THE sun is shining but Worcestershire are inactive; the other teams are catching up on the seven County Championship matches which Worcestershire have attempted in this rain-soaked start to the season.

Not that we should be blaming the weather after it salvaged a draw out of the embarrassing performance against Sussex.

I can imagine Steve Rhodes being quietly grateful at being able to hand over the reins to the returning Graeme Hick. Like Alec Stewart, there has been an awful lot for Steve to do. Graeme, on the other hand, would have liked something more heartening, I fancy, to lift his spirits after England's premature World Cup exit.

What he got instead was a situation all too familiar this season; a potentially good toss wasted and some indifferent batting. His own second ball nought and another follow-on will have only compounded his woe. Those who like to have taken the opportunity to rejoice in Graeme's failure here. As a nation we react to failure with calls for sackings; a bit of blood-letting and all will be well, as long as there is someone to blame. So the thinking seems to go.

Such an intemperate approach has never and will never help in producing successful international teams. In a period when England have seldom been consistently successful, Graeme has suffered his fair share of "sackings".

One is left wondering what he might have achieved in a settled, winning side. As the scorer of 100 runs in our last winning Test match performance and the scorer of England's last three one-day hundreds, he will, nevertheless, have to take his chance along with the rest when the selectors (together with their new advisor, Ian Botham) meet shortly.

Nevertheless, his Midas touch as Worcestershire captain continued with the National League win over Kent, notable for Matthew Rawnsley's five wickets, making 11 in three games for him. Hick to captain England? No, maybe that's taking my championing of his cause a little too far! He, like the majority of my pre-tournament World XI is either out of the competition or playing way below par. And since I tipped Pakistan last week, they have lost their next two games! It's a good job I never had any interest in horse racing!

I still fancy Pakistan to come through, though, despite a system for this World Cup which could see one team qualify for the semi-finals whilst only winning three out of eight games. A further thought on this - if net run rate has to be used to decide who goes through, why not only take account of the net run rate in the games between the teams which have finished on the same points? This would seem to be a logical extension of the principle which sees teams taking through to the second stage only those points from wins over fellow qualifiers.

Meanwhile, the World XI game apart, Worcestershire have five days of authentic first team cricket at New Road in June so we'd best make the most of it when Somerset arrive. Paul Pollard's injury at Tunbridge is a further blow with Phil Weston still not fit after tearing ankle ligaments. However, Elliot Wilson should be back from University and with Abdul Hafeez getting a big score in the Second XI there should soon be that vital competition for places which keeps everyone on their toes.

Monday, June 14, 1999.