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The Ashes Files Part II: Nelson Mandela and Paul Keating

In March 2013 Cricket Australia asked The Prof, The Freak and I to vet applications they had received to join Australia’s Ashes Squad to tour England.

This is the second in a series of sensational releases of the best applications we received from all over the world. This release covers the applications from two heavy-weights –  Nelson Mandela (global hero), and Paul Keating (ex-Australian PM, who won the unwinnable election in 1993).  Both are very true to label and laced with wit and charm, although Paul’s letter to the Roman’s is as long as Nelson’s is short. Both are intensely passionate and full of sound advice.

I added a little tidbit from an ex-President (Little George) just to put things in perspective.

Nelson Mandela


I write to you from my prison in hospital.  I have seen your struggles in India as I struggle with my aging lungs.  Invictus inspired a rugby team and a nation to learn how to unite and win.  It might inspire you also to step up for the Ashes.  I have made annotations you may find useful –

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole, [team diversity?] I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud. [real anguish is internal].
Under the bludgeonings of chance [batting collapse?] My head is bloody, but unbowed. [4 Tests is enough] Beyond this place of wrath and tears [Punjab at night] Looms but the Horror of the shade, [cobras] And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid. [IPL post-retirement?] It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll, [tour averages] I am the master of my fate: [yes] I am the captain of my soul. [remember: Coach owns you]

Unfortunately I am too old to bat.  Spinning is better.



Paul Keating

[Former Emperor of Australia 1993-1996, expert on everything] [Ed: As I interpret Paul’s Letter to the Romans, he understands “it” in paragraphs 1 and 2 to mean sanity, and thereafter power either as the Prime Minister or as a member of the Government.  The Bob referred to is Bob Hawke Prime Minister of Australia 1983-1993]

pjkeatingthickLook Chief, for years I told Bob he had lost it, then his mates told him he had lost it, then his union mates told me he’d lost it after I told them I thought he had lost it, then the old wise political journos reported they thought he could lose it after being told unnamed insiders knew he had lost them because he had lost it.

Then I challenged Bob to see who else thought he had lost it for good. Not enough of my mates thought he had lost it or would soon lose it. Most thought he had misplaced it and would find it if asked around a bit, Blanche*included.

I lost more friends than Bob gained ex-friends, but some of his friends began to ask if he really did deserve it, even if he wasn’t going to lose it. I think they began to think they might lose whatever they thought they could lose (ie their jobs) if they continued to back Bob not me. Then the punters thought Bob could lose it and said so in the polls but they weren’t certain. The punters were certain though that some of us would lose what we had to lose. That made everyone fairly nervous. Who wants to lose what you have (namely POWER), even if the Opposition wants it, especially if you think you are better at it because you are in Government and have been doing it and the other person has not?

The same applied between Bob and me. He had been doing it for a while, liked doing it, and thought he was very good at it and that I couldn’t be any good at it. Some people, basically Bob’s friends, who have never aspired to anything more called this naked ambition. Others like Bob who have what you want, or want to keep what they have and don’t want anything else, or don’t want you to have what they have, call this destabilisation.

I wasn’t as nervous as everyone else. I just wanted what Bob had even if he was better at doing it. When you have been next to it for a long time, seen it, been part of it and played in the top team with it, you begin to feel you would like to have it.  Then you think it should be yours.. Being able to wear it or exercise it sometimes is no help at all because you know it is not yours, everyone knows it’s not yours, and YOU know the Constitution says it is Bob’s, he knows it, the journos and the public know it, the world knows it and history knows it. You have to give it back.

Whether you are any good at it is pretty much irrelevant by this stage because YOU must have it. It is the only thing left to get that you haven’t got. Nothing anyone can offer you – money, riches, memorials, accolades – measures up to this one thing that isn’t yours.

You eventually get it, thanks to everyone who finally yelled to Bob “Give it to him, just to keep him quiet. By the way, why do you want it so much? You have had a good turn. Hand it over”.  But after a while, YOU aren’t quite sure whether you really wanted it or are naturally good at it. It helps for a bit if everyone else wants you to have it, because you wanted it so much and wouldn’t stop destabilising everyone else until you got it. It doesn’t help if there is a grandfather clock in the background chiming away each hour before everyone must give up what they have (except the Parliamentary pension). That just makes you want it more.

But once you get it, the people who gave it to you (your friends) expect you to be able to do something with it given what they gave up or the reputation they put on the block for you to get it.

When you wake in the silence of the night and wonder whether what you wanted now you have it, or the having of it, is the greater need, then you realise what it means to have got it. Then you understand responsibility.

Of course, everyone knew this before you said you wanted it especially those people who could never get it or could get it but don’t want it. It just takes YOU that long to grow up and figure it out. It takes even longer to understand what it means to ‘bring home the bacon’ when you have it. Maybe some of your team are at this point.

I’m not a great cricket fan. I prefer old French clocks instead. I do know that the Baggy Green means a lot to those who want it but haven’t got it. It may mean more to them than it does to those who have it and take it for granted. When your side gets like that YOU need to do something. Selecting the same players again and again when they haven’t performed is probably not it.  Our side did that for a long time and the punters told us in the polls for a long time. Then we lost big time, for 11 years. Too many of us had too much to lose and we didn’t do anything to change. So we lost it all.

If YOUR, I mean OUR, Cricket Team is not good at bringing home the bacon or saving matches then they can only be good at losing them. Losing teams don’t just lose badly, they beat themselves like the Kiwis do and like South Africa doesn’t.

So what do you have to lose? If you are going to lose it all anyway, then it is not worth keeping. You may as well invest in something that is worth keeping. For example, younger players with some form who know what it means to win – and want to win above anything else.

What are you waiting for? To lose more of what you think you have but nothing that you need but haven’t got (a winning formula)?

A mate told me Rogers is a young player with good form? Meet me in Paris. My private secretary will sort something for dinner on the Left Bank.

Paul, April 2013

*Blanche d’Alpuget (author of Bob’s biography and Bob’s lover, then wife)

George Bush

[A single sheet of paper covered in illegible crayon scrawls was submitted]



ashes diary cover grass edge2bGet your copy of

Ashes Diary – Summer of the 17th Man – England 2013

in ebook now at (Aust/US residents) and (UK residents) .

You’ll be busting share it with your friends on Facebook and/or Twitter with these pre-populated links.

PS  The ebook is fantastic on the kindle app for iPad.  Paperback out soon.


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