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Downton role in spotlight

Paul Downton will face a gruelling enquiry into England's World Cup failure at a meeting at Lord's next week when his record as managing director of England cricket will come under serious scrutiny

George Dobell
George Dobell
Paul Downton will face a gruelling enquiry into England's World Cup failure at a meeting at Lord's next week when his record as managing director of England cricket will come under serious scrutiny.
Downton will meet the ECB's new chief executive, Tom Harrison, on Tuesday with some Lord's insiders suggesting his job is on the line.
The head selector, James Whitaker, and coach, Peter Moores, are also expected to attend meetings in the week, though their positions are not understood to be in such jeopardy.
ESPNcricinfo understands that Downton's explanations have not impressed either Harrison or the incoming ECB chairman, Colin Graves, and on Tuesday he will be asked to demonstrate that he has realistic plans for improvement. A failure to do so could result in his sacking.
There have been rumblings in some quarters that the England team "needs a leader not a manager", and the value of the MD role is also being widely debated.
The ECB named Hugh Morris as the first MD of England cricket in 2007, following Giles Clarke's arrival as chairman - part of the governing body's response to the recommendations of the Schofield Report, commissioned after a dismal Ashes tour in 2006-07.
Downton has endured an uncomfortable period in office since his appointment a little over a year ago. His handling of the sacking of Kevin Pietersen proved particularly controversial - he claimed he had "never seen anyone so disengaged" with the rest of the team at the end of the Ashes tour of 2013-14 - while his decision to reappoint Moores to the coaching role has drawn criticism.
Downton referred to Moores as "the outstanding coach of his generation" but statistics published by the Guardian suggest that his combined record is not only the worst of the four coaches England have employed in the modern era but the worst of any current coach among the top eight Test sides.
Downton was obliged to apologise to Pietersen after breaking the terms of the confidentiality agreement between the player and the board, with some at the ECB unhappy at the way the affair has dragged on for a year.
There is a strong feeling within the ECB that, had Pietersen simply been dropped rather than sacked, much of the ensuing fuss might have been avoided.
The recent intervention of Graves, suggesting there was a way back into the England team for Pietersen if he committed himself to county cricket and scored heavily, might also be interpreted as undermining Downton's position.
The episode is the first major test of Harrison in his new role. While he has kept a low profile in his first six weeks in office, he has orchestrated a major review of the domestic structure which suggests a boldness of approach. Neither he nor Graves were directly involved in the appointment of Downton.
England won three Tests in a row against India to clinch last year's series but they were defeated in all three formats at home to Sri Lanka and humiliated in both the World T20 - where they lost to Netherlands - and the World Cup.
Downton's laid the blame for England's World Cup group stage exit firmly at the players' door as he sought to reduce pressure on Moores, claiming that the media were overly anxious for a scapegoat.
His removal would increase the chances of Pietersen returning for England. As first indicated by ESPNcricinfo, Pietersen has become increasingly tempted by a return to England's county game, driven by the possibility that his international career might not be at an end.
Expectations are growing that he will cancel his IPL contract and play county cricket in the coming weeks. While several counties - notably Somerset, Lancashire and Leicestershire - have expressed an interest in signing the batsman, he is expected to re-join Surrey.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo