CRICKET: STAN­FORD SE­RIES She plopped in my lap, it was to­tally in­no­cent and I apol­o­gised... I meant no dis­re­spect


SIR Allen Stan­ford, the Amer­i­can at the cen­tre of Eng­land’s An­tigua em­bar­rass­ment, last night promised no more flirt­ing with the ladies or wan­der­ing into dress­ing rooms.

In his first in­ter­view of a week strewn with crass mo­ments and poor cricket, Stan­ford gave his ver­sion of the ‘WAGs In­ci­dent’ and in­sisted peo­ple were mis­judg­ing him.

He is putting up $20mil­lion to­mor­row night for the win­ners of the Twenty20 match be­tween Eng­land and his Su­per­stars team and says he should be judged af­ter that.

“The week has gone the way we thought it would,” he said. “David Col­lier [ECB chief ex­ec­u­tive] had din­ner on my boat last night and we were dis­cussing the fu­ture and we are on track to where we want to be. Af­ter Satur­day peo­ple will have a dif­fer­ent opin­ion of what we are try­ing to achieve here.”

Eng­land’s play­ers have com­plained to the ECB that the Stan­ford Se­ries has been more like a “gar­den party” solely for Stan­ford’s ben­e­fit and are de­mand­ing changes be­fore they re­turn next year – al­though there is no ques­tion of them re­fus­ing to come.

For­mer Eng­land cricket chief Lord MacLau­rin has branded the se­ries a “pan­tomime” and hopes the na­tional team will not par­tic­i­pate again.

Lord MacLau­rin, who stepped down as ECB chair­man in 2002, told Ra­dio Five Live: “I think the pan­tomime sea­son has come early and I don’t think there is much in­ter­est in it.

“To have those huge re­wards for just one match is, in my mind, just stupid. My view as a tra­di­tion­al­ist is that Twenty20 has a place but I don’t think this sort of pan­tomime cricket has a place at all. I think the re­wards for a one-match bash are just ob­scene, and I sup­pose even more ob­scene now due to the fi­nan­cial state the coun­try is in. My view, hav­ing watched it all tran­spire, is this will be the last one.”

The week started with up­set as Stan­ford was shown on TV flirt­ing with play­ers’ part­ners as Emily Prior, wife of wick­et­keeper Matt, sat on his lap.

Stan­ford said: “I didn’t know about the word WAGs but I saw the young ladies there and the cam­era­man said it would be a great shot to be in the mid­dle of them shout­ing ‘Go Eng­land go’.

“I had no idea they were con­nected with the English team. If I had known, I would have just said ‘good evening’ to them and walked away. One stood up and of­fered her seat and when I sat down she plopped in my lap.

“It was all to­tally in­no­cent and I have apol­o­gised to Kevin Pi­etersen. I meant no dis­re­spect to the ladies or the team.” As for walk­ing into the dress­ing rooms, Stan­ford said he had done that since he launched his tour­na­ment on his own ground here two years ago.

“I have al­ways walked into locker rooms to see both teams af­ter games but I will not be go­ing into their dress­ing room if it is just a place for play­ers. I will carry on do­ing what I do. I’m not chang­ing who I am.”

Eng­land play­ers have told rep­re­sen­ta­tive Sean Mor­ris, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Pro­fes­sional Crick­eters’ As­so­ci­a­tion, they want to come back for more matches that are worth £600,000 a man if they win but only on their terms.

They ex­pect the ar­range­ments to be as for­mal as they are for a full in­ter­na­tional.

Mor­ris said: “This has all felt like a show re­volv­ing around Stan­ford. Maybe we were all a lit­tle naive in think­ing it would be like a nor­mal tour with nor­mal cricket but with the chance of winning a mil­lion bucks each.

“No one is go­ing to turn that down but cos­metic is­sues off the field are de­valu­ing Team Eng­land, and that makes them feel un­com­fort­able. I don’t see why we can’t iron out a few off-the-field is­sues.

“The size of the carrot is such that any pro­fes­sional crick­eter is go­ing to say he would like to take the chance of earn­ing a mil­lion dol­lars. As long as that’s still there I think play­ers will con­tinue to com­mit to it. It is the ECB’s job to make sure the play­ers are not ex­posed to th­ese em­bar­rass­ing mo­ments.”

Mor­ris said the play­ers’ great worry is the pub­lic’s re­ac­tion back home if they do cash in: “You ac­cept there are strings at­tached with a mil­lion dol­lars but their big­gest worry is how to deal with it if they win,” he said. “They are very sen­si­tive they will be per­ceived like the foot­baller alien­ated from fans, but you have a fam­ily to look af­ter and you make a com­mer­cial de­ci­sion.

“It has been a bit like a gar­den party but they are pre­pared to get through it, win the money and get out of here.”

CANDID: Sir Allen ad­mits mis­takes have been made but says they’ve been mis­con­strued

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