There are a lot of roads in the UAE but not many speed humps. You can travel as fast as you want to but don’t get arrested. Travelling in the UAE requires patience, knowing to go slow past built up areas, schools and police cars, and to go fast when everyone else is. You have to know the rules of the road. Jamming down the accelerator travelling past a school is bound to end in disaster.
Batting on a road is no different. Obey the traffic signs and you will survive. Batting on a road in a test match requires patience. Pakistani batsmen know how to read a road because they spend enough time at the cease to work out the traffic signs. For the benefit of our batsmen, the T in T20 does not mean TEST.
The Captain told us after the game ended not to mention spin, spin doctor, spinning, or any variant thereof. He is over it.
Misbah invited us to celebrate the end of series downtown at their fancy digs. When we arrived they all looked a million dollars as if they had won big backing themselves to sweep the series 2-0. Maybe they actually did. The Prof says this isn’t a problem necessarily for Misbah and Younis. They tried to get out early, often, by looping dollies to the fielders but we were more intent on dropping the ball rather than catching it. The Prof said that level of luck is uncanny.
I moved around the teams listening to the conversation.
“Do you know I am over 40”, Misbah was saying to Wicky. Misbah was wearing a new light green t-shirt with the moniker ‘Still in Great Form’.
“No. 40? Really? That’s old.”
“Yes. 40. And I scored two hundreds. Easiest flattest road I’ve ever batted on. The ball was doing absolutely nothing. Straighter than a plumb line.”
“Yes. So easy. Did I tell you I was over 40?”
“Not in the last minute.”
I moved to where The Freak, The Big Show and JJ Marsh were chatting to Imran and Baba.
The Freak was in residence holding court. “And we rolled the English in five easy tests… “, he was saying.
“In the end they just wanted it to end.”
“Sounds familiar” Imran remarked.
“Here is different”, JJ added. “Did you see the pot holes and cracks in the pitch?”
“I saw the sign saying ‘Speed Kills’ at the end, if that helps?” (That was from The Big Show)
“What potholes? The pitch was a beautiful road. Dusty and flat. Exactly what we ordered” Baba replied. “I’ve got the order form. Look!”
We peered over Baba’s shoulder. The order form was as he said:
‘Order: 1 test match pitch.
Description: Tan colour fading to yellow-brown on day 3. Dusty like a desert camel.
Track condition: Flat like a road. No humps or dips. Dead slow at both ends.
Bowling preference: Reverse swing after 10 overs. Arm ball friendly, no spin.’
Batting preference: Paradise’
We drifted away fairly quickly after that. The Captain ran into Younis. Did I say Younis, the Magnificent. He said the pitch was a road, good from the first ball to the last. He couldn’t understand why we shortened the game after lunch on Day 5. Did we have a plane to catch?
It was time to leave.
When we landed in Sydney two hours 45 minutes late we all felt better for the distance from the UAE. More optimistic. More confident. The UAE was an aberration. Darren said it never happened – the first piece of good advice he had given any of us since India last year. Coach2.0 said he had been on holiday. He had never slept so much.
The Captain faced the heat from the media… He was in the UAE. We did get flogged. He didn’t contribute with the bat. He felt bad about it. Did he feel under pressure? He perceived this question for the straight ball that it was, just like in the UAE. This time he hit it back past the bowler for four.
“Pressure? No. Not at all. As Keith Miller once said ‘real pressure is flying with a Messerschmitt up your arse’…”
Sarah giggled. By this time there was only a junior hack from Cricket Australia listening to The Captain. The real journalists, the old ABC leftie jocks with the widening waist bands and bags under their eyes, had cleared off to cover Gough Whitlam’s Memorial Service at the Town Hall. Apparently there was a decent crowd.
The Prof and I hit the road. He is doing snags and jacket potatoes at his place for lunch. My place next door still lacks a kitchen. He’s invited my parents, and Thea and I. He likes my Dad. He said he is a dyed-in-the-wool conservative capitalist.
What tour? Never went. Never played. Slept a lot.