23 August 1999

Hussain hurt by chorus of boos

Peter Deeley

As England concluded one of their most calamitous summers in recent cricketing history yesterday with an 83-run defeat that gave New Zealand a historic 2-1 series victory, the cruellest comment came from the hundreds gathered in front of the Oval pavilion.

A sustained chorus of booing and derisive chants greeted Nasser Hussain as he came forward to receive the losers' cheque from sponsors Cornhill Insurance.

"That hurt immensely," the captain admitted. "Both the team and myself are very down just now." David Graveney, the chairman of selectors, concurred. "It hurt not just the players but everyone involved with the England team."

Hussain, however, refused to see the defeat as "the end of the world. I was very proud. You may not see it, but for me the players here gave everything we have all been asking for - determination, attitude and body language".

With the South African tour party due to be picked this week, Hussain counselled against throwing out en masse the senior batsmen, though he conceded they had been a major part of the problem throughout the series.

He challenged those who advocated wholesale batting sackings to suggest alternative names. "The players we have gone in with have good Test records. We have tried a number of youngsters. We will have to look at the whole set-up of England cricket if you want a complete overhaul. I do not believe in sweeping changes: you just go round in circles. You have to back people like Michael Atherton and have youngsters around to learn from them."

Hussain recognised the team would be reminded they are now "bottom of the heap" in the Wisden unofficial Test team rankings. He thought it might be a salutary lesson: "I hope the players read that and can prove it wrong."

Hussain revealed he had been lying awake in the early morning "racked with nerves wanting England to do well. But you get barracked and you have to understand that. It's frustration: wanting your team to do well".

Graveney conceded that breakdowns in communication during the series had not helped the cause. He cited the selectors' failure to be told that Alex Tudor needed a scan on a knee injury after the first Test and the news this weekend that Graham Thorpe would not be going to South Africa.

"Hopefully important decisions will be taken at the meeting of the First Class Forum on Monday. Central control is needed to avoid that kind of scenario."

Source :: Electronic Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk)