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Punter probably gets a bad press, but sometimes it seems that journalists only need to poke him with a stick and then press “Record”. This week the grumbler’s grumbler has been disgruntled over the late arrival in Vadodara of the Champions League Three: Brett Lee, Doug Bollinger and Nathan Hauritz. The trio were unable to prepare for Sunday’s game of cricket because they had been playing cricket, and apparently there is no worse preparation for a professional cricketer than to be playing cricket.
The Aussie captain was particularly annoyed because whilst they were away playing cricket, they were altogether unavailable for the tactical seminars conducted by Team Australia ahead of the first one-day international. Talk of these tactics intrigued me. Were they so complicated that they couldn’t be explained in an hour or two on the morning of the match? Does Brett Lee really need to attend a workshop on how to bowl at Sachin Tendulkar?
Probably not, I thought. But then I am not an initiate in the Byzantine complexities of the great game. All us plebs need to know is that these “tactics” exist and that they are so fiendishly difficult that they need several days to fully explain. Or perhaps the tactics are fairly simple but the cricketers are relatively dim. Maybe the days leading up to an international are spent in a classroom with a slack-jawed Lee staring uncomprehendingly at a whiteboard upon which General Ponting has drawn a picture of some stumps with the word “stumps” written underneath in large capital letters.
Then there was the stirring tale of Nathan Hauritz and his dash across India to answer his nation’s call. The headlines told it all. Words like, “weary”, “sleep-deprived” and “frenetic schedule” all featured prominently. A little further reading uncovered the details of Hauritz’s horror timetable, beginning after Friday night’s Champions League Final. Left dressing room at 1am. Caught flight at mid-day. Arrived 8:30pm on Saturday night, a mere 12 hours before the toss. Wait a minute, what was that first item again? Left dressing room at 1am?
“Becoming the inaugural champions, you still have to celebrate with your team-mates,” said Hauritz. Do you? When you have an important flight to catch the next day?
“It was tough”, he elaborated. Wouldn’t it have been a little less tough if he hadn’t stayed up till 1am celebrating? And is one-and-a-half games of cricket in 48 hours really such a problem? Does trundling in to send down a few offbreaks, then doing the same thing two days later really warrant such dramatic headlines?
Now I like Hauritz. I enjoyed watching him confound his critics during the Ashes. And he is not entirely to blame for how this “story” was written. Cricket has become a kind of celebrity circus, with its performers surrounded by agents busily spinning and journalists anxious for access, all of them peddling narcissistic claptrap about burnout, fatigue and the weariness of the long-distance spinner.
So in a spirit of philanthropy, I have decided to help out. I am setting up franchises of Hughes’ House of Snacks at airports around the world. Staffed by employees working 12-hour shifts on minimum wages, these outlets of enlightenment will specialise in early-morning coffee and delicious reality sandwiches for those who have recently spent a lot of time with their head in the clouds.
Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in EnglandFeeds: Andrew Hughes
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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