South Africa August 24, 2011

1000% committed? Sorry, not good enough

The new benchmark is 100,000%

Saturday, 20th August Australian inflation is out of control. Don’t believe me? Today Tim Nielsen said he was 100,000% behind Australia being the best team in the world. We live in hard times, friends, and 100% or even 110% just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Or perhaps he was hoping to scare off his potential replacements with the sheer numerical magnitude of his platitude. Maybe Mickey Arthur is sitting at home shaking his head thinking, “Damn, I was good for 1000% but even I can’t get away with claiming 100,000%. Reckon I won’t bother applying after all.”

It won’t work, of course. Nielsen is toast. He is toast that has been in the toaster so long that it has set off the smoke alarm, and when it is finally popped out will be going straight into the bin with the potato peelings, the cold coffee grinds and yesterday’s Daily Telegraph. Still, he shouldn’t worry. With such a cavalier approach to numeracy, a career in the investment banking industry surely awaits.

Sunday, 21st August A few weeks ago Shahid Afridi announced he was retiring from public life, adding that this was a conditional retirement, which we could have guessed, since all of his other retirements have been conditional (on his remembering why it was that he retired). In fact, his entire career has been conditional, a litany of ifs, maybes and what-might-have-beens-if-only-he-hadn’t-done-that.

And now, in the least surprising piece of sports news since we learned that MS Dhoni was “a bit disappointed” with the way his summer had gone, we learn that the man with the lovely hair is un-retiring. In response, the ICC has moved the level of Afridiness in world cricket from Shahid 5 up to Shahid 3, in anticipation of the return of the prodigal. And Professor Spectacles, Head of Afridi Studies at the Lahore Institute of Chaos, is very excited by this latest Afridi-related development.

“I have been mapping Shahid bhai’s public statements on this graph, where the x axis represents time and the y axis represents degree of craziness, and as you can see, if you join all the dots on the graph, it actually forms a reclining profile of Imran Khan’s face. This is a hugely significant development for Pakistan cricket, probably.”

Tuesday, 23rd August While the England players nurse tender heads and try to remember where they left their keys, swear to themselves that they will never again mix vintage Bollinger with James Anderson’s aunty’s homemade gooseberry brandy, and attempt to piece together what happened last night from the photographs in the tabloids, a collection of the toughest, roughest men ever to wear silly sunglasses has assembled at a top-secret location. Their mission: Destroy England. And do some other stuff first.

I like the fact that South Africa are calling their pre-season get-together a camp. It puts you in mind of a spartan facility somewhere on the savannah with tin-roofed shacks, rudimentary showers and barbed-wire fences, seven miles from the nearest water hole and surrounded by man-eating lions, psychotic rhinoceroses and mean-spirited giraffes. In reality it is the Arabella Golf Estate near Cape Town, although I hear that some of the bunkers are pretty brutal.

And though there is some tiresome business involving Australia and Sri Lanka to get through first, Allan Donald, South Africa’s new verbal-abuse co-ordinator, has already made a start on next summer’s sledging (because it’s never too early to tell someone you’re going to knock their f*****g head off), by leaving rude and frankly sarcastic messages on the voicemail of each member of the England batting order, and Ravi Bopara (just in case). And to ram the message home, every South African player has been asked to tick “Don’t Like” on the “England Are Number One” Facebook page.*

*Under the EU Satirical Remarks Concerning Countries Of Origin Quota Agreement, I am not allowed at this point to make humorous reference to the birthplaces of certain members of a certain northern European cricket team being not entirely and in every respect without the borders of a populous republic situated towards the southern end of the African continent. So please feel free to attach your own. And don’t forget Jade Dernbach.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England