Australia November 10, 2012

The dummy dossier

South Africans may find the Australians not bowling short or being particularly mean, after all

If history teaches us one thing, it's that human beings just can't be trusted. A civil servant leaves James Bond's Health and Safety Risk Assessment on the 5:47 to Waterloo. With the goal at his mercy, the Bolivian superstar you backed to score the winner trips over his bootlaces and dislocates his pony tail. You warn your co-pilot that on no account should he press that red button, but as soon as you leave the cockpit, you know what will happen.

So we shouldn't be surprised that so many top-secret cricket dossiers end up in the newspapers. Australia's latest is called "Beating South Africa For Dummies" (subtitled: "Or At Least Not Losing Too Badly To South Africa. For Dummies.")

It includes some helpful identification photographs for the younger Australian bowlers who might not recognise Graeme Smith, AB De Villiers or Jacques Kallis, although the South African batting averages are not mentioned, since that might discourage them.

The plan contained in the dossier is a highly sophisticated, completely foolproof strategy for ensuring total Australian supremacy:

1. Look cross 2. Swear a lot 3. Bowl short

Cynics have suggested that, apart from the absence of any mention of growing moustaches or unfastening your top three shirt buttons, this is the same secret plan that Australia have been using for the last 40 years.

There's another problem. Preparing fast bouncy pitches because you've got a lot of fast, bouncy bowlers makes sense, until you remember that South Africa's bowlers are even faster and bouncier. Should you insist on playing to your strengths if your strengths are the same strengths as your opponent' strengths, only not as strong? You might fancy yourself as a bit of a speedster, you might be able to beat all your co-workers in the race for the last doughnut in the cafeteria, but if you wanted to beat Usain Bolt at something, would it be a good idea to invite him to a "running for a short distance in a straight line" contest?

But hang on a moment. What if all is not as it seems? What if this is not really a secret dossier at all, but a plant, a double bluff, a three-card shuffle?

Throughout history, misinformation has been used as a weapon. In 1944 the Allies allowed the Germans to intercept a dossier detailing their plan to unleash a 20-tonne Edam cheese that would roll slowly southwards across the Ruhr crushing everything in its path. (Field Marshall Montgomery's rival plan, involving a 30-foot chunk of Stilton and a catapault, was included at Appendix B).

Perhaps they won't pepper Jacques with nostril-ticklers. Perhaps the pitches will turn out not to be fast and bouncy, but slow and sleepy. Perhaps Pattinson, Siddle and Hilfenhaus will be revealed as Brad Hogg, Xavier Doherty and Nathan Hauritz wearing prosthetic faces, and South Africa will be undone by some moderately capable spin bowling.

And perhaps they won't be rude to Hashim after all. Instead, they will applaud him to the crease, enquire frequently after his health and serve him dainty end-of-over pastries on a little silver tray. Few things are more disorientating on a cricket tour of Australia than politeness. Faced with this insidious civility, he will surely crack. And then, once again, Australia will rule the world…

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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