March 13, 2013

International cricketers are miserable too

Think your life's a drudge and a chore? Well, join the queue, why don't you?

Being an international cricketer sounds like fun. Stretching your calves on first-class flights, tweeting about some tatty vehicle you're being paid to like, launching into the occasional burst of activity on a field, offering a few platitudes for the cameras, then being driven back to a five-star hotel for the serious business of ordering exotic snacks from room service and beating your personal best on Celebrity Mole Catcher 2013.

It's a small comfort to us, as we haul our sorry carcasses across town in flu-ridden buses and queue with the other early-morning zombies in franchised coffee-themed-grit retailers, that somewhere on the planet a troupe of young men are enjoying the good life, that the spirit of CB Fry lives on, and that at least one collection of humans is not condemned to the hell of commuting, offices, and pretending that they care about this month's sales figures.

But the truth is that cricketers are prisoners. Not only do they have to spend their time being shouted at by fitness instructors, prodded by doctors and having a team of nutritionists standing over them with clipboards while they eat, if they attempt to sneak out for a quick drink, they are likely to be bundled into a van by the fun police and sent for re-education at Alec Stewart's Clean-Living, Responsibility and Well-Being Camp.

And on top of all that, they have to endure exactly the same gibberish as the rest of us. Time was when it would take a lot for an Australian to be dropped from a touring squad. He'd have to drink so much he forgot how to hold a bat, or steal a plane and buzz the Himalayas. But Watson, Johnson, Khawaja and Pattinson have been cast out because they didn't do their homework - specifically, coming up with three reasons each why Australia aren't winning.

Anyone who has served time in an office has seen all this before. When a company is going down the tubes (often because managers have spent millions on changing the corporate colours from aquamarine to turquoise, or have implemented an exciting new peanut-based remuneration package) said managers often approach their staff in such a fashion, to ask if they've got any ideas to turn things around. Employees tend to respond thus:

1. I don't know, I just do the filing and answer the phone.
2. Anyway, isn't that what you're paid to do?

Four Australians declined to take part. I don't blame them, particularly Watson, who is about to become a father, and presumably has more important things to worry about than scribbling catchy slogans on Post-It's. But in the style of insecure office tyrants the world over, Mickey Arthur has cut off his nose to teach his face a lesson. It's a useful reminder that no matter how young, pretty or talented you are, there's always someone with a flip chart who wants to make your life a little more miserable.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England