This article is a work of fiction
Like a couple forced into fumbling intimacy after a hastily arranged marriage, the England squad and their new Australian coach have come together somewhere in romantic Spain for the express purpose of getting to know each other better. Except, things haven't quite panned out as expected, if the following leaked excerpts from Paul Farbrace's diary are anything to go by.
1:05pm Just arrived at our unspecified location in Spain. The venue is so secret even we don't know where we are yet, LOL. But the anonymity is nice. Lots of people here who seemingly have no idea who we are. Which marks a welcome change from the lots of people back home who have no idea who we are. I think.
1:35pm Not even the hotel staff seem to have been alerted to the fact that we're an international cricket team. It's really refreshing. Never mind that Jimmy Anderson threw a hissy fit after someone at reception failed to recognise him and asked if he was here for the Spanish Real Estate Investment Forum being held in Conference Hall No. 1.
3:00pm Everyone looking relaxed, if a bit bored. Rather a good idea, it must be said, to have left all our equipment behind and come here (wherever here is) for the sole purpose of getting to know each other better. We've certainly learnt a lot about each other already in the time spent sitting around the lobby staring at each other's faces waiting for coach to show up. Before this trip, for example, I hadn't noticed the extent to which Stuart Broad's hair has started to thin out. And as I kept staring and seeing him as a prematurely old man, I had a weird Benjamin Button-type vision of him as how he must have looked as a newborn as well. Turns out there isn't much difference. Where the **** is Trevor already.
5:00pm Checked the bar but he isn't in there. Only Joe Root, looking pretty pleased with himself. "No one stops you at the door asking to see proof of age here!" he said, breath reeking of sangria. Ordered him back to the lobby to join the others.
5:45pm Hysteria in the ranks as unconfirmed sighting of Kevin Pietersen reported by hotel personnel. "How come they know who he is but not us?" an irate Jimmy Anderson wanted to know. Turns out it was just a practical joke played on us by some other English guests. For shame.
7:00pm Still no sign of Trevor. His mobile is switched off and there doesn't appear to be anyone in his room. Hope he's all right. Rumours flying around among the boys now that he's developed cold feet about coaching an England team against his own country in an Ashes series, which, the more you think about it, the more insane it sounds. Perhaps this is all an Australian conspiracy to sabotage us? Not for the first time do I find myself wondering: what the hell are we even doing here?
9:00pm Sent everyone up to their rooms for the rest of the evening while I try to figure things out. Am sure this mess is just the result of a lapse in communication down the line somewhere. Called the boss back in London and he said he hasn't heard from Trevor either, but that "he's probably passed out on the beach somewhere". "We're near a beach?" I asked, but the call was hurriedly disconnected.
12:03am Woke up to the sound of a piece of paper being hurriedly shoved under my door. It appears to be some kind of cryptic message, written in a fevered, manic scrawl by someone obviously not of sound mind:
In bull-fighting they speak of the terrain of the bull and the terrain of the bull-fighter. As long as a bull-fighter stays in his own terrain he is comparatively safe. Each time he enters into the terrain of the bull he is in great danger. - Ernest Hemingway
The quote is followed by a note addressed to me: "Seems to me, Paul, that the question we must ask ourselves is: what kind of bullfighter do we want to be?"
I opened the door just a crack. "Trevor?" I called out tentatively. There was no answer. I shut the door, double-bolted it, and sat down on my bed, staring at the note. Dear God, I thought, don't tell me we've copped the worst of a John Buchanan-type situation here.
10:00am Asked at reception what activities or tourist spots there are around town that we might indulge in, but the man just laughed apologetically and said he couldn't divulge any of that information lest we find out where in Spain we are.
11:30pm False alarm just now as someone said there had been a Trevor-sighting by the pool. We all rushed over and saw a shirtless, flabby, well-oiled man roasting in a deck chair with a straw hat pulled low over his face. Cook, who other than me is the only English person in existence to have actually met Trevor, immediately dismissed the likelihood of it being the coach, as the man in question was clearly not an Australian, there being a distinct lack of corks dangling from the brim of the hat. Good work there by the skipper.
12:45pm Finally, some good news. Just found Trevor. Apparently all this time he's been attending the Spanish Real Estate Investment Forum being held in Conference Hall No. 1. "I've always wanted to own property in Spain," he offers by way of introduction. "Follow me," he says and we stride after him briskly down the corridor to Conference Hall No. 3.
1:00pm "Before we begin the process of getting to know each other better," he declares from a podium at the front of the room, "I've arranged for a very special guest to say a few words to you." Someone with a strangely unsettling yet familiar face, like a cross between Ramiz Raja and a late-stage Michael Jackson, gets up from the front row and takes his place behind the podium. We realise it is Shah Rukh Khan, owner of Kolkta Knight Riders, of which Trevor is, as far as we know, still coach.
Shah Rukh spends the next hour holding forth about the importance of how, if one is to succeed at something, one must first and foremost go about projecting an image of success, and that the first step towards doing that is to wax one's chest.
2:00 pm Trevor passes around a mic, tells everyone to stand up and introduce himself. After all of us have done that, he stands up himself and announces: "And I'm Trevor Bayliss. With that finally out of the way, I think you'll agree we've achieved what we came out here to Spain to do. You're free to do as you please with the rest of your time here. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some business to attend to next door in Conference Hall No. 1."
All quotes and "facts" in this piece are made up, but you knew that, didn't you?
R Rajkumar tweets @roundarmraj