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Michael Clarke surveyed the Lord's dressing room. He felt empty. Thin. Like too little suncream smeared over too much deceptively powerful forearm. Nothing seemed to give him any pleasure these days. He reached into his kitbag and pulled out a tube of Pup Signature MetroMan Sport Moisturiser, the very first men's cosmetic product he had endorsed, all those years ago. Good times.
Just batting, Bingle, grooming and trying to get an "At Home" photospread in G'Day Magazine.
It seemed that the only care he had in the world was hair care. That and not getting beaten up by the likes of Katto and Mr Cricket.
He squeezed the tube, his skin tingling in anticipation for the soothing, revitalising but definitely not girly balm of the revolutionary reinvigorating formula. The muscle memory of moisturisers past. Nothing came out. Not a dribble. Just a sorry, whistling little sigh. Empty. Spent. He threw the useless tube across the dressing room. Shane Watson reacted quickest, instinctively lunging at it with his big, fat, stupid blond leg.
"Definitely out," said Chris Rogers. "Definitely hitting his leg. Stumps. Camera thing. Whatever that modern smartarse rule is."
It seemed that being struck by the small tube of moisturiser had injured Watson severely, perhaps permanently. "Every cloud," muttered Clarke.
Sad, empty and unmoisturised though he was, Clarke knew what he had to do. He had to raise the blokes' spirits. Sure, Boof was doing his bit. And sure, if Eddie Cowan couldn't chug a tinny while farting "Waltzing Matilda", power-chaining a fag and getting a Double Drongo Burger with all the trimmings down the hatch in a warm order, then maybe it was time to take him out of the front line and give him an opportunity to put the writing pencils down and man the eff up. But team morale was the captain's responsibility. And Pup had a few ideas. Better than that, he had a few special advisors.
"Right boys," began Clarke. "I've asked some baggy gree--"
The dressing-room door burst open. In charged Pigeon, AB, Warnie, DK, Big Merv, Alfie, Haydos, Tugga, Punter, Nodger, Nadger, Pumper, Lucky Pete, Bluey, Two Fags, Other Bluey, Tayls, Rayls, Nails, One Foot, One Foot's mate Nick the Greek, the Late Clarrie Grimmett, and Warnie's lovely fiancée Elizabeth Hurley.
They all began shouting at once.
"Got to stay focused."
"Hit a spot just short of a length."
"Run the first one hard."
"Never turn your back on an unopened tinny."
"Or a Pommie."
"That's right. Never turn your back on an unopened Pommie."
"Drink the first one hard."
"Of course, if you're in trouble, just give the ball to a legend of the game and win."
And on and on with their tales of glory and mateship and moustaches and sticking it to the Poms.
Clarke stood in the centre of the dressing room. The noise was very loud. He felt very small. He could see Warnie, and One Foot's mate Nick The Greek, trying to sell young Steve Smith a wig. Ashton was nodding politely as he tried to follow a story Other Bluey was telling him about an after-hours drinking and dogfighting club near Old Trafford. Nadger and Rayls were beating the living daylights out of Phil Hughes.
Was this helping? It had to be, didn't it? These blokes were legends. They must know the answer. Clarke caught sight of the discarded tube of moisturiser; it was being trampled on and scuffed around in the scrum.
He was on his own now. Unmoisturised.
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Alan Tyers writes about sport for the Daily Telegraph and others. He is the author of six books published by Bloomsbury, all of them with pictures by the brilliant illustrator Beach. The most recent is Tutenkhamen's Tracksuit: The History of Sport in 100ish Objects. Alan is one of many weak links in the world's worst cricket team, the Twenty Minuters.