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Sunday, 26 May, 2002, 10:05 GMT 11:05 UK
Cricket's thankless task
Being a selector of a national side is one of the toughest roles in cricket.
When David Graveney, chairman of England's selectors, says that a key attribute for doing the job is "a thick skin", you suspect he is only half-joking.
If a team loses on a regular basis, it is the men responsible for picking it who suffer the brickbats.
"The job description is perfectly clear to everybody. If things go wrong, it's the selectors fault, and if you win games, it's the players who take the credit. You only accept the job on that basis," explained Graveney.
It is rare indeed that selectors enjoy universal approval from the media and fans - whenever a squad is picked, there is usually someone ready to point out where they got it wrong.
It is perhaps surprising therefore that top players are willing to put themselves forward for what is largely a thankless role.
But such was Sir Don Bradman's love of cricket - and Australian cricket in particular - that he was willing to serve as a selector for over 30 years until 1971.
Results were not the be all and end all for The Don.
Speaking at Bradman's memorial service last year, former Australian captain Richie Benaud revealed his approach to team selection as "looking in kindly fashion on those cricketers in Australia who played the game in attractive fashion ... and thought of the game rather than themselves."
The latest to take on the challenge is Sir Viv Richards, the new chairman of the West Indies Cricket Board.
After one of the leanest periods in the team's history with heavy defeats by England, Australia, South Africa and Pakistan in a period of less than two years, things may finally be on the upturn following a 2-1 home success against India.
But Richards is only too aware of the constant demand for success in the Caribbean, and the fact that victory over Indian notwithstanding, there is still a shortage of world-class talent at his disposal.
It is not just a question of making the right choice when assessing the respective merits of player a and player b.
For selectors, there are problems which are beyond their control, such as injuries.
Spare a thought for New Zealand's Sir Richard Hadlee, who had to find replacements for seven players during their 2000 tour to South Africa.
And it has been the same story in recent months with Chris Cairns, Shane Bond, Dion Nash, Nathan Astle, Jacob Oram, Daniel Vettori and Andre Adams all absent due to various injuries.
In the case of several countries, there are political pressures to consider as well.
The South African selectors picked Jacques Rudolph for the third Test in Australia in January, only for United Cricket Board president Percy Sonn to insist that Justin Ontong play instead.
And it was a similar story in Sri Lanka when Marvan Atapattu was left out of the team for a Test against Zimbabwe, only for Sports Minister Johnston Fernando to order his re-instatement.
So what is the attraction of being a selector?
"It's a responsibility being involved in selecting national teams...but I've always regarded it as an honour," said Graveney.
"I enjoy it. There are far worse things than can happen in your life than someone writing something that might not be completely accurate in the papers.
"Today's story is fish and chip paper tomorrow. You've just got to ride it out."
Sir Viv's achievements on the field will ensure he commands the respect of the West Indies players, but that might not be enough to ensure the loyalty of Caribbean fans if results go wrong.
"People will respect your views because of what you've done on the cricket pitch, but in the end you'll be judged in that particular role very quickly," warned Graveney.
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