By Ian Cole
The last time David Collier visited the SJA, he was grilled by John Inverdale about the ECB decision to take Test matches away from terrestrial television and award the contract to satellite broadcaster Sky. It was a move the amiable Collier could hardly be accountable for, since he had not yet taken up his appointment as ECB chief executive.
Two years on, Collier arrived at the Cricketers’ Club with England’s chairman of selectors David Graveney to take lunch with us – just hours after Pakistan bowlers Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif were sent home from the Champions’ Trophy after testing positive for nandrolone.
No faulting the timing then – his or ours.
Once again Collier (pictured, left to right, with SJA Chairman Barry Newcombe and England chairman of selectors David Graveney) did not duck the issue, taking the opportunity to emphasise that English cricket has an exemplary record where performance-enhancing drugs are concerned since testing began in the 1980s.
“We have had a system in place for 20 years and our players are subject to random tests,” he said. “England can be very proud that we have not had an issue in this area. There have only been a few recreational drug issues in county cricket.
“Every player has had a one-to-one meeting to explain what can and cannot be taken.”
Having covered the news story of the day, attention turned to Graveney and his thoughts on the Ashes series. Graveney ventured the suggestion that the current Australia squad are under more pressure than the Pommie invaders.
“They have a few more injury problems than we have and their new ball bowler, Glenn McGrath, is 36 and hasn’t been fit since the Lord’s Test 16 months ago.”
Not that Graveney was getting cocky. “Australia have a group of fantastic players who were ranked No.1 in the world both before and after the last series between the sides, but who are holding a CV the last line of which says they lost the Ashes. That makes them dangerous but also places them under pressure.”
Graveney identified Michael Vaughan as a major loss. The chairman’s admiration for the injured captain is such that he compared the Yorkshireman’s handling of Andrew Flintoff in the triumphant 2005 series to the legendary relationship between Mike Brearley and Ian Botham in 1981.
“Vaughny is a loss, no doubt. But the Aussies have respect for our team because we’ve earned it. They’ll come at us from the first ball of the first Test at Brisbane. I don’t think we’ll win the toss and field like last time.”
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