April 5, 2013

'Do you think about the Ashes when you're with me?'

Players' love lives affected by focus on upcoming mother of all series

It's the one question every English or Australian cricketer dreads hearing the most from his wife or partner.

Should he tell her the truth and put his relationship at risk? Or should he remain quiet and lead a tortured double life, taking his terrible secret to the grave?

While there has in recent times been increased awareness and understanding of an issue clearly more widespread than once thought to be, and more support these days for cricketers and their disturbed families as they face up to the realities of this problem (notwithstanding a short-lived Australian don't-ask-don't-tell policy), evidence suggests that most players continue to choose the path of least resistance by keeping mum.

"It's bad enough being questioned by fans and the media whether or not you're thinking about the Ashes while in the middle of a series with another country," explained Ed Cowan, who recently admitted to doing just that while on tour in India, "but when your wife starts to suspect you of doing the same while sharing an intimate moment with her, it's a different ball game altogether."

One man who can vouch for that is Mike Gatting, who has had his fair share of run-ins with infidelity in the past. "Sure I've had my flings and misadventures, but none so challenging and difficult to deal with than the love that dare not speak its name," said the former England captain with a knowing wink.

Gatting went on to narrate the moment his wife found out about his Ashes fantasising. "It was a difficult moment in my life," he admitted. "I had just screamed out 'Ball of the Century? I'll show you Ball of the Century!!', and my wife had pulled away and was now staring at me, demanding an explanation."

Gatting continued: "At first I denied it. Tried to brush it off as the inevitable psychological toll of having too much cricket on the brain. But then later in the week she caught me in a compromising situation in front of the computer.

"I did what any decent family man would do: quickly tried and minimised the open browsers in front of me. But it was too late; she had seen what was on the screen, and knew that I had been watching filthy videos again, of some of the vilest and most degenerate acts of debauchery, which are, frankly, making me blush just to think about now. Worst amongst them by far were images and videos, multiple angles and POVs, of me being bowled around my legs by Warne."

Luckily for Gatting, his wife was understanding about the matter and decided to take him to see a therapist. "It did wonders for our relationship," he said, "and it showed me that with the right kind of understanding and the right kind of partner, this is an issue that can be worked around and lived with."

When pressed to elaborate, Gatting admitted that he and his wife had at their therapist's urging started to include Ashes-fantasising as a healthy part of their life. "We've never been happier," he added, a violent tic pulling at his right eye.

Indeed, therapists and marriage counsellors are increasingly of the opinion that there is nothing wrong with a little Ashes-fantasising in a relationship. "Sometimes a little Ashes role-playing can even spice up a dull relationship," says Dr Marcia Copping. "Just as long as your partner realises that his breathless desire to call you 'The Oval' while he 'goes all Billy Bowden on you' isn't translated beyond the boundaries of your home."

But some just aren't as lucky in love. Alastair Cook, for example, whose incessant lustful daydreaming about the upcoming Ashes not only sabotaged his team's recent tour of New Zealand but also his relationship with his childhood sweetheart-turned-wife, Alice Hunt. "She's shown me the door," said the disconsolate skipper.

"It's true," confirmed Hunt. "People say that cricketers think about the game all the time, even while, you know, asleep in bed, but we WAGs know that when it comes to the Ashes, it's not as innocent as all that. It's a massive violation of the marital bond. If it were just a physical thing it might be somewhat bearable, but it's the apparent emotional connection between our husbands and the Ashes that really breaks our hearts."

Other partners of such cricketers have directed their frustration at the unwelcome "other woman" in their lives. "What they see in that washed up, two-bit hussy of a bilateral series is beyond me," said one young lady who wished to remain anonymous "I mean, she's over a hundred years old!"

R Rajkumar tweets here

All quotes and "facts" in this article are made up, but you knew that already, didn't you?