Marsh says he's '100% English'

Rodney Marsh, considered by many to be Australia's greatest wicketkeeper, has said that he is "100% English now in terms of cricket" after being made an England selector.

Speaking to the Sunday Express, Marsh said: "If I'm still a selector when England next play Australia [in 2005] then I'll be rooting for England to win."

Marsh, who had once unflatteringly branded England bowlers as a bunch of "pie-chuckers", has run England's academy for promising players since its inception. He had previously held a similar post in Australia where he was responsible for nurturing the careers of several members of current Australian side.

Marsh said that, contrary to popular belief, there were several talented young cricketers in England. He said that Chris Read, Nottinghamshire's wicketkeeper, was a "helluva lot better wicketkeeper-batsman than I was at the same age of 24".

Read made his England debut in 1999 but, following a shaky start, was dropped after three Tests. He subsequently became a member of England's Academy squad in Australia last year, coached by Marsh, and is now seen as the leading contender to succeed Alec Stewart in the England side.

Ironically, Marsh was, at the start of his Test career, dubbed 'Iron Gloves', after some poor displays during the 1970-71 series against England in Australia. He said about Read: "If he can continue to work on his game, then by the age of 36, the time I retired, he might well be as good as anyone."

Marsh wasn't making any selectorial predictions, though. "As in all new positions, if you're half-smart, you keep your ears open and your mouth shut for a little while."

He said he was not blind to the claims of older England candidates but insisted: "If you have a young fella and an old fella and they're equal - then you'll always go for the young fella. This is not rocket science. It's common sense. The trouble is that cricket is a game that is confused by people all over the world."

Marsh added that the key to improving England's international fortunes was creating an environment which produced mentally tougher cricketers.

"We need a culture that isn't soft. When you have people prepared to be hard, prepared to lay down everything for the team, then England will have not just 11 players ready for Test cricket but 30 guys to choose from."