Davidson refuses to resign despite club anger
Surrey 353 for 4 Leicestershire
It was, perhaps, the type of stubborn defiance that Leicestershire have required all season. Sadly, however, the performance came off the pitch as Neil Davidson, the club's chairman, reacted to calls for his resignation from Leicestershire's captain and coach, Matthew Hoggard and Tim Boon respectively, with a display of determination and resilience. If only Leicestershire could show as much fight on the pitch.
"I've no intention of resigning," Davidson said. "I don't get paid for this job and, in the last few months, it's been a hassle. I don't particularly need it. But when principles are involved, I don't back down."
Davidson does not dispute that many at Grace Road want him to resign. Nor does he dispute that he has received a letter, signed by Boon and Hoggard but sent on behalf of the entire playing and coaching staff, demanding he goes. But he does not accept that such a situation makes his position untenable.
"They [the players and coaches] are employees," he said. "It's not my role to deal closely with these guys; that's the role of the chief executive. I'm responsible for members. If the members felt I wasn't representing their interests, then yes, I would resign. Now the board has to decide whether to back their chairman. I feel I have their full support."
One of the key criticisms aimed at Davidson by Hoggard and Boon is that he has interfered in cricketing matters at the club. It is a charge Davidson is now happy to accept.
"I did intervene," he said. "I'm chairman of the club and I'm elected by members. Our finances are under pressure because of poor performances on the pitch, so I see it as part of my fiduciary duty to intervene. Directors are required to act in the best interests of the company and the board only intervenes when they feel things are going off the rails.
"The performances just aren't good enough, and these are revenue-generating areas of the club. For a small county, we can't afford to under-perform Our performances in the Twenty20 were poor: we lost seven of our home games and the other was rained off. The team has won only two of its ten CB 40 games and lost twice to Scotland; a team Afghanistan beat by nine wickets. We've been dreadful."
Despite the fact that both men signed the same letter, Davidson appears to have made a distinction between the actions of Boon and Hoggard. It suggests that while Hoggard's future remains at Grace Road, the future of Boon is limited while Davidson remains.
"The way the senior coach unfortunately got the captain into this is setting a very poor example to our fine young players," said Davidson. "I like Matthew immensely but I don't think he's thought this one through. I think Matthew has found himself in a very difficult position. I expect him to be here next year, and I hope he's still captain."
Asked about Boon, however, Davidson replied simply: "clearly there's an unsustainable position here."
While no-one has denied the main thrust of letter, Hoggard released a statement expressing his disappointment "that a private letter has been made public." He also denied that the players had ever planned any sort of protest on the pitch.
If he was hoping that the issue would be dealt with in private, however, he is sure to be disappointed. Members who saw their petition calling for a Special General Meeting declined on a technicality, have now gathered more than enough names to try again and it does seem inevitable that the meeting will be staged sooner or later. At it, members will call a vote of no confidence in Davidson and the Leicestershire CCC board.
"The moment Davidson came on Sky TV this morning, I got 26 more signatures," said petition organiser, Anna Stead. "If this petition is thrown out, we'll be back next March trying again. Not one member at the ground today has disagreed with what we're trying to do.
"We're united with the players, the coaches and the other staff at the club. We're unanimous. But the chairman isn't listening. If he loves Leicestershire CCC, he should listen to the players, the coaches and the members. He's already shown disrespect to the 103 people who signed the first petition; I hope he shows more respect to the people who have singed this one."
Stead's efforts certainly have the support of former chief executive, Mike Turner. Turner, who first joined the club as a player in 1951 and went on to serve as chief executive for 33 years and as a director until 2007, says he is "very disappointed" that the original petition was rejected.
"The fact is there is a wide division within the club between the staff, including the players and coaches, and the chairman," Turner said. "Such a situation is not in the best interests of the club and it has to be resolved. This is a long-standing issue. It is absolutely essential that the right working environment is created for the players and the staff.
"If Neil Davidson does not voluntarily resign, then the next step has to be a Special General Meeting of the club. I have been dedicated to the club for 60 years.In all those years, the present situation is without precedent."
There was little cheer for Leicestershire on the pitch, either Despite winning the toss and asking Surrey to bat in conditions favouring bowlers, the visitors finished the day in much the better position. On this pitch, offering movement and bounce, their total already appears daunting. They have great deal of power to add, too.
That Surrey were able to build such a dominant position was largely due to the continuing excellence of Mark Ramprakash. Responding to the testing conditions with a batting masterclass, he recorded his fifth first-class century of the season and the 133th of his career. It was also his seventh first-class century against Leicestershire.
Perhaps he enjoyed a little fortune initially. He played and missed a few times early on but, such his confidence these days, that he responded to one ball from Nadeem Malik flying past his outside edge, by thumping the next back over the bowler's head for six. He didn't give a chance until he had scored 115, when Greg Smith failed to cling on a sharp catch in the gully off the bowling of White.
Leicestershire had started well. Hoggard, who was easily the peak of the seamers, nipped a couple back to dismiss the pair of left-handed openers within the same over, while Rory Hamilton-Brown obligingly turned Claude Henderson's seventh delivery straight to short-leg. Steve Davies was smartly held at slip as he edged an attempted drive off one that turned sharply.
Ramprakash remained unflappable, however. Driving beautifully, he passed 1,500 first-class runs for the season and has so far added 217 for the fifth-wicket with Gary Wilson. Wilson, the erstwhile Ireland wicketkeeper, has already recorded his highest first-class score and resumes within sight of a maiden century. There can be no higher praise than to say that, at times, he appeared indistinguishable from Ramprakash.