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The Long Handle

Is it harsh to hurl feline-related insults at England?

Or is Alastair Cook being a bit catty?

Andrew Hughes
Andrew Hughes
Alastair Cook and Graeme Swann share a light moment, Dubai, January 5, 2012

"Wait, till we win the World Cup. Then the cat will get your tongue"  •  Getty Images

Not so long ago, England's disaster stew was simmering away nicely and we were preparing to tuck into a hearty feast of failure and recrimination. Then they won the Test series and we all felt a bit empty.
So thank goodness Graeme Swann has given us something to chew on. On Monday he flung a deadly animal analogy at his former captain, claiming that England have "a cat in hell's chance" of winning the World Cup.
He speaks with authority. As the holder of an Intermediate Diploma in Cat Rescue, Graeme is well acquainted with the inability of cats to escape from tricky situations.
But as any ten-year-old girl knows, the first law of the playground is to never let an insult stand, even when it comes from your BFF, so on Thursday Alastair hit back:
"His remarks were not helpful - especially from a so-called friend."
Alastair's retort may seem unfair. Graeme is working for the media now, and the job of the media, when it isn't showing you blooper footage, trying to sell you junk you don't need and talking about itself, is to ask difficult questions.
But we shouldn't be too harsh. All of the areas of life in which Alastair has excelled - choral singing, cow-milking and cricket - are notorious for their rigorous team ethic and code of silence. It is well known, for example, that the Cosa Nostra was full of former choir boys, many of whom learned their trade in the shadowy corridors of St Paul's Cathedral:
"Hey, Vinny, did you hear that new boy sing?"
"Yeah, he couldn't hit that top C with a stepladder."
"Thinks he's some kind of wise guy.
"You want I should pay him a little visit?"
"Yeah, take care of him. Only do it real quiet. It's very echoey in here."
Farming is no different. How would you feel if one of the cows you'd been squeezing went to the press and told the world that your udder manipulation skills were waning and that your hands were too cold? As the old dairy farming saying puts it: "What happens in the milking shed, stays in the milking shed."
When Alastair finally stops doing real things for a living and has to spend his time sitting in commentary booths talking nonsense, or approving ghost-written gibberish for the Daily Drivel, then he will understand.
Meanwhile, we should enjoy the fact that whilst Graeme's remarks were not helpful, they were the first interesting remarks he has made all summer, and this juicy morsel of disagreement should be enough to keep us going until a certain Kevin releases a certain eagerly anticipated piece of literature, provisionally entitled Fifty (More) Ways To End Your International Career.

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