England in West Indies, 2008-09 February 13, 2009

Putting words into Strauss's mouth

So what should Andrew Strauss say to his team as they strive to put the Jamaica ‘glitch’ behind them

It might seem mildly absurd following England’s supine dismissal for 51 to worry about batsmen making big hundreds. Concentrating on reaching two figures is a more pressing problem for the immediate future. In fact, the capitulation in Jamaica was so abject as to lead to considerable media speculation about a recall for Matthew Hoggard as a specialist batsman.

Andrew Strauss has endured probably the shortest and least romantic honeymoon period in cricket captaincy history, a one-night stay in a flea-infested seaside B&B rather than a three-week snorkelling and canoodling extravaganza in Mauritius.

So what should he say to his team as they strive to put the Jamaica ‘glitch’ behind them?

Here are some options for his consideration:

1. “We’ve got to get back on the horse, boys. And let’s try to make the horse move this time. Let’s not just sit on the horse until it gets bored and tips us off again. Let’s get on the horse, and stay on the horse. Right. Let’s go. Anyone know how to ride a horse?”

2. “Remember, lads, we’re not as bad as we looked in the first Test. Our performances over the last couple of years prove that. So when we go out on that field today, I want you all to remember that we are not a bad cricket side. We are an adequate cricket side. Now let’s go out there and prove that to the watching world.”

3. “Once more unto the breach, dear, er, friends... well, colleagues. Let’s go with ‘dear colleagues’... Once more. And let’s try not to make quite such a pig’s breakfast of the breach this time. And when I say ‘once more’, I acknowledge we are on central contracts and there isn’t exactly a queue of county players banging the selectors’ door down with a battering ram made out of their own averages. So, realistically, it will be ‘several times more unto the breach’. But if you want to be on that plane to South Africa next winter, I suggest you put in at least one or two good performances between now and the end of the Ashes. Or else. And, if I may borrow further from Henry V, Cooky, could you try to stand a bit more like a greyhound in the slips? Good lad. And could you also at least try not to prod tentatively at good-length balls outside your off stump. What was that, Alastair? I’m a hypo-what?”

4. “If the whole of the top six can throw their wickets away irresponsibly for 97 thus letting the rest of the team down, we’ll be in with a chance.”

5. “Belly, I have full confidence in you. I am absolutely sure you’ll be able to get a full tray of drinks out to the middle in an hour’s time without spilling any of it. I know you can do it at this level.”

6. “Mmm. These guys are a bit better than we expected, aren’t they? Mmm. What to do? Right, got it. Hey guys, I want to get rid of the coach. Can someone leak that into the public domain please. Thanks.”

Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on the BBC Radio 4, and a writer

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