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Burnout. It is the scourge of our times. And it can devastate lives. In fact, it struck this very morning. I had just sat down to my usual orderly breakfast, my eggs perfectly boiled, my toast symmetrically aligned and my butler standing ready with the Lady Grey. All that was missing was a crisp pile of fan mail. The clock ticked on inexorably. Eight thirty-one. Eight thirty-two. The toast cooled. Outside on the lawn, a cricket chirped. Silence reigned.
Then, instead of the comforting rattle of a brass letterbox, I was shaken by the shrieking of a polyphonic Freddie Mercury. I had received a text message from my local sorting office, informing me that my postman was unable to fulfill his contractual duties today. He had, it emerged, been delivering letters and parcels for 15 of the last 21 days and the Post Office management had decided to give him a rest, lest his letterbox-stuffing career be cut short.
My breakfast was ruined. The eggs were two degrees below their optimum edible temperature and my butler had sustained third-degree teapot burns. But I was not angry. You see, dear reader, I felt that poor mailman’s pain. I too have fallen victim to the curse of burnout.
Yes, I am ashamed to say that midway through the recent Natwest series between England and Australia, I experienced what can only be described as a spasm of ennui. I simply couldn’t watch another nudged single or another clumsy fielding pratfall. I was running on empty. I knew that if I didn’t take a break, I would be placing my sanity in jeopardy.
So I took off to the races and asked a chum to help out. He dutifully stood in for me during the fifth and sixth (or it may have been the ninth and 10th) matches, allowing me to return fresh and invigorated to catch the 17th game of the series and England’s statistically inevitable victory.
And it was whilst standing on the heath at Newmarket, watching those beautiful, athletic thoroughbreds galloping up the Rowley Mile, that a solution to the problem of player burnout occurred to me. Racehorses are sensitive, intelligent creatures. They are only in it for the hay, and yet in order to entertain us they are forced to run and run and run and occasionally thwacked with a leather whip, through no particular fault of their own.
So I have contacted the ICC’s disciplinary department to suggest a similar motivational tool for recalcitrant freelancers and lazy-arsed franchise employees. Take that, Mr Anderson, and get moving! Your job is to play cricket. We pay money. You play. That’s the deal. No, Mr Collingwood, I’m not interested in your bruised thumb, your dicky knee or your general feeling of world-weariness. Just shut up and play. And while you’re at it, do it better, too!
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Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. Providing his ransom demands continue to be met, he has promised never to write a whimsical book about village cricket. @hughandrews73