Alan Tyers goes behind the scenes
Hobbling around the dressing room mournfully, Simon Katich sang the traditional Baggy Green team defeat song ("Two Little Boys") in an unsettling falsetto. Tinnies were consumed as if on autopilot. Even a game of "Pin The Rug On The Bollinger", normally a surefire morale raiser, had been abandoned before it got going.
Phil Hughes was the first to speak.
"Aw, look--" he began.
Simultaneously, Shane Watson piped up. "Aw, right--"
Both stopped, uncomfortable and embarrassed.
"Sorry, mate," said Watto. "You go on."
Hughes searched in vain for something to say.
"I've forgotten what I was going to speak about," he said, his voice trembling. "I can't even remember a positive-thinking acronym like Mr Alfie taught us. I've failed. I don't belong here. I'd better just go."
Heartbroken, he trudged out of the room. Watson watched him go.
"Don't let the door hit you on the way out, mate," he cried cheerfully. "There's only room for one aggressive but unconventional opener in this team."
Michael Hussey coughed pointedly.
"I mean, I am devastated about the run-out mix-up," said Watson. "I just wish it was me that got out."
Mr Cricket peered at him uncomprehendingly, like a man who invited Steve Waugh round for a couple of tinnies and a watch of his favourite DVD Bloody Great Australian Heroes from Simpson And His Donkey to Toadfish off of Neighbours only to find Steve Smith standing on his doorstep with an Xbox360 and a six-pack of Nesquik.
Mr Cricket sighed and got to his feet.
"You blokes," he said. "As the senior-most awesomely competitive member of the leadership unit, I have been asked by our beloved leader, Ricky, to pass on a message. A decision has been made, and we are to have a new captain."
Watson got to his feet and raised a hand in munificent acceptance.
"Mates, can I just say--" he began.
"Not you mate," said Hussey. "Sorry. It was felt that a radical change of direction was needed in the team. Someone with fresh ideas, someone who can think outside the box, produce something a bit special."
Watson slumped in disbelief.
"Katto, if you please?" said Hussey.
Katich hobbled to the stereo and inserted a CD. The Lion King theme, "The Circle Of Life", boomed out.
"The captain is gone. Long live the captain," shouted Hussey. "Mates, I give you… Mitchell Johnson."
Mitch sat quietly in the corner, playing with an interesting piece of string he had found on the floor.
"Skip," said Hussey. "Skip, say something. You're our new leader."
"Huh?" said Mitch. "Me?"
Hussey nodded. Mitch looked suspicious.
"Do I have to get a different haircut?" he asked. "I like the haircut I've got at the moment."
"No mate, skip, you can keep your haircut."
"Have you checked with my mum?" asked Mitch.
"In that case," said Mitchell. "I am delighted to accept the role of captain of Australia. I look forward to a period of haircut stability, and unrivalled success, as long as we only have to play at Perth. Aussie, Aussie… erm… Aussie?"
Ashes 1896 style, in WG Grace Ate My Pedalo, a Victorian cricket annual by Alan Tyers and illustrated by Beach. Order here and here. All quotes and "facts" in this article are made up (but you knew that already, didn't you?)
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