County news September 12, 2008

Alan Butcher faces uncertain future

It's a depressing time for all concerned at The Oval © Getty Images

Surrey lunged further towards relegation with their innings-and-122-run defeat against Hampshire at The Oval leaving Alan Butcher, the coach, looking increasingly vulnerable as the club set about rebuilding ahead of next season.

Although Surrey can still mathematically avoid the drop they have just one game left, against Nottinghamshire next week, and Butcher said everyone was "pretty resigned to it." They are still without a victory in the Championship and the loss against Hampshire was an abject performance from start to finish. The batting was especially culpable, collapsing to 210 and 148 on a largely blameless surface.

Butcher took over as coach in 2006, the season after Surrey were previously relegated. Now another drop out of the top flight is going to put his job under scrutiny, especially with the club starting the off-field rebuilding by appointing former Sussex chief executive, Gus Mackay, as their managing director of cricket. Butcher said Mackay's arrival was "probably a good appointment", but admitted his future is uncertain.

"What will be, will be," Butcher said. "The pressure has been on for quite some time. I don't think I've let that affect the players, I've kept doing the job in a positive way. I can't do anything more to alter it, we'll just have to see what the hierarchy of the club are thinking."

It would be an unfortunate way for Butcher to depart the club he first played for in 1972. He said the current problems within the team have made it a tough time, particularly because as coach he can only have a limited impact.

"You do feel a little helpless, because however much you prepare the players once they go onto the field you can't make decisions for them," he said. "Sometimes you feel bloody angry, but there's nothing you can do. It's frustrating."

Surrey signed Shoaib Akhtar for the final two Championship matches of the season, but he had very little impact against Hampshire, sending down 19 overs for one wicket and slogging 27 in the first innings. Surrey tried to lure Harbhajan Singh back to The Oval, but the BCCI don't want their players appearing in county cricket due to the ICL-linked players, and Sri Lanka wouldn't release Ajantha Mendis.

Butcher's hand was therefore forced and he admits it was a last resort decision to bring in Shoaib, but that he is likely to stay in the side next week. "It was a gamble, a last throw of the dice. He wants to play, at this point I'm pretty certain he wants to play."

Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer at Cricinfo