This, that and the other. Mostly the other
Finally the Twenty20 domestic season is over in England, with Hampshire triumphant. However, but for a stunning catch by Kieron Pollard in the second semi-final, it could have been forgotten England star Samit Patel leading Nottinghamshire to victory. Patel spent some time at Darren Lehmann's academy prior to the start of the season hoping to impress the selectors with his commitment to fitness. So I pitched up at Lehmann's academy to find out what all the fuss was about. The following is a covertly recorded transcript of our meeting.
Darren Lehman: Dan? Thanks for coming. Great to meet you. Anyone given you a beer yet? [burps] Look, let me take you around so you can see for yourself what we're up to. First off there's the bar, which you've seen. Very important part of the holistic approach we have at the Academy. And it's where you learn the first of my mantras for Optimal Conditioning Performance. The beer stays here [pats stomach]. It's bloody obvious but bloody true. I've had some kids come in here, great hands, great footwork, can bowl wrong'uns out of their rear end, but they simply can't hold their beer - chucking up sometimes close to 2000 calories. And that's where all the hard work they do can literally end up down the dunny. In here we work tirelessly on getting the basics right. Eliminate the gag reflex.
DN: And this must be the weight room?
DL: Spot on. See these dumb-bells? Well, you can't find electric scales large enough to weigh the amount of pie that our academicians need to consume, so we hang dumbbells on an old set of medieval scales, to get precise measurements and tailor the food-uptake programme accordingly for each student.
DN: And what's that chap writing on the wall over there?
DL: Well, that's the honours board. Any student who manages to put on five stone or increase his body fat by 100% gets his name up there on the board. We find these pompous gestures of self-importance that hint at some ludicrous immortality to the recipient to be a very helpful motivating factor for your average cricketer. They can be the extra 2% they need.
DN: The first thing that strikes me is the sheer amount of food involved. The cost. The number of chefs...
DL: Ah look, yer know, the guys that end up in here are at their wits' end. They're all top-quality players. We don't accept just anyone. But they'll have tried everything - even entered speed-eating competitions (a useless waste of time, by the way - the fat never stays on). Here at the academy we make a pledge that for every 10 pounds you spend, you put a pound on. And that kind of guarantee attracts the modern cricketer.
DN: So how do your graduates reap the financial rewards?
DL: Well, Dan, like all things at the very apex of sports science, the devil's in the little details. Every one of our students has worked tirelessly but ineffectively up until now to reach the weight required to trigger the release clause in their county or national board contracts, so they can go freelance and get picked up by some filthy-rich Indian Twenty20 franchise. Sammy Patel's a great case in point. Bloody Geoff Miller has been sniffing around him for three years now like a lovelorn bloodhound. He just hasn't been able to shake the bugger off. And the guy leaves these needy messages all the time, so Sammy, bein' a soft Pommie type, tells him he's got this new regime and that. But every time he comes out just a little fatter, not properly humungous. Here, these guys can get away from it all, away from the distractions, and just eat themselves bloody massive.
DN: What happens when they leave the highly structured environment of the academy?
DL: The work continues. Our clothing and accessories scientists have been developing genuinely revolutionary advances that'll change the game for good. You go to India in 100-degree heat and you can lose 3000 calories in a game, no sweat. Career over. So we've developed shin guards you can wear in any fielding position, that pump lard directly into your calf on a timed release. For batsmen we have a specially designed box with an outer tube that feeds cream straight into the scrotum, and naturally all the batting gloves are stuffed with economy sausages. You can eat those and call for a new pair at any time.
DN: You must be very jealous of the new breed of cricketer. Do you ever sit at home bitter and enraged at what might have been?
DL: Ah look, yer know, I've got my academy, my students and the best-stocked bar restaurant in the southern hemisphere. How could I be bitter? This place is a flamin' paradise.
DN: Mr Lehmann, thank you very much.
Daniel Norcross is a founder of and commentator on Test Match Sofa, the alternative cricket commentary. All quotes and "facts" in this article are made up (but you knew that already, didn't you?)
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