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Friday, June 25, 1999 Published at 13:43 GMT 14:43 UK

Sport: Cricket

Hussain keeps door open for Stewart

Hussain (left) and Fletcher are unveiled as England's new "dream team"

New England captain Nasser Hussain has insisted there is still a place in the Test team for his predecessor Alec Stewart.

Nasser Hussain outlines what he sees as English cricket's weaknesses
Essex batsman Hussain was unveiled as skipper by the England and Wales Cricket Board at a news conference at Lord's on Friday.

And former Zimbabwe all-rounder Duncan Fletcher was confirmed as David Lloyd's replacement as England coach, a post he will take up at the end of the season.

Hussain said that Stewart, who was dismissed as captain following England's early exit from the Cricket World Cup, still had a place in his thoughts.

Stewart's gloves under threat

The new skipper will this weekend take part in selection meetings ahead of the first Test with New Zealand next week - and he made it clear he would be fighting Stewart's corner.

[ image: Alec Stewart: Axed as captain, but still in contention as a player]
Alec Stewart: Axed as captain, but still in contention as a player
"I'm very wary of discarding someone who has so many Test runs," Hussain said.

"Alec is a fighter and he will use this disappointment to his advantage. He will fight and feel he's got a point to prove.

"He's too good a player to just write off like that. He gives the team umpteen dimensions."

However, he agreed the debate will arise over the precise role Stewart occupies in the side - whether he stays as wicketkeeper, opens the batting or drops down to the middle order.

"Whatever we decide with Alec tomorrow, I think we should stick with him for as long as possible.

Chairman of selectors David Graveney acknowledged that the World Cup debacle had precipitated Stewart's demise.

"The selectors thought this was the appropriate time to change," said Graveney.

"We took into consideration the results England have had over the last 12 months, Alec's own form and the impact of going out of the World Cup at that particular time."

No time for naivety

Hussain said he was desperate to turn round England's fortunes - but he added that it was important to generate an element of realism among the cricketing public.

"We have got to start winning," he said. "People who play for England from now on must realise that's the most important thing.

"I'm not naive. It's going to be difficult. We have been inconsistent in the past but we've got to start putting things right now.

"We have got to win back the faith of the public. I've played for England when we've done well and the British public have got right behind us and if we can start winning that will happen again.

"We won't take New Zealand lightly this summer. My aim is to beat them in a four-Test series."

No promises

Duncan Fletcher assesses his own strengths as a coach
New coach Fletcher, who was targeted by South Africa as a successor to Bob Woolmer, said it had been tough to leave Glamorgan.

But was keen to stamp his own authority on the England dressing room after signing a two-year contract.

Fletcher said: "It's a great privilege to be involved in English cricket and hopefully with Nasser we can help turn things round a little bit."

But, like Hussain, he too was determined to be realistic: "I'm not promising anything at this stage but I'm looking forward to it and hopefully we will be successful in the near future."

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