Aftab Ahmed is one of us
I don't know about you, but I find it hard to warm to professional cricketers these days. It might be that we pay them too much - as the old saying goes: 'You pay golden peanuts, you get monkeys with expensive watches', or it could be their tweeting. When Mr Twitter announced to his pet parrot one morning that he'd just dreamt about a fantastic new way for the citizens of the world express themselves, I'm sure he never imagined it would end up being used by professional cricketers to tell us they'd just had their dinner.
Personally, I think we should look to the Romans for guidance on how to treat our popular athletes. Like cricketers, gladiators performed in arenas full of baying crowds, had short careers (in some cases, extremely short) and were fond of a tattoo. But the Romans didn't pay them, did not allow them to write autobiographies, and would have taken a dim view of any gladiator who wanted time off to fight in the Parthian Premier League.
Yet just when you think the modern cricketer is beyond redemption, you read a quote like this from Chittagong batsman and last decade's next big Bangladeshi thing, Aftab Ahmed:
"Laziness has got the better of me. Even though I try very hard to overcome laziness I have a tough time succeeding. This is the truth, no point lying."
Finally, a cricketer you can relate to. It is often assumed by members of the 1% that those of us in the 99% don't reach the top of our chosen profession because we lack the talent. This is not true. It isn't that we couldn't do it. It's just that we can't be bothered.
When you've spent your day gazing at boring spreadsheets, attending dreary meetings at which dull people talk to you about boring spreadsheets, and hoping someone else will answer that damn phone, do you want to spend your evening reading through the fine print of that new stationery ordering software with the silly acronym, and memorising this quarter's 17-point mission statement? Or do you want to eat crisps and watch TV?
A modern cricketer spends most of his day running, catching, throwing, stretching, sweating and bragging about how much his bat weighs. And he does it for 20 years or more. All that striving, sacrificing and forcing down endless plates of pasta must do strange things to an individual. So the process of becoming a successful cricketer inevitably filters out normal people who've got better ways to spend their spare time.
To make a career out of something you enjoy is a sure route to contentment. But only a masochist would enjoy the exhausting and monotonous lifestyle of the modern cricketer. Aftab clambered his way to the top of the mountain, but when he got there, he didn't find a lost valley of beauty and enchantment, just a range of ever bigger, uglier mountains stretching forever into the distance. So he came back down again. He isn't lazy. He's a well-balanced human being. And I'd like to read his autobiography.
Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England