The English school the team attends is known for its focus on the tripos – history, philosophy and politics. Preparing its students for a career in the Foreign Office or as an ECB cricketer means everything.
The Headmaster is a wizened old bird with old fashioned values and a cane. The incident he was considering now occurred on Friday afternoon in Mr. Giles Ancient History lesson when eleven lads jumped out the window and destroyed Mr Pride’s red rose garden.
The eleven offenders were outside his office now. He reached for the cane in his bottom drawer. This sort of ill-discipline could not be tolerated.
A short boy pushed open the solid door to the Headmaster’s study. He was a head taller than the edge of the 18th century oak panel desk. He could see tooth marks from other boys who had paid the Head a visit in years gone by.
“What happened Bell? Leaving the team 1/0 down after the first ball is not how we play cricket, is it Ian?”
“No, Sir, not at all.”
The Head approached him. Ian was at zipper height and looked up plaintively. The Head was smiling. Ian bent over and received his punishment without a flinch. Biting on the edge of the desk made all the difference.
“What was it like?” asked Taylor, the new boy.
“Edible” Ian replied. “Bite hard and swallow.”
“Ah, Taylor. A word of advice. Don’t mimic Bell when the team is in trouble. Keep your head.”
“Yes, Sir.” Taylor stood up ramrod straight expecting nothing more than a yellow card.
“Taylor, I know what your parents expect. Bend over.”
Taylor complied. Whack, whack. “Never leave the team 2/0 down in the first over again.”
“Yes Sir. Never again Sir.”
Moeen Ali put his head round the door.
“Are you a Muslim boy?”
“Je suis Ali, sir.”
Ali had scored a few runs but the Head was hardly impressed. To be caught by the bearded Maxwell and leave the team 3/15 was a disgrace.
“Forget that French rubbish Ali. Bend over.”
Whack, whack, whack. On it went.
The Head overheated and called for a drink. Corporal punishment was hot work.
The eleven tried everything to soften the blows of the cane. Stuffing old newspapers down your trousers, front and back, just seemed to excite the Head more.
“Are you the ring-leader Morgan?”
“No Sir. I did score a century though.”
“But the team lost. The bowling lacked punch. Have we learnt nothing from the Ashes?”
“I wasn’t playing.”
“Don’t be insolent Morgan.”
“Shall I bend over now Sir?”
“No. I think we’ll try something different. I hate losing to those colonial buggers.”
Five minutes passed.
“… But it wasn’t my fault” Morgan spluttered.
“You are the Captain boy. It’s always your fault.”
Silence. Then some vomiting.
“Is Jordan next? No, Ravi Bopara Sir”
“Good. An Indian. Another colonial.” He unrolled his cat o’ nine tails and flexed it.
The boy Pietersen, a Yarpie the school let in to avoid the bailiff, was in the fifth form. He had been expelled a few times but the bursar liked him and let him attend classes in Ancient History and Marxist theology.
Pietersen saw what was going on. He went to the Head’s window, pressed his nose up against the pane and snorted. The Head is fastidious in all things. He went bright red, redder than the faces of the first eleven. He saw Pietersen and shook his fist. He hated him. That he scored highly in his last exam with the BBL didn’t help.
The Head called it a day. 234 strokes of the cane didn’t make him any happier. He locked the door behind him.
“Goodnight Mr. Downton, Sir”
“Ah, Duncan,. Still working? Fletcher is a good name. My Father had a batman called Fletcher. Good lad.”
“Thank you, Mr Downton Sir.”
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