September 25, 2013

Spare a thought for the headline writers

Without Graham Onions in the squad, the pun bank may run dry

The continuing international exile of Graham Onions is not just bad news for Graham Onions, it's bad news for editors, caption-scribblers and obscure bloggers everywhere. Sadly, over the last three years, thanks to the slings, arrows, plaster casts, a worn cartilage and splints of outrageous fortune, we've all had to adjust to the idea that we may never get to use those headlines we've spent many happy hours polishing on long winter nights.

For instance, I was looking forward to reading "Graham's four-fer makes Aussies eyes water" to mark the day in December when our hero, on the way to almost taking five wickets, would hit Shane Watson amidships with a skiddy long hop, causing the blond behemoth to cry like Peppa Pig's little brother George when he's lost his toy dinosaur.*

For a while there was an outside chance of an Onions-Harbhajan confrontation, ideally during the lunch interval, perhaps when Graham took a wrong turn into the Indian players' dining room and helped himself to a plateful of food, only to discover that the plate belonged to the Turbanator, who had been looking forward to his spicy fried vegetable starter, and who was now hopping mad, thereby justifying the headline: "Onions argy-bargy over Bhajji's onion bhajji".**

We still have "Onion rings the changes" if he should ever become chairman of selectors, but to be honest, that's a bit feeble, even by the standards of tabloid root-vegetable puns.

What about the rest of the England squad? Gary Ballance's presence could open the door to all manner of sophisticated weights-and-measures wordplay, but in the absence of any players called Scales, Payments, the Force, Diet, or Trapeze, it looks like there'll be slim pickings. If the tourists re-enact one of their 1990s Ashes injury-and-defeat expeditions then "England lose Ballance" may get an airing, but I won't hold my breath.

It seems, then, that we will be relying on Monty Panesar for humour, which is, I suppose, why he's on the plane. Don't let anyone tell you he's the second spinner; he's a decoy. Darren Lehmann wants the home crowd to barrack Stuart Broad, but every time they start to get on his back, Alastair will send out 12th man Monty and the Aussies will immediately be distracted by the chance to air their collection of micturition bon-mots.

By the way, since we're on the subject of illicit public watering, non-English readers might have been confused by domestic reaction to the recent examples of this unsavoury practice, and may be under the impression that to the English, urinating in public marks you out as a sort of lovable, incontinent rapscallion, on par with the chap who doesn't pay his parking ticket, or fiddles his expenses, or uses a Murray mint in an illegal manner.

Let me make it clear that public urination, from whatever height, is not considered socially acceptable, and is definitely not a subject from which it is fitting to derive innuendo, off-colour humour or after-dinner anecdotes. Being caught in such an act marks you as a social pariah, a status that takes many months, if not years to live down, as Monty will make clear in his forthcoming confessional, "Leak of faith: my six and a half weeks in the wilderness".

* Readers unfamiliar with the television acting career of George Pig should be able to find footage on the internet of this artist. Few thespians before or since have attained such mastery in the art of crying over a toy dinosaur.

** I would like to apologise to any reader who saw that one coming several sentences ago. That's shallot, and I can give you my assurance I will not be springing any more onion jokes on you, apart from the next one.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England. He tweets here