Friday, January 18, 2008

Geoff Miller unveiled as England's chief selector

David Graveney (left) has been overlooked in favour of Geoff Miller (seated) for the new role of National Selector...

The former England offspinner, Geoff Miller, has today been named in the newly created post of National Selector, thus bringing to an end the 11-year reign of the former chairman of selectors, David Graveney.

Miller, 55, was unveiled to the media at a press conference at Lord's, and will link up with the England squad when they depart for their one-day tour of New Zealand in a fortnight's time.

Miller joined England's selection panel at Graveney's behest in 2000, and only put himself forward for the new role when it became apparent that Graveney's name was not in the frame. He will now work alongside the England head coach, Peter Moores, in a four-man panel which also includes two new part-time selectors in Ashley Giles and James Whitaker.

Graveney, who became chairman of selectors in 1997, has been moved sideways into a new role of Performance Manager, where he will keep an eye on the development of the County Academy programme of all 18 first-class counties, to ensure that the cream of young English talent rises to the top.

Hugh Morris, the managing director of England Cricket, made the appointments together with the ECB deputy chairman, Dennis Amiss, and the chief executive, David Collier. "Geoff is the ideal person to take on this new and important role of National Selector," said Morris. "He has played at the highest level, possesses in-depth knowledge of the domestic game and as a member of the selection panel for the past seven years he has extensive experience of the selection process."

The change has been made in accordance with the findings of the Schofield Report, which will require the head of the selection panel to travel with the team on overseas tours. Miller was the favourite for the new role ever since it became apparent that he was the preferred choice of the new chairman of the ECB, Giles Clarke.

"It's an honour and a privilege to be in this position," said Miller. After seven years as Graveney's understudy, he admitted that the pressure would be on now that he's the man in the hotseat, but he was ready to embrace the challenge. "Hopefully I'll come in with a very fresh perspective," he said. "David did things in an exemplary manner and our friendship will not alter one iota, but I've got my own views, in the changing-room and outside."

One possible obstacle to Miller's promotion had been his lucrative second career as an after-dinner speaker, but the man himself believes the two aspects of his life will dovetail nicely. "Speaking is part of my life, a part of me, it's the entertainment business," said Miller. "It's not just a matter of standing up and talking for half an hour and hopefully making people laugh, when I get out to dinners I'm promoting the cause of English cricket - before dinner, during dinner, after dinner."

It's early days in Miller's tenure, but already he's set out his stall on one contentious topic. His preference is for a single England captain in all forms of the game, although he admitted that the current situation - with Michael Vaughan in charge of Test cricket and Paul Collingwood at the helm for ODIs and Twenty20s - was working pretty well for the moment. "We've had injuries and a change of personnel, and this is a transition period in both kinds of cricket," he said. "We've taken a few backwards steps but it's been an upward curve since 2000."

There is, according to Miller, a very definite art to selection - something that is not always apparent to the watching public. "You go out and watch people, see if they've got the ability, find out what kind of heart they've got to do the job, and then there's their mental toughness," he said. "When you've felt that they've passed all those tests, you go and talk to the individuals to find out what they are about. It can take a period of a year, it can take 18 months, but the art is to get that selection right, not too early, not too late."

These are attributes that Giles will presumably pick up in the course of the next few years. His appointment continues a meteoric start to his post-playing career, which only got underway when he retired from first-class cricket during last summer's Oval Test against India. He has since been appointed as head of cricket at Warwickshire, and has worked with England's spin bowlers during the England Performance Programme's trip to Chennai in December. "Ashley knows the type of character you need to succeed at the highest level," said Morris.

Whitaker, who played one Test for England during the 1986-87 Ashes, represented Leicestershire throughout his first-class career, and went on to coach them until 2005. Recent and active players were specifically encouraged to apply for this role in a bid to bring a new perspective to England's deliberations, and among the notable names who missed out were Sussex's captain, Chris Adams, and Warwickshire's Dougie Brown.

For Graveney, the announcement brings to an end the career of one of the great survivors of English cricket. He was appointed to the role on March 13, 1997, when his sidekicks were Graham Gooch, Mike Gatting and the then-England captain, Mike Atherton. He was involved in the selection for 133 Test matches, starting with that summer's Ashes, and finishes with a record of won 52, lost 45, drawn 36.

"While I am naturally disappointed to no longer be directly involved with the England team, I feel that I can play an important part in ensuring that we maintain a consistent flow of world-class talent from the county academies into our international teams at all levels," said Graveney.