A Corner of an English Field that is Forever Foreign

Following the complete disaster of England’s first test vrs South Africa, (info correct at the time of going to press) it’s become apparent to the English selectors that they don’t have enough foreign – born players in their ranks. When English cricket has found itself in trouble (and that’s happened more than once down the years) the law books have been scrutinised and harsh critics may say altered to fit our needs.

Many a colonial has found not just a home in England’s green and spinning land, but a decent and lucrative career in playing for our national side before they bugger off to Kerry Packer/Beaches of Durban/The Indian Premiere League (delete where applicable).

A quick glance down the list of the jewels of the Empire which the MCC have gleaned over the years give you some idea why players from Deepest and Darkest are so attractive to them:

Basil D’Oliveira (1966)
Tony Greig (1972)
Allan Lamb (1982)
Ian Greig (1982)
Chris Smith (1983)
Neal Radford (1986)
Robin Smith (1988)
Andrew Strauss (2004)
Kevin Pietersen (2005)
Matt Prior (2007)
Jonathan Trott (2009)

And so keep your eyes peeled for the next in line. A right-handed bat, who bowls occasional off-spin with an occasional wrong ‘un, he averages 48 with the bat and a little over 19 with the bow&arrow.  Mustard in the covers and his running between the wickets is legendary, though his calling needs work, apparently.

From this picture alone, he impresses me more than Ravi Bopara.

The Wrong ‘Un


The South Africans may have Graeme Smith to knock our boys all over The Oval (which, by the way, is neither Kia, nor Brtivic, by the way, just The Oval), but we have Paul Smith to make things of beauty such as below. For just over a hundred quid at your local Harvey Nichols (I tire of popping into mine) you can pick up one of these little beauties to throw at a batsman near you. You may not be able to bowl any better, faster or straighter but armed with balls like these, I’m assured you’ll be able to swing both ways.

Howzat for a couple of bouncers ?

By the way:- I’m running a book on how many piss-poor innings it will take for Ravi Bopara to lose that unbelievably mis-placed swagger of confidence. I grew up when another bloke, I.V.A. Richards used to come to the crease, chewing gum, nonchalantly swinging his bat, swaying his hips and sporting the smuggest of grins. Then he’d set about the attack, (sans helmet or chest guard) with all the aplomb and timing which great batsmen bring to the game. Bopara has perfected the walk and the gum chewing.

There the similarity ends. Viv he certainly ain’t. More reminiscent of Derek Pringle.

Here endeth old git rant #796


Great Touch for a Big Man

Paul Collingwood, having just captained the English cricket team to its first ever victory in a world final (albeit in pyjamas), is reported to have been given a few months of to recoup. He says he feels mentally drained and physically exhausted. It’s been a long season and he’s picked up a ‘couple of niggles’ along the way which ‘aren’t getting any better’. With the Ashes coming up in the winter, the English cricket authorities have begun a rotation system, having rested Andrew Strauss and Jimmy Anderson last winter, Collingwood along with Stuart Broad looks set to recharge his batteries before the main business begins in Australia in November. Broad would certainly need to rest his jaw, given the amount of bleating and whingeing he does on the playing field.

The rotation system of course is a favourite of soccer managers, and Fabio Capello is not different. He may well have to do a bit of it while shepherding his 23 young men through to what he hopes is an appearance in the World Cup Final. He’s not against rotating his opinion as well as his team. He’s already picked unfit players (something he said he wouldn’t) picked players out of position (which he’d previously ruled out) and those out-of form (ditto). Still, so far he’s not budging on the WAG question. The players will only get to see their loved ones once-a-week during the tournament, thus preserving their natural bodily fluids to sweat on the pitches of South Africa rather than in the bedroom/the balcony/the back of a limo. Colleen’s had the first result of the Cup, I reckon, and at least John Terry will be close enough for his team mates to keep an eye on him.

Capello is running a tight ship at the team’s high-altitude training camp in Austria: Peter Crouch has to sleep in the same size bed as everyone else this time round, and has been bollocked for wearing slippers around the camp. Capello likes his boys smartly dressed. It must be some relief to all that King David isn’t in the squad as Christ knows what the boss would have made of him swanning around in a sarong, Victoria’s drawers and slingbacks. The games room is off-limits for most of the side, so Wayne, Rio and company will be barred from playing as themselves on the PS3. Diets will be monitored at all times.

Austria was chosen as the venue for the pre-tour training camp as Capello wanted to replicate as near as damn it the conditions in the High Veldt where the English will be playing their matches. This is where we see the Italians genius: Not only is the atmosphere similarly thin to that in South Africa, but there are almost as many neo Nazis in Austria as they’ll encounter among the farming communities when they arrive down south. Once the competition begins England will make their base in Rustenburg, SA, not to be confused with Rastenburg, Poland where A. Hitler‘s Third Reich XI set up camp during their own quest for world domination.

