April 26, 2014

The truth about Farbrace

Don't tell anyone but he's a double agent

"There's only so much of Danny Morrison I can take" © AFP

The official explanation for the hiring of Paul Farbrace is a straightforward one. Having begun a new era in English cricket by plucking the best CV from a tempting array of applications (Ashley Giles, Peter Moores, Kermit the Frog and Tony Blair) the ECB naturally wanted to recruit a high-quality assistant blame-taker to assist Peter in his three-year mission to stop England from getting any worse.

Paul Farbrace was the obvious choice. Kidnapped by SLC and forced to work for them, he sorted out Sri Lankan cricket from top to bottom in just three months before almost single-handedly winning the Asia Cup and the World T20.

Yet all this time, the saviour of Sri Lankan cricket was being held against his will by the evil masterminds at SLC, languishing in three-star hotel rooms where he existed on meagre rations and IPL commentaries. Every morning, an emaciated Farbrace begged his captors as they brought him his daily bowl of stale crusts and murky tap water.

"Please, can't you make me a bacon sandwich? Or a couple of lamb chops? A pasty? You must have pasties! And show me how to turn off Danny Morrison, I beg you!"

But the guards just laughed, maniacally, in the way that Sri Lankan prison guards are taught to do in Sri Lankan prison guard schools.

"Win Test match, then you get pasty!" laughed the guards.

If the ECB wanted its man, it had to act. So in the dead of night, Wing Commander Clarke flew Allen Stanford's old helicopter deep into the Sri Lankan jungle and dropped a crack team of ECB lawyers behind enemy lines. They infiltrated SLC headquarters, sprayed the building with legal jargon and money, and freed the grateful captive.

Farbrace is now safely back in Blighty - where he can eat all the pasties he can fit on his plate - and has already started work at the ECB's new Centre of Cut Price Excellence (a shed in Peter's garden, fitted with a black and white portable TV and a chalkboard.)

That's the official explanation. But who believes official explanations? I'll tell you who: the same kind of sheeple who believe that men landed on the moon and that Mitchell Johnson's moustache was real.

Something happened to Farbrace during his well-paid (but not all that well-paid) nightmare in South Asia. He is not the man you think he is. He is a double agent.

How do I know this? Have I got access to phone intercepts, secret documents or surveillance footage of Farbrace and Kumar Sangakkara chortling in front of a big white board upon which is written the words: "Top Secret Plan To Undermine The ECB"?

No. I've got something better than that. I've got a hunch.

Think about it. Farbrace has been working with the Sri Lankan players for months. He knows everything there is to know about them. He knows their food allergies, their least favourite film genres, which parts of Mahela Jayawardene are the most ticklish. The ECB hired him so that it could use this information to ensure complete victory in England's up-coming must-win two-Test series against Sri Lanka.

Farbrace will appear to play the ECB's game. He will pretend to like Peter Moores. He will smile politely at Alastair Cook's jokes. But behind the scenes he will be planting false information, tricking Ian Bell into batting left-handed and leaking Peter's top secret "One Hundred Reasons Why I Don't Like Kevin" file to the press.

Then, some time in late June, as the second Test is reaching its conclusion, Farbrace's taxi will arrive at Heathrow. As he listens to the Test Match Special commentators discussing Sri Lanka's shock series victory, Farbrace will smile, reach under his chin and slowly peel off his prosthetic Mission Impossible style face-mask, and the sound of Arjuna Ranatunga's maniacal laughter will echo through the departure lounge.

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