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Chris Silverwood, England's unlikely supremo, follows in Ray Illingworth's footsteps

Head coach handed a new level of responsibility in the wake of Ed Smith's dismissal

David Hopps
David Hopps
Mike Atherton's relationship with Ray Illingworth was one of grudging respect  •  Adrian Murrell/Getty Images

Mike Atherton's relationship with Ray Illingworth was one of grudging respect  •  Adrian Murrell/Getty Images

Gareth Southgate in football, Eddie Jones in rugby and now, in a development that had not been signalled, or even publicly demanded, Chris Silverwood in cricket.
For Silverwood, as England coach, to have ultimate responsibility for selection means that he will be identified with success or failure and his reputation - his very survival - will depend on it.
In that, English cricket has just moved into line with football and rugby. While many will celebrate that clarity, for cricket it is a rare departure during a century of indecision. It is not yet entirely clear whether England have arrived at such a cultural shift by accident, by financial necessity or by design.
Globally, there has also been little resolve to move to an era of all-powerful coaches. Pakistan's recent experiment with Misbah-ul-Haq as head coach-chief selector was one of those rare departures and, well, neither did that last very long, nor was it much of a success.
The innocents among you might assume that "who runs the team?" should have an obvious answer, but for English cricket it has been a subject of perpetual confusion as captains, coaches, chairman of selectors, cricket committees and - latterly - managing directors have all contested control.
Not since Raymond Illingworth, nearly 30 years ago, has so much power been invested in a single figure as Silverwood. The Illingworth experiment did not end happily and the memory will invite a certain uneasiness among traditionalists who have always sought refuge in English cricket's habitual adoption of labyrinthine committee structures and blurred lines of responsibility.
Illingworth was widely accepted to be a great tactical captain. He won the Ashes in Australia, had a successful county career at Yorkshire and Leicestershire, and made a led Yorkshire to a 40-over title after his 50th birthday.
"A dour, thinking cricketer, short on smiles, but never on moans," was the assessment of the man whose appointment ended Illingworth's career as supremo - David Lloyd.
Illingworth was as openly autocratic as they come (although some have been more autocratic in the shadows). If challenged, he preferred absolute power, as his entire career had made clear, whether battling southern-based Lord's officialdom, Australian umpires and spectators (he led his team off the field in the Sydney Test) or in his stand-offs with Geoffrey Boycott in Yorkshire's Civil War.
Silverwood, and indeed the Test captain, Joe Root, are both Yorkshireman like Illingworth. The comparison can be taken too far. Illingworth's views have always been unadorned by social niceties. Silverwood and Root, while strong-willed, are too empathetic and considerate to fit the old-fashioned Yorkshire stereotype. But it may be an undercurrent.
Silverwood has so far operated within the confines of the dressing room, widely respected, but rarely heard. That is bound to change as his extended role puts him more in the public eye. Cricket might be his sport, but he is more likely to be in Southgate's guise than Illingworth's.
Illingworth's move towards absolute power began when he became England's chairman of selectors in March 1994. It was the most powerful role in English cricket - the appointment of an England director of cricket, the broad-based, overseeing role currently filled by Ashley Giles, was decades away.
He beat another former England captain, MJK Smith, an Oxbridge man (like the now-departed Ed Smith) and while his brusque Yorkshire independence was enough for him to be the anti-establishment candidate, it was hardly a revolution - he became the oldest chairman of selectors for 40 years and had little patience with progressive ideas.
And where he wanted assistants, he preferred them to be of identical mind. Whereas Silverwood has input from James Taylor and Mo Bobat, Illingworth opted as fellow selectors for two old salts in Fred Titmus, a former England offspinner who was regarded as a cricketing sage but preferred smoking a pipe to big pronouncements, and Brian Bolus, a more entertaining after-dinner speaker than he had been a batter, and a master of indiscretion.
Illingworth also had more time to watch potential England cricketers because of a less intense international schedule, even if he did seem to turn up a lot at Yorkshire. But he did not have the advantage of live streams and video clips on demand as does Silverwood.
Illingworth's willingness to engage with the media, both on and off the record, was refreshing in a game that had preferred evasion and secrecy, although such openness made him enemies.
His first power struggle was with the captain, Michael Atherton. The pair had a testy relationship, at best one of grudging respect. Illingworth later observed that he had not realized Atherton had "such black and white views" which gave cause for ironic sniggering. But their mutual regard for each other's cricketing nous meant they managed to co-exist.
The trouble with you buggers is that you've moaned for years about nobody being accountable. Now I'm prepared to stand up and say that the buck stops with me, you call me a dictator. You want it both ways.
Ray Illingworth on the problems of accountability
But Illingworth's domineering presence automatically meant that the coach, Keith Fletcher, became an increasingly peripheral figure.
Fletcher was regarded as a guru in his time at Essex, but he cut a more diffident figure with England where he lost five of his seven Test series. When England were losing in Australia in 1994-95, Illingworth didn't even wait until he belatedly joined the tour before openly criticising performances.
The solution was to sack Fletcher and put Illingworth in overall charge; Fletcher has never entirely forgiven Yorkshireman ever since, as he makes clear in his own lugubrious way. Illingworth bolted Fletcher's coaching role onto his job as chairman of selectors, making himself master of all he surveyed.
If Silverwood wants that control and responsibility as badly, he has certainly not been as obvious in seeking it. It remains an unanswered question.
The move was historic. Jack Bannister wrote in One-Man Committee, a joint undertaking with Illingworth: "No one man has had so much power in English cricket at selection and managerial level."
Even then, captain and supremo had to hold selection meetings with two other committee appointees. But Illingworth's authority was clear and he proved as much against West Indies the following summer when he reselected the Test team at the last minute, dropping Steve Rhodes and installing Alec Stewart as an opening batter/ keeper. He did go through the motions of ringing the other selectors to tell them.
"The trouble with you buggers is that you've moaned for years about nobody being accountable," he complained. "Now I'm prepared to stand up and say that the buck stops with me, you call me a dictator. You want it both ways."
The problem was that Illingworth assumed the coach's role without entirely doing the coach's job. Atherton was soon exhausted. What could have been a permanent change was seen as a short-lived blunder.
"Other than occasionally stamping his feet over selection, and keeping time in the nets, I wasn't sure what else the 'supremo' was supposed to be doing," Atherton wrote in his autobiography. "There was no doubt that during Illingworth's year in charge my workload increased enormously.
"All the irritating jobs that a captain ought not to be bothered with fell to me… My view was that the captain was there to make the important cricketing decisions and the manager was there to reduce the hassle. Raymond obviously thought it was the other way round!"
This time, with a committed coach like Silverwood inheriting the national selector role, there is more chance of success, but this is cricket and even now somebody will be devising the next theory.
Less than a year after Illingworth became English cricket's overlord, their 1996 World Cup challenge looked hopelessly old-fashioned as Sri Lanka won the trophy with an approach based on a fearless assault on the new ball.
After England returned home, Illingworth remained chairman of selectors, but resigned as coach, accepting at 63 that he was too old for the job. David Lloyd took over a job that was reinvented as "head coach", and committed himself to modernization of the set-up, but he never had Illingworth's powers. And so England cricket's endless confusion over who runs the side took another twist.
A quarter of a century on, there is more chance of the change being for good, although wins would help. What lays ahead for Silverwood and Root could not be more intriguing.

David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps