DAVID GRAVENEY, England's new chairman of selectors, said continuity was the prime motive for reselecting Mike Atherton as captain for the whole of the summer - the six Tests and the three one days - against Australia.
Atherton, speaking after the lunch at which Alec Stewart was named as player of the year, responded: ``This says everything about the right amount of confidence in me. It sends out a message of stability for the meetings with Australia.''
He admitted that after the disastrous tour of Zimbabwe he did have doubts about continuing in the job. ``I said that things would have to improve in New Zealand. And they did. Two factors came together: winning in New Zealand and my own form as a batsman returned.
``I've always had enthusiasm and belief in my ability to do this job. The team's performance and my own form came together at the right time. Australia will start the series as favourites but psychologically we'll expect to do well.''
Atherton said he would go along with the proposal from the England Cricket Board that the captain should not be a selector. ``If the captain is removed from selection it makes his job easier,'' he said.
Graveney said: ``That wouldn't diminish the captain's contribution. He'd still have discussions with the selectors. I don't see it as a major difficulty.''
After managing England A on their successful winter tour of Australia, Graveney said young players such as Mark Butcher and Adam Hollioake, both from Surrey, and Kent's Dean Headley might come into the reckoning this summer for the Test side.
Atherton, speaking about the coming private gathering of players under the auspices of the ECB, said it would be ``no charm school''.
``It'll be nothing of the sort,'' he added. ``It'll be an attempt to get the people likely to form the squad against Australia together for a long meeting.''
Lord MacLaurin, chairman of the ECB, said: ``We took a lot of flak in Zimbabwe and quite rightly so. But we pitched the side into 36-degree humidity and asked them to play their first game after just three days of practice. Before the tour we went to Portugal where there were no facilities for cricket practice.
``We also said to them that they wouldn't be seeing their families for three-and-a-half months, and that won't be happening again. The players are our top priority and we'll be looking after them in the best possible way.''