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Sue de Groot

The holidays cricketers take

Now that we know what Freddie does in Dubai and what Ramps takes on tour, can't hardly wait for other players to spill the beans about their secret hideaways

Sue de Groot

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Andrew and Rachael Flintoff in front of the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building, January 28, 2010
Andrew and Rachael Flintoff invite you to taste the magic of Dubai © Getty Images
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While Pakistan mourns the loss of next year's World Cup, the IPL is going full-steam ahead despite some concerns about security. This is a great relief to the shareholders as well as to millions of cricket fans in India and beyond, but there might be a few players who, disregarding the lure of riches, would rather stay at home where baked beans and Marmite are in plentiful supply.

Cricket tours aren't nearly as challenging as they used to be, however. These days, cricketers are treated like valuable commodities. They don't face the same deprivations when away from home as their compatriots did in earlier days.

Former England cricketer David Gower reminisces on the Telegraph's website about travelling with a county team in the seventies, when budgets were tight. "We were put up in one hotel in Tunbridge Wells. The man who was running the hotel kindly offered us early-morning tea or coffee, but then added that only six of us could actually take up the offer because he only had six cups."

This year's IPL players surely don't have to worry about a lack of cups, though they might face other anxieties, one of which is remembering not to insult the host country, as Ian Botham did Pakistan in 1984 by saying, "Pakistan is the sort of place every man should send his mother-in-law to, for a month, all expenses paid."

This heedless comment has followed Botham like a stalking fan. When he was dismissed in the World Cup final against Pakistan in 1992, Aamer Sohail commented, "You should have sent your mother-in-law."

To make amends, Botham spent his 50th birthday in Faisalabad in 2005. A journalist from the Independent had the temerity to bring up his mother-in-law, and Botham was quick to employ the politician's defence, saying his words had been taken out of context.

"I was very ill the first time I toured here,"he said, "and the second time I had a knee injury. It's a great place and I'd like to have played more Test cricket here."

Pakistan has forgiven Botham, and the World Cup brouhaha has nothing to do with his mother-in-law's holiday plans. In any case, his insult wasn't nearly in the same league as that levelled at New Zealand by Scott Johnson, then assistant rugby coach for Wales. Before his team was to play the All Blacks, Johnson said, "New Zealand is just a poxy island in the Pacific." When given the chance to apologise, he said, "Sorry, New Zealand is just two poxy islands in the Pacific." As I always say, cricket is a far politer and more civilised sport than rugby.

Back to travel. Becoming a world-class cricketer today means also becoming a seasoned traveller. In this respect, cricketers are just like other people - some hate travelling and some love it. But the necessity for flying about the world, whether on tour or holiday, has created a whole new avenue for cricketers to express themselves: by writing about their travels.

The Telegraph website is one of many that markets travel destinations by getting celebrities to tell the world where they go to get away from all the fuss. Until someone tells these celebrities that revealing their secret hideaways might result in those spots becoming, well, less secret, we're promised a whole slew of revelations.

The last one I read was called "Andrew Flintoff's Dubai" and although Dubai isn't exactly the travel industry's best-kept secret, and Fred didn't exactly talk about anything other than the obvious, he did at least provide some insider information for those who go to the Gulf to gamble. "We went to the opening of the city's Meydan Racecourse the other week," he wrote. "It's an awesome place. I have a share in two horses here, one called Our Giant and the other called Wonder Lawn."

If you're the betting sort, consider yourself tipped. The big horse might win; the other one is likely to stop and snack on the grass.

Botham has also been interviewed. He says the biggest mistake he ever makes when travelling, whether to Pakistan or elsewhere, is trying to pack for himself. "My wife usually does the packing," he says. One wonders who helped him when he had to go on tour without her. "Excuse me coach, what goes in this box?"

Darren Gough, on the other hand, is meticulous about his own packing. "I always over-pack but especially when I used to go on cricket tours," he says. "I love my clothes, so I'd take lots of them. I would even take eight pairs of cricket trousers, while others would only take three."

It's best to be prepared, and not only with enough clothing. Australia's Matthew Hayden used to travel with a kerosene stove in order to cook up a home-style feast in his hotel room (only for batsmen, allegedly) and in Nagpur he baked his own fresh bread. Others take more predictable emergency supplies, like Mark Ramprakash, who says, "I take some books, although I'm not a great reader." I know what he means. I always take a few yachts on holiday with me, although I'm not a great sailor. I like having them there, next to the bed. In case there's a flood or something.

I don't know about you, but I can't wait to find out what the rest of the world's cricketers have to say about their holidays. Now that Freddie has done Dubai, what rare treats might we look forward to? Perhaps we'll get Graeme Smith's Guam ("I'm just chewing this place up") or Kevin Pietersen's Minsk ("I like it here because I'm not the only one in a furry hat") or Shahid Afridi's Pamplona, because who needs ball-biting when you have bull-baiting?

RSS FeedSue de Groot is a Johannesburg-based journalist, columnist and television scriptwriter

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Sue de Groot is a Johannesburg-based journalist, columnist and television scriptwriter. Formerly managing editor of men's magazine Directions, features writer for Femina and assistant editor of Cosmopolitan, she is now features editor of Food & Home Entertaining. She wrote the "Wicket Maiden" column for the Wisden Cricketer SA until that magazine's sad demise, and tries to restrict herself to writing about life's six highest pleasures: food, gardening, books, films, cats and cricket.

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Sue de Groot Sue de Groot is a Johannesburg-based journalist, columnist and television scriptwriter. Formerly managing editor of men's magazine Directions, features writer for Femina and assistant editor of Cosmopolitan, she is now features editor of Food & Home Entertaining. She wrote the "Wicket Maiden" column for the Wisden Cricketer SA until that magazine's sad demise, and tries to restrict herself to writing about life's six highest pleasures: food, gardening, books, films, cats and cricket.
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