Coach2.0 cornered me in the Hotel lobby. We were all waiting for the bus to take us to the local nets in Derby. He wore that grin that picks you out to condemn you as a permanent category of non-playing cricketer. Of course, he asked me how I was feeling, said I was batting beautifully in the nets, as good as Hollywood he said [Ed. There is nothing quite like blowing someone’s balloon], and then sucked in his breath like a parched smoker with a respiratory ailment. It was so bad I beckoned to the team doctor to put him in a wheelchair and hook him up to an oxygen tank. When he had finished extracting his breath from the seedy bottom of his lungs – I was holding my breath trying not to inhale this toxic cloud – he gave me a note and asked me to deal with it. I’m sick of these notes. Why me?
The note was from Dennis who is travelling with the England camp and by the sounds of it enjoying himself. Occasionally, he pens brief vignettes of odd goings on, real and imagined. This one was about the psychology of innocence. [Ed. No wonder coach2.0 didn’t know what to do with it.]. Dennis is sometimes obscure but I think I understood.
I saw Moeen front the press conference. No one else wanted to. Moeen read from a prepared statement
“Johnson bowled a few good overs this match, not many, a few.”
“Is he back?” a journalist from The Telegraph asked.
“No, he doesn’t scare anyone.” He waited for the laughter to subside. “He doesn’t scare me or anyone else.” More laughter.
At the back an older guy in tennis shorts replied “You can’t be serious?”. More laughter.
“No. He doesn’t scare us.”
“What about the ball that ended up in Root’s grill.”
He looked at the notes Catherine, Direct of Communications, had prepared for him and read them out.
“The grill is designed for protection. Joe didn’t see what happened, and doesn’t remember it. ”
“What about you.”
“I’m not afraid.”
Catherine interrupted to bat the ball along the pitch.
“That’s not in the script people.”
“How is the team morale after being monstered at Lords?”
“Sh…” The rest of the word was blocked “Shockingly upbeat.” Catherine said.
“Can you explain?”
“Are there trust issues in the middle order?”
“No. Being at the non-strikers end is a real privilege.”
When it was over the girl in the white coat behind the glass window at the back leaned forward and gave a thumbs up. “You’re ok” blared into the room “Heart rate 170. Breathing shallow. You’ll be right for next week. Next!” Catherine thought he was lucky – no one asked him about his bowling. Ballance walked in clad in a raincoat and sunglasses. He felt that if he could remain anonymous in a team of anonymous scorers he might survive. He answered all questions under the desk with a stammer claiming it was cold, so cold.
I always wanted to be a writer, then someone said you can make more money doing less as a merchant banker. It was a hard choice. [Ed. I thought I’d be a cricketer. That hasn’t quite turned out either]
Late in the afternoon a guy called Bumble – some cricket nut with the accent of a Yorkshire toff – passed on a murmur that the Boy Root doesn’t get on with Benny Stokes. When you get run out like that on a quick single that was never there, it must be hard to take.
I can imagine the lads in a team meeting explaining themselves.
“Welcome everyone. My name is Jonathon. My friends call me Trotty. How has the week been?”
“Ok. Let’s start.”
“Hi my name is Adam. I’m a recovering cricketer…”
“Hi, my name is Graeme. I’m a commentator…”
“Hi, my name is Andrew. I don’t trust anyone…”
That was when people started throwing chairs.
I didn’t reckon I could do much with this, so The Freak (because he knows something of bananas) and I wrote down the known signs of post-traumatic stress in cricketers:
Long walks to the wicket. Long walks back from the wicket.
Being dismissed more quickly than other people you know.
Being dismissed in the same way more often than other batsmen.
The fall of early wickets makes you uncomfortable.
A dry mouth facing a fast bowler.
Losing a test match by 400 runs.
Premature baldness (coaches included).