“I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita… ‘Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.’”
(J Robert Oppenheimer, 1944)
At 5.30am, 16 July, 1945 the first atomic bomb, Trinity, was tested in a desert wasteland in Nevada, USA. It worked better expected vaporising the steel tower from which it had been dropped and turning sand into radioactive glass over a circumference of 800 metres. It’s old hat these days, even in city art galleries, to remind the average punter of a moment in time when our perception of our own power in this world changed. The war against Germany had reached its climax and petered out to exhaustion, mostly by summary execution, against which further prosecution of the war against Imperial Japan bunker by bunker no longer made sense. So Harry Truman closed up shop and sent a couple of B-52’s to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki back to the stone age. That worked better than expected. Everyone came to their senses. The current war stopped, and the next war began.
Before drinks on Day 3, 8 August, 2015, Nathan Lyon chopped a ball onto his stumps to end the Fourth Test. A moment in time when everything changed. When England finished cavorting like a clutch of lucky schoolgirls who had just received invitations to the senior formal, they formed into a snake and passed parallel to a similar Australian snake debouching from the dressing rooms led by The Captain. When the shoulder slapping and glad handing was done, the snakes melted into the oval in groups of two’s and threes either cockahoop with glee or chastened as if at a funeral, waiting for the coffin to arrive.
The Captain found Warnie and Mark Nicholas with big furry mics trailing half a mile of snaking black cable. There was some small talk – both knew what was coming. A moment in time when everything changed and The Captain publicly announced his retirement from international cricket. The annoying nitwits of the cricketing world, who had been hurling poisonous darts at him from the gloom of the press boxes all series, made a swift volte face and replaced the darts with soft daffodil garlands, love letters, obituaries and falsetto cadences Dr Henry Jekyll would have been proud of. It made the rest of us vomit. Of course, this was the best kept secret since Little George Bush admitted he invaded Iraq because “Saddam tried to kill my daddy.”
It began after stumps the evening before on Day 2 when The Captain realised that he couldn’t make the maths add up. Hold out for three days? Hmmm. A second innings lead? Is the Pope Catholic? Why expect the lower order to collapse any slower than the middle order. He added 50 to the not our batsmen and the two bowlers still to bat and computed the chance of four outlying scores at less than the chance of Wicky playing another test. He tried to square the series averages of each of the four but came up short. A 150 run lead would not carry the team to victory. Then he multiplied this by 66/23 just for fun. That didn’t compute either. There was no way his bowlers were going to bleed runs for less than 5 an over on the last day on a wicket that kept improving. If only he had won the toss and chosen to field.
The Captain spoke to Mrs. Captain at the hotel. She said she was never much good at high school geometry and three wickets into three days was (on average) 1 wicket a day which was just not going to happen unless he glued the bails to the stumps and blindfolded the slips.
“Seriously, is there any hope?”
“No. This game is more terminal than a seal off South Africa.”
“The Ashes is gone then.”
“Well, just packed away somewhere at Lords.”
“That was what I came for, perhaps the only thing.”
“Are you ready to retire?”
“That’s what Warnie asked, and Tubby.”
“What about Heals?”
“He says I can replace Bill in the commentary team and told me he and Tubby get first dibs at the gourmet lunches.”
Mrs Captain said he should sleep on it, took his credit card and went out with the girls for a curry.
The Captain bumped into the Prof and I outside the lifts. The Prof asked him if he was ready to retire. The Captain looked at us with a vacant stare “Maybe you blokes can bat tomorrow.” He didn’t say anything on the way down except to ask for his pension balance. The Prof opened his cheat sheet titled ‘The 8 players due for retirement’, found The Captains name, and read out the 8 figure sum. The Captain said he felt better.
The Prof and I told everyone that The Captain was going to announce tomorrow, at first light. Everyone thought it was selections for the Fifth Test – the Marsh boys in particular, closely followed by Hollywood. The Prof told Sarah that The Captain was going to announce that Mrs Captain was bearing twins (twin hundreds he said) not a singleton.
Sometime before 6am it was done and dusted. Then the media machine rolled into town to set up. At 6am The Captain sent a tantalising tweet – he is such a metrosexual. Then he told the squad. No one was really surprised except Sarah, and Darren who missed everything because he was in town buying nappies.
We found Mrs. Captain by the pool taking in the early sun.
“Thanks, boys. He never really got off the plane.”
The rest is history.
Australia 60 & 253. England 9/391 dec, winners by an innings and 78 runs, and deserved Ashes victors.