Bush camp earns seal of approval
Australia's bush adventure started as a mission impossible, but after five days of John Buchanan's squad scrambling around south-east Queensland like young army recruits he felt it was "mission accomplished". An unnecessary injury was the chief concern so Cricket Australia provided increased insurance for their players, and there was relief from all sides as the group wound down in the luxury of the Hyatt Coolum resort today with satisfied smiles and hard-earned anecdotes.
"The experience was sensational," Ricky Ponting, who will leave the camp for a day due to a death in his family, said. "John has to take a lot of credit for it because he went out on a limb to do it. There was some apprehension from the players at the beginning but once we started getting involved it was great."
On opening night the men slept under the stars in the Beerwah State Forest, north of Brisbane, and the remaining three sleeps were spent snuggled beneath a couple of tarpaulins close to the McPherson Range, south-west of the Queensland capital. Rations were limited to test the players - the first evening's menu was half a tin of soup and a piece of bread and the final-night offering was a steak and a potato - and there were endurance exercises on flat roads, in the hills of the Lamington National Park and during the middle of some nights.
"The purpose was personal development and team development, working together and understanding the other blokes," Buchanan said. "I think we achieved that."
Each morning a van drove into the fireless campsites playing a western song to wake up the group, and tasks during the adventure included abseiling and rappelling, navigating by the stars and gruelling runs and walks. Old-style army packs were deliberately supplied to add to the discomfort and were filled with a couple of pairs of khaki pants, socks and shirts, a waterproof jacket and a comfortable sleeping bag. The six-man outfits also shared the load of a roll of toilet paper, a shovel and tarpaulins.
"Walking away from it, I've had a great time and learnt lots of things about myself and a lot about guys in the team in different situations," Ponting said. "We were taken to the edge a lot of times, and to see how people reacted under pressure and under stress was really good for us." The camp concludes over the next two days with team meetings, educational lectures on behavioural codes of conduct and drug regulations, media duties and some rest.
Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo