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Friday, October 15, 1999 Published at 09:16 GMT 10:16 UK

Sport: Cricket

'Think tank' role for Atherton and Stewart

Stewart and Atherton: Experienced players with 90 caps each

Former captains Alec Stewart and Michael Atherton have been earmarked for a "think tank" that will guide the England cricket squad during its gruelling winter tour to South Africa and Zimbabwe.

The committee is part of the new management structure put in place by recently-appointed coach Duncan Fletcher to take the 17-man party through the four-month trip, which starts on 26 October.

Desperate times

Stewart and Atherton are two of England's most experienced players, each with 90 Test appearances.

The other members of the four-man panel are captain Nasser Hussain and Fletcher.

[ image: Darren Gough: Return to fitness]
Darren Gough: Return to fitness
The England coach formed a similar committee during his tenure at Glamorgan.

"There are certain structures I'm discussing with Nasser," he said.

"I want to put a management structure in place among the players to give them more collective responsibility.

"It's the kind of thing I've done with every team that I've worked with and it seems to work."

It is a departure for England, who are traditionally managed by the coach, tour manager and captain.

But these are desperate times for the national squad, having crashed to the bottom of the Wisden international ranking with a series loss to New Zealand over the summer.

Describing the new committee's role, Fletcher said: "It doesn't just relate to matters on the field, it relates to everything.

"It's like setting up in the business world. They will throw up ideas and the captain is chief executive and he makes the decision on the ideas thrown about by the management team.

"I like to see the captain in charge and I sit on the committee as a consultant."

Good news for England ahead of the tour is the return to training of injured trio Darren Gough, Alex Tudor and Dean Headley.

Hussain said: "Gough and Tudor were the main injury doubts, but both of them have been passed fit. They are raring to go, they have both started training again."

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