August 19, 2013

Why Australia are in pieces

There's a fair few reasons, and this column will take you through them all

There's been a lot of pontification in the media about the Aussies' under-performance in this Ashes series and how we've managed to get into a 3-0 lead with the choke only half-in, or half-out, whatever. Pod thinks the reason's simple.

Before the last few tours the boys from Oz'd break their Qantas journey around the two-thirds mark (or after 96 tinnies, using the official "Boony" measurement) to visit the legendary battlefield of Gallipoli in Turkey - originally called "Gallipol" apparently, before the Aussies added their affectionate "i" on at the end. There they'd swap the baggy green for World War I "slouch" hats and recreate pictures of playing cricket in the trenches, complete with specially recreated sledging ("Your wife's a suffragette, mate").

Sure, the photos attracted a lot of criticism from veterans' associations and commercial managers who thought they were missing a Herb Adams Meat Pie stall in the background, but to be fair it helped give the Aussies a bit of backbone for when they had to go over the top, walking through the Long Room or fielding in front of the jabbering hordes of natives on Headingley's Western Terrace.

But this time Pup got into some kind of metrosexual mindset that told him it would be better to hand over the mental preparation to someone old enough to remember what an Aussie victory felt like. But what does Shane Warne do? Take the lads to Spearmint Rhino or for an afternoon on Oblivion at Alton Towers? No, they all went to a feel-good festival of Richard Curtis films curated by Liz Hurley, Warney's other half (or three-quarters more like, judging by the weight he's mysteriously lost from his face).

Add that to the psychological damage caused by the Aussies' discovery that both The Bill and Heartbeat have finished since they were last here, meaning they've got to prepare loved ones back home for some devastating news in about seven years or so, and you're looking at an outfit not only in disarray but in more bits than a restaurant table David Warner's just performed gangnam-style on.

Pod was determined to avoid these schoolboy errors with the England lads, so on their extra day off after Chester-le-Street I took them all up to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, figuring that it would harden them up ready for the next Ashes series Down Under, giving them a sense of what it's like to be among 50,000 Aussies who all think they're hilarious. And I'd be dishonest if I didn't say I was also on the lookout for nickable jokes I could use in my own forthcoming winter campaign on the after-dinner circuit.

We couldn't even drink ourselves into a stupor, with lager at a tenner a pint - stacking up plastic glasses to make a decent-sized snake would have cost you the thick end of your central contract

But oh dear. Have you ever seen some of those shows up there? They're about as much of a laugh as sitting through an Andy Flower press conference (with his roll-'em-in-the-aisles catchphrase "You've got to respect them"). After a couple of performances by so-called cutting-edge stand-ups even Swanny was lying on wet cobblestones looking like he'd just gone for a 100-over none-fer.

Sample joke one, from a speccy boy in a t-shirt I couldn't quite read from the back of the crowd, but it was something like "Keep Calm and Carry On Asking For Money from your Parents": "Remember what it was like when you were a kid and ate too many Spangles at once and your poo came out all different colours?" Sample joke two, from a speccy girl: "Remember what it was like when you were a kid and ate too many sherbet fountains, and your wee came out all frothy?"

Okay, so all the speccy kids in the audience loved it. But if a professional like Dave Podmore tried those out at my next gents' supper entertainment in Hinckley I'd be bombarded with rum babas. Or if it was one of my select do's for Chief Constables and their lady wives, a hail of taser bullets - and what's more I'd deserve it. We couldn't even drink ourselves into a stupor, with lager at a tenner a pint - stacking up plastic glasses to make a decent-sized snake would have cost you the thick end of your central contract.

So don't be surprised if the sides arrive at The Oval more evenly matched. We've just got to hope that the Aussies are still demoralised after realising they're at least five Doctor Who's behind. To be honest, I was a bit surprised the BBC didn't look to the county championship for a new Doctor. If being 903 and having gone through 43 attractive sidekicks is all that's required, there's plenty of guys on the circuit who could have done a job. Fair play to the sweary bloke who got the nod but does he bring any more to the party than a Crofty or a Pod or a Karl Krikken? And how about Caddy as a wild card? He'd be no mug with the sonic screwdriver, judging by the way he fixed my Walkman in 1991.

Dave Podmore, holder of more giant cheques than any other cricketer, is the creation of Christopher Douglas, Nick Newman and Andrew Nickolds