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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 April, 2003, 17:02 GMT 18:02 UK
Tense times ahead for England
By Scott Heinrich

Nick Knight's sudden retirement from one-day cricket provides yet another challenge to England as they enter a bold new phase of their development.

England selector David Graveney
Graveney has much to think about before Pakistan visit in June

Recent times have seen many of the old guard call it a day.

Nasser Hussain, paceman Andy Caddick and keeper Alec Stewart have all paved the way for new blood to be ushered in.

Head selector David Graveney - like many observers - looks at the immediate future with enthusiasm.

"To replace players like these is obviously going to be a lot of work," he said.

"But I would view it as an exciting time for young players to step forward and take a chance.

"This is an opportunity for England to look at some young players."

It is a view shared by many, but there is also a feeling of anxiety that such a dense and rapid influx of youth could be counter-productive to the team.

That theory will have been given a good fanning by the retirement of Knight, undoubtedly one of England's best performers during his 100-game career.

Surrey youngster Rikki Clarke
Clarke is one of a number of bright young things that can expect to play for England

After England's disappointing World Cup campaign, Graveney and co might have been tempted into a clearout anyway.

But with Pakistan less than two months away and a fixture list that takes in around 30 one-day matches before the 2005 ICC Trophy, they now have no choice.

It seems likely that Kent batsman Robert Key, plucked from the Academy for the Ashes tour, will take Hussain's place in the side as a batsman.

Chris Read, meanwhile, can be considered the favourite to replace Stewart behind the stumps.

And it is on the recommendation of Academy chief Rod Marsh that more of his pupils are in the frame.

Jim Troughton, the Warwickshire batsman who has started the season with a flurry, Nottinghamshire's 19-year-old Bilal Shafayat and Surrey all-rounder Rikki Clarke are all thought to be under the microscope as possible replacements for Knight.

"Troughton would stand up to the heat of battle," former Aussie Test star Marsh asserted.

"Key stood up so well to the best attack in the world during the winter.

Bilal Shafayat is something different
Academy chief Rod Marsh

"Read I rate as a player with a 10-year international career ahead of him, while Clarke is very talented and hates to lose.

"Some judges might be concerned by Bilal Shafayat's technique but, to me, he plays shots others don't.

"He'll have some heartache along the way, but I'll be very surprised if he is not one of England's major players by the World Cup in 2007."

Ironically, at a time when England prepare to put their faith in the rawness of youth, an old and forgotten warhorse has thrust himself back into the picture.

Darren Gough, the veteran fast bowler who thought his career was over six months ago, is back playing for Yorkshire and has no doubt he is in line for a recall this summer.

At the rate England are waving goodbye to experience, they will need him.

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