London: Former England captain and chairman of selectors Ray Illingworth has said it is time for Graham Thorpe's international career to be terminated after the Surrey batsman withdrew from the upcoming Ashes tour of Australia.
"It is a great shame because he is a fine player," Illingworth told Wednesday's 'Daily Express'. "But England has to say goodbye to him now," the former Yorkshire and Leicestershire off spinner, 70, added. On Tuesday Thorpe, who has completed only one tour in the past five, pulled out of the Ashes trip saying he was not mentally fit. That was despite the 33-year-old left-handed batsman having made himself available after taking a break from all cricket earlier in the English season in a bid to resolve problems caused by the break-up of his marriage and arguments over access arrangements to his two young children. Thorpe is widely regarded as England's best middle-order batsman and has scored 5,109 runs in 77 Tests at an average of 41.87. He also has a good record against Australia, which started with a hundred on his Test debut at Trent Bridge in 1993. But despite these factors Illingworth, who led England to Ashes glory in Australia during 1970-71, said the selectors now had to call time on Thorpe's Test career. "You can't have players around who are moping and worrying about problems at home, so it is best Graham is not going if that is the case. But I think he will regret the decision. He is 33 and won't get another chance. You are a long time retired and I would have thought it best for him and his family to give it a go and put his heart and soul into it. "It's barely three months away, nothing like tours in the past which took six months," said Illingworth "I am surprised he has reached this stage because he was never a problem for me as chairman, we got on well," added Illingworth, who was in charge of England's panel from 1994-1997. "But the selectors cannot afford to be messed around like this." However, another former England captain, Mike Gatting, believes that Thorpe still has a Test future. "I am convinced common sense has prevailed and I am also sure it is far too early to write off Thorpe as a Test batsman," insisted Gatting, 45, who led England to an Ashes victory in Australia in 1986-87. And the former Middlesex skipper added Thorpe would have been put in an intolerable position had he decided to go on tour. "He would have copped flak at every turn from the Aussies and each time he failed his frame of mind would have come into question," Gatting said. "Just imagine what would have happened every time he walked out to bat. You can be sure one of the Aussie fielders would have crossed his path and 'politely' asked: 'How are the kids, Thorpey?'"
It's been the hardest decision of my career: Thorpe