“For our next number,” the England ODI team in India appeared to be saying. “We would like to return to the classics.” And fans were indeed treated to a nostalgic greatest hits package of all the 50-over old favourites – the helplessness against spin, the nervy running between the wickets, the inability to build partnerships, the failure to rotate the strike. It was just like old times. But England also added a new ODI annoyance: a constant need for the players to abuse and scold each other’s efforts in the field. Why so fractious? Here are our five possible explanations.
1 Governmental Interference
Fearing a diplomatic incident after Nasser Hussain’s “donkey” comments, Her Majesty’s envoys in India had urged the England cricket team to field as badly as possible to smooth over the affair. By letting the ball through his legs on the boundary, Stuart Meaker has brilliantly avoided an international incident with a key power in the region – and one with nuclear arms as well. In short, if Stuart Meaker could field properly, we would have been facing World War III.
2 Catering Difficulties
The yeomanlike Tim Bresnan prefers plain home-cooking, and a tour of India with its spicy, hot cuisine held little joy for the Yorkshireman. The big fast bowler is understood to have asked for “egg and chips” at every meal since arriving in the country, leading to a difficulty in keeping himself regular and all the attendant tetchiness that can produce.
3 IT Issues
One of the key skillsets the England team like to work on is their performance on Championship Manager. Andy Flower sees the collective playing of the computer game as being “important” for team bonding. However, a recent lengthy session saw the team fall out quite badly over whether they should sign Nicklas Bendtner on a free transfer. There was outrage when the players came down for breakfast one morning to find that Samit Patel had pulled an all-nighter on the addictive management sim, and not only acquired the polarising former Arsenal forward, but got knocked out of the Carling Cup as well. The harsh treatment of Patel in the field by his own team stems from this.
4 Ian Bell’s Art Attack
Despite a one-day record whose modesty borders on the prudish, Ian Bell has nevertheless not been unaware of the clamour (well, gentle suggestion) for him to be included in the team. Keen as always to put his hand up and come to the party, Bell has been pestering Alastair Cook almost non-stop for a chance, heaping even more pressure on the beleaguered captain. The final straw came when Cook returned to his hotel rom before the fifth ODI to find that Bell had made a collage out of glitter and pieces of dry pasta to plead his case for inclusion, which he had slid under the door. Cook slipped on the child-like piece of artwork and aggravated a grade-two buttock tear, causing his balance and timing to be off during the subsequent match.
5 Literary Feuds
With Graeme Swann having lit the touch-paper in his autobiography assessment of Kevin Pietersen, other players are now turning to the world of books to settle feuds. After Craig Kieswetter dropped a catch off his bowling, Steven Finn quickly signed a two-figure deal with Penguin to produce a searing insight into the deficiencies of the South African’s play, make-up and character, and aims to have his first book: Finny: My Story So Far – And How Craig Kieswetter Ruined My Life out by Christmas. Kieswetter is hitting back with a graphic novel about a South African superhero whose special power is turning people much taller than him into pieces of biltong.
By Alan Tyers More made-up tomfoolery in CrickiLeaks: The Secret Ashes Diaries by Tyers and Beach here