

Hussain has talked at length of planning for the future. He fails to see something blindingly obvious -- one cannot plan for the past or the present. All these things have been done before and nothing has come out of it. We have to look back to Mike Brearley and Ray Illingworth to realise that England once had winning captains, people who could either play the game hard or were gifted when it came to leadership. And that, more than anything else, should give an idea of the parlous state of English cricket.

I wonder -- even with things in this condition, will people dare to give Ian Botham a go? Or will the stodgy old guard, the type of people who kept women out of venues and clubs for as long as they could, continue to rule the roost? English cricket apparently has a lot to learn from the likes of Australia and South Africa.