Historians point out that Hitler’s men may well have succeeded but for the fact that, although they possessed a devastating attack, they were a team packed with right-wingers, and were vulnerable in the air – which an RAF Select XI exploited in the quarter-final played at Biggin Hill.

Hitler's back three discuss zonal defence during summer training at Rastenburg

But I digress.

So taking a leaf out of the books of the great minds from cricket and football, I have decided to rest myself, to recharge my batteries, to get my mind straight. I’ve picked up ‘a couple of niggles’ over the season (which, let’s face it, has lasted since 1983) and they’ve shown no signs of getting any better. In fact I get more niggly as the years pass. My week’s low-altitude training in Amsterdam didn’t pay the dividends I’d hoped for, but I can’t blame the fact my WAG came along with me. No, a strict rotation policy is what I need. I know you think rotating a squad of one is gonna be difficult, but I have a carefully planned strategy to get me through the closed-work season. Playing in a solid 0-0-1 formation, I shall alternate between The Crown, O’Neills and, when I really want to punish myself, The Railway.

In the games room (my couch) I shall play no more than three hours per day, switching from Tiger Woods Golf , FIFA 10, and Red Dead Redemption, which I’ve just had a couple of hours on and is quite superb. Tiger might get squeezed out (not for the first time).

A strict diet from the Sun Bo chinese takeaway (chilli beef me-up), Khans curry house (mismas every time) and the imaginatively dubbed Blackheath Fish and Chips (all major credit cards accepted, and at these prices highly recommended) will keep my girth at the diameter to which it’s accustomed.

I have promised myself the bathroom will be painted, the banisters sanded and the bushes and hedges in the garden kept neat and trim. If I can’t find a source of income soonish, I may have to rent (or even sell) Railway Cuttings, so a month off is a great opportunity to get the house in top shape to impress any potential buyers.

But with 3 World Cup matches every day and villains and varmints to shoot on a video game, I may have to break a promise or two. Now where are my slippers ?


Born to Run

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So there’s this bloke.

I see him most mornings on my way to work. I alight from the train, walk out of the station, and within about 100 yards I see him, running in the opposite direction, presumably for the train. He’s about 35 years old, 5’6”, maybe 5’7”, wears a single-breasted charcoal grey suit, either a schoolboy-blue or light grey shirt, those spongy-souled, mock-hushpuppy shoes which should never be worn with a whistle, and has his iPod plugged into each ear.

He often sports the look of a worried man, and he is always running. Running, not in a jogging lycra-nazi, a fitness fanatic or a health-freak kinda way, but running in a fashion which would be familiar to Jerry Lewis fans everywhere, and of a man who is late for an appointment. I reckon I see him at least three or four times-a-week, depending on which train I catch, and he’s always somewhere between a fast jog and a slow sprint. Some evenings when I’m making the return journey, I see him running in the other direction. Presumably he’s late getting home too.

Each time he passes me I try to catch his eye with a nod, or a polite grin but he’s too immersed in himself and his troubles to take any notice. His eyes are firmly fixed on the pavement about 4 ft in front of him, presumably for fear of falling or tripping. In a flash of flailing elbows and ankles he’s gone, off to catch whatever it is he’s late for. He must humm a bit when he gets to work every morning. I hope they have showers at his office.

Roman Polanski has done his fair bit of running over the years, from the Nazis and from the Law, mainly, but now it seems he’s jogging days may be over. There’s been a lot of hurrumphing over his apprehension by Knacker auf Der Garten in Switzerland over the weekend, and I feel I may have missed a bit of the story somewhere. As I understand it, 30-odd years ago he was in a hot-tub in Jack Nicholson’s house with a 13 yr-old girl during a booze and drugs-fuelled party. Somehow, Roman has sex with the girl, it goes to court and he denies rape. Eventually he admits to consensual sex with a minor and is charged. Before he’s sentenced he does a runner to Europe, where he’s been ever since. Now Pc Trott has slapped the cuffs on him and our diminutive director may have to return to the States to face the music.

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“Shame, Shame!” I hear you cry. “The poor man’s been through a lot. Mother killed by the Nazis, father in Aushwitz, girlfriend murdered by Charles Manson– hasn’t he gone through enough??” Well no-one would say that was the stuff of an Enid Blyton book, but he did have sex with a 13 year old, albeit 35 years ago, and doesn’t that merit some sort of punishment? “But wait! He’s a genius. He directed Rosemary’s Baby and Chinatown, to name but two. His contribution to the Arts must count for something ?” Nope. Not round here, mate.

Mr Paul Gadd has had his request to go on holiday to France refused by the authorities. Paul is a well-known kiddie-fiddler and the powers-at-be are concerned that once in France, he’ll hop over the border the Spain, where I’m told the age of consent is, coincidentally, 13. When Paul had a pop career and went by the name of Gary Glitter, he gave literally some people enormous pleasure with his glam rock numbers. Several no.1s and a great line in Christmas retro concerts endeared him to many, right up until the time that he was exposed as having a serious interest in child porn. Gadd fled the tabloid press (and presumably hopefully, UK sex laws) to South East Asia. Sadly for him, a few years later a court in Vietnam charged him and convicted him with a number of obscene acts with minors. Should this bloke go free because of I love You Love Me Love or The Leader of Gang? I’m sure that there are many who had his picture on the wall of their bedroom throughout the 70’s, and think of the pleasure he brought to so many of the years. Tough.

