On players having a say

FOR years international players (and I was one of them) have been crying out for a greater say in the running of the game.

Through various players' associations, some nations have received a limited input and most certainly a better financial deal.

Generally, however, the controlling bodies have carried on in the same arrogant, autocratic way which led to Kerry Packer's WSC and the South African rebel tours. Both were driven partly by greed but also frustration.

The WSC promised much for the players and was hailed as the revolution to give the players more money and a greater say in the game.

In the end it was a disappointment to all the players from both sides, except for the chosen few who were the leading lights in securing the top players for WSC.

In reality, the winners were Kerry Packer and the Australian Cricket Board.

Packer got - he was honest enough to declare this from day one - what he wanted, and that was exclusive TV coverage of Australian cricket and the ACB got what they coveted - the control of cricket in Australia and by that the players.

Since then there has been somewhat of an uneasy alliance between the players and their various cricketing Boards which finally blew up before the ICC Trophy in Colombo, over players' rights to market their own commercial interest.

The ICC's arrogance in not even consulting the players when they sold packages to sponsors for the World Cup in South Africa in 2003 was courting trouble.

There was bound to be a confrontation as so many players these days have numerous lucrative sponsorships, some of which were going to be in conflict with the ICC's sponsors.

This all came to a head in Colombo and I have no doubt that one of the things the leaders of the various players' associations were able to push through is a greater say in the running and planning of cricket. This I believe has manifested itself in the recent announcement of the ICC to reconstruct their cricket committee (playing).

Previously, members of this committee were either nominated by the ICC or the various International Cricket Boards. The new plan will see a committee of 10 with five of them being elected by the captains of the 10 Test playing nations. This is a huge breakthrough for it will give those elected a direct say in the running of cricket at the highest level. On the other hand, it could be a two-edged sword for those elected by the captains.

Obviously, it is a wonderful position to push for the current players' demands. But on the flip side they have a great responsibility for the benefit of the game as a whole.

One thing I became acutely aware of when I retired from the game, the first time around, was how little I really knew about cricket and virtually nothing about the running of the game.

This is the dilemma which now faces the 10 Test playing captains.

The tempting thought would be to only appoint five of their own. This would certainly help the cause of the Test players, but what about the other aspects of cricket? Have they the background of experience to handle this?

It would seem to me we need a balance here with perhaps three players from another era who know what is going on and two current Test captains or three Test captains and two former players for the panel.

It is a great opportunity for cricket and cricketers, I wish the Test captains every success in making their decision. For the future of the game I hope they get it right.

Once again the old chestnut has been raised and that is the right of the home country to prepare the wicket to the advantage of their team.

This time it came from Pakistan's captain Waqar Younis who declared that as Tests cannot be played in Pakistan at present, then the Colombo Test was a home Test for Pakistan and as such the wicket should be prepared to the advantage of Pakistan!

I am not naive enough to think that no country prepares a wicket to suit their team. It has been going on for umpteen years, but is it fair and is it in the interest of the team or country?

It is something I have always thought was a form of cheating and would have nothing to do with it. When I took over as head coach of Lancashire I was intrigued to find I had a fair amount of control including directing the groundsman in the preparation of each wicket.

I immediately told him there would be no fiddling with the pitch while I was there and his responsibility was to prepare the best surface possible for an even game of cricket.

He was delighted, but some of the committee, including ex-players used to such things, were not.

I have long contended that much of England's current woes are because of tailored wickets guaranteed to produce results, hopefully for the home side. But not in the long term interest or development of the players.

On poor wickets bowlers only have to bowl somewhere near the spot and the uneven surface will do the rest. As a result they don't develop the skill, variation, accuracy or guile to cope with wickets that are flat and easy to score runs on.

Batsmen too suffer on poor wickets. Deep down they know they will eventually get the unplayable ball so they tend to throw the bat at everything to try and score a few, before the inevitable happens.

Little wonder then they do not develop the skills and concentration for the longer haul.

I have been delighted in recent times to hear so many Indians pushing the cause of faster and better wickets in this country.

Undoubtedly, the Indians' poor record overseas on unfamiliar surfaces is a by-product of the slow turning wickets that have prevailed for so long in this country.

A wicket in any country should reflect the soil, grass and climate of that area. If they vary as is the case from the turning track of Sydney to the lightning quick WACA wicket of Perth, so be it, for such variation can only add to the knowledge and skills of players.