Aaron Hotchner, Criminal Minds: “… pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.” ~~ Kahlil Gibran
The Captain finished his 11th post-match interview this morning as fresh and as reflectively upbeat as a desert flower. What else could he do? His optimistic words amid the rubble of defeat, whilst an odd paradox for a man who hates losing, felt strangely comforting as if someone inspecting the ruins of Darwin after Cyclone Tracey reported that it would be good for the building trade.
The Freak and I ran into the young Turks (Apples Doolan, Junior Junior Marsh, SkullJ) in the lobby after the interview. They were chaperoning their kit ready for net practice. They all felt much better today. The impact of defeat has a short half life for the newly capped. [Ed. It rises exponentially with age and test experience! And logarithmically for a Coach] They felt as if The Captain was explaining to them that it is hard to feel something when their contribution to defeat was as equally deafening as their contribution to victory had been on day 1, when the game slid from our grasp. They were warmed by his honesty but uneasy nonetheless.
I heard Apples say “I feel like a twitchy wildebeast on the edge of a herd when the forest goes quiet.” JJ Marsh could sense it also “Just like my brother felt in South Africa.” SkullJ said nothing. He was listening to the sluicing sound of a butcher hard at work in the kitchen.
The Turks drifted away tugging at their kit or counting to ten to pass the time.
I observed as best I could. The Captain looked unnaturally serene. The Freak had a more visual observation “Pre-volcanic.”
“Yes, besotted by hope.”
“I suppose there is a faint sliver of joy if Trapper and Tatt’s can t-bone a match and drive it into the final session when they have nothing to play for but anguished pride.”
“And your contribution, Freak?” I whispered
“A smidgeon above yours 17th. We were playing on a shirtfront with less cracks than a local highway. Hell! It was a spinner’s dying wish.”
“You couldn’t do anything then?”
“Why no. Not at all. I batted for as long as I could. Both innings. I am offended!”
The Captain nodded to me and wandered over. Coach2.0 also joined us.
“Was the interview ok?” he asked.
“You papered over the cracks well,” Coach2.0 responded. “I thought we won.”
“Actually, I thought your line ‘we missed the straight balls’ was far better Coach,” Darren said. He had been ejected from the media throng [Ed. Pushed] in our direction. It was the first time we’d seen him since the Rolls Royce incident, but we didn’t have time to ask.
There was a short interlude. I whistled; others pulled their ears or brushed away an imaginary fly.
I broke the ice. It felt like reigniting an old furnace. “I thought you did quite well Captain… I mean to say are you well?”
“Gutted actually,” he replied. “Gutted that the top order failed again, gutted with my own paltry effort, gutted that our spinners cannot spin, gutted that their spinners can, gutted that Younis scored two centuries, gutted, gutted gutted.”
“I wish Hollywood was here,” The Freak added “Then I could blame his front pad.” This raised a chuckle.
We were all looking down at the polished floor kicking each other’s insteps. Then The Captain stubbed his big toe on Coach2.0’s steel capped left boot. He winced. We all winced with him. [Ed. After all, he is The Captain] After a while, Coach2.0 asked “Where can I find a real no3? Who can rid me of these troublesome spinners?”
“No one dear boy,” yelled God over the hotel sound system. “No one. This is the Coach’s curse. Repent. Stop kicking the dressing room doors. That is vandalism. Repent!”
I opened KP’s autobiography on the bus to the nets at his four paragraph account of how to play spin bowling, the only decent part of his autobiograph-spray. In it he recounts an email he received from ‘The Wall’ (Rahoul Dravid). I read it to the Prof and then over the loud speaker. No one listened except Coach2.0 and The Captain.
The Wall’s advice? (i) Get the bat in front of the pad; (ii) Use soft hands [Ed. He is so, so good with English]. KP asked him how to practice these skills. The Wall answered: Practice without pads. It won’t take long for you to work it out.
At this, Coach2.0 screamed “Eureka” above the next verse of “Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream…” emanating from the back of the bus.
At the ground, Coach2.0 was clear. “No pads gents. Not a single one. No thigh pads, none of that stuff. And no Hector’s. Everyone gets to bat. Spinners pad up first!”
It took a few balls for the quicks to zero in on the right line and for the batsmen to apply that mindfulness psychologists often talk about. It didn’t really help. Inevitably a good ball jammed into the shins or where the knee roll would have been. The spinners copped a lot of the really hard stuff. Their shins looked like a car in a wreckers yard. Puff thought he had parried the worst [Ed he has such a good eye!] late in the day, when an exocet from The Freak struck his fatherhood. He had to be carried into a waiting ambulance accompanied by a very concerned fiancée. By the time all the ambulances had left the ground, The Prof and I were left alone to bowl lazy pies to each other.
The boys were discharged quite quickly from hospital, even Puff. A lo of swelling, but no real harm done. As Dad always say this stuff just makes you stronger. I always think of him when I have dodged a bullet.