You can’t blame him for trying to slip through the net from France to Spain though. It’s not the worst getaway plan I’ve heard of this week. Take the two brothers, Wayne and James Snell, who meticulously planned a bank robbery to such fine detail that all went swimmingly well. Sadly for the Brothers Dimm, they used James own BMW as a getaway car. The number plate? J4 MES. Only 78 passers-by remembered the car with the personalised plate parked outside the bank that day, which quickly led Knacker to the brothers’ flat where they were pinched, sitting beside a pile of readdies. Not quite the perfect crime.

Running, clearly, isn’t as easy as we’d like to think. Take poor old Graeme Smith, captain of the South African cricket team. Last night, his team were engaged in a rather entertaining little match against the Bastard English when, 3/4s of the way though the match, Mr Smith went down in cramp spasms. He does this a lot, his career has been dogged by cramp. He’s a big old lump, and probably not what other sportsmen might deem an athlete. Some might say he doesn’t take very good care of his body, given that a lot of cricket is played in sweltering conditions, inducing players to sweat gallons. Clearly incapacitated by cramps in his legs, Smith asked the England Captain, Andrew Strauss for a “runner”. Under the laws of the game, an opposition captain can grant a batsman a “runner” if that player has injured himself during the match, and so is unable to run between the wickets. It’s the sort of sporting behaviour which cricket in general, and us English in particular, are known for. Strauss refused (he was born in South Africa), Smith fumed, then hobbled up-and-down a bit and lost his wicket. England won, which is much more important than playing fair.

CRICKET England 41

It reminded me of a match a long time ago between Sri Lanka and Australia. The Sri Lankan skipper, Arjuna Ranatunga was fat. Fat and sweaty. A man who wasn’t built for running, especially in hot weather. He was built for eating, however he was still a rather good batsmen. During this particular match, Ranatnga had been batting for a long time, but was tiring visibly, and sweating audibly. So he decided to try a ploy that had worked for him before. He announced to the umpire that he had “sprained something” and requested a runner. The umpire turned to the Australia captain, Ian Healy, to ask if that was ok by him. “No it ain’t! ” exlcaimed the Aussie. “You don’t get a runner for being a fat c*nt”.

The prosecution rests.


He Just Couldn’t Quite Get His Leg Over

I can’t better this today. Graeme Swann rules.

From The Times September 24, 2009

India coach encourages sex before matches.
Richard Hobson, Deputy Cricket Correspondent, Johannesburg

It used to be said that sexual intercourse close to a sporting event sapped energy. But India’s players have been advised otherwise in a confidential document written by their coach that effectively tells them to boost their performances on the field by hopping into action off it.

The four-part paper written by Gary Kirsten, who has helped India to become the leading one-day side in the world, became the talk of the Champions Trophy yesterday as a taboo subject was thrust into the open. The relevant chapter is headlined “Does sex increase performance?” and the answer is explicit: “Yes it does, so go ahead and indulge.”

Kirsten’s reasoning is that sex increases levels of testosterone, which leads to greater strength, aggression and competitiveness. “Conversely, not having sex for a period of a few months causes a significant drop in testosterone levels in both males and females, with the corresponding passiveness and decrease in aggression,” he writes.

Andrew Strauss, the England captain, was caught unawares when an Indian television reporter asked him directly about “sexual practices” within the squad. “I don’t think it has come up in any of our dossiers ever,” Strauss, oblivious to his own double entendre, said. “I am not sure it is likely to either.”

Graeme Swann described the idea of more sex as “the kind of forward thinking the game needs”. The England bowler said: “I assume he [Kirsten] does not mean within the team. Wives and partners must be involved. If they [the ICC] want to make the game more exciting, fly in the wives and girlfriends or other parties to improve the standard of cricket.”

Mike Hussey, the Australia batsman, was more rueful. “I have been away from home for four months so I reckon I’ve forgotten how to do it,” he said. Hussey may, then, be interested in the part of the document that reads: “If you want sex but do not have someone to share it with, one option is to go solo whilst imagining you have a partner, or a few partners, who are as beautiful as you wish to imagine. No pillow talk and no hugging required. Just roll over and go to sleep.”

Advice is also that enforced celibacy affects performance. “You may experience that your mind spends more time focusing on the fire in your groin than on good sport practice, preparation and sleep,” the dossier says.

Dispersed to all 15 members of the squad, it quotes Tim Noakes, a professor and sports scientist at the University of Cape Town, as saying: “Sex was not a problem, but being up till 2am, probably having a few drinks at a bar while trying to pick someone up, on the eve of a game, almost always was.”

And it seems like the perfect opportunity to listen to this again: