Saturday, October 19, 2019
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Aug 19 – Test eve – green, green, green

Non… rien de rien
Non je ne regrette rien
Ni le bien… qu’on m’a fait
Ni le mal, tout ça m’est bien égale…
(Edith Piaf)

“A fucking green top!” Coach2.0 mumbled to himself as we trudged onto The Oval for the first practice session of the day. We all had a look at the green monster. The bowlers salivated, thinking that bowling first on this baby would restore some pride, and all the batsmen, except for UnLucky, shifted to the stalls thinking of Trent Bridge and 60 all out. UnLucky is made of sterner stuff. He looked away with tears in his eye. How was he going to score the 477 he needed to quit Test cricket with a 50.00 average on a green wicket?

The Captain stood at slip confused. He could visualise another bloodbath not the triumphant swan song he desperately wanted. The honour guard he planned in his mind would turn into a funeral cortege if he was not careful. He wasn’t even sure that being careful could arrest his demise. How was he going to score 222 to quit Test cricket with an average of 50.00, which he always recognised as the true preserve of master batsmen?  

The Captain fronted the media contingent late in the morning. He alternated between a misplaced sense of propriety that the ECB would order a green pitch and stoicism in the face of unfairness  – the hollowed look of a concentration camp survivor asked to take a shower. There was not much to ramble on about except the wicket “The wicket is green again, it’s such a shame for cricket”, or “Green tops are so lame. At least Jimmy isn’t playing”, or “The toss will be very important. A two-tailed coin would be useful.”   When asked about whether Stuart Broad was his nemesis he replied sleepily “What is an enema? Something you can best bat without.” The Captain had already decided that Broad was not to dismiss him.

The journalists laughed, most of them anyway. The others were busy looking up the meaning of enema or mistaking it for enigmatic. A bright junior reporter, who usually reports from the Old Bailey but was filling in for a colleague, whispered that being end run like this at The Oval [Ed. A few sniggers drifted forward from the back rows] at the close of a glittering career was bound to leave a sticky taste. I heard her say Rolf Harris looked greener round the gills when he was convicted than The Captain did today. The Captain replied that he hoped and prayed that Rolf was not the only Australian not out before lunch. More laughter.

The Captain reflected on the quality of English humour, gently chastising The Oval pitch curator for running covers on the pitch at the first sign of a blue sky and midday heat. Sun showers happen regularly in the summer according to the ECB weather girl was what he was told. The pitch curator is a wise old bird and had shown The Captain the instructions he received last week from the ECB Director of Cricket:

“You can read the tea leaves as well as I. 4-1 better reflects the quality of the birch Alastair’s lads have used this series than 3-2. London Water has instructions to keep the pressure up. Conditions at The Oval are well grassed these days in the same way Indian wickets are parched. Don’t bugger this up.”

The Captain understood. The only thing he would never do is piddle on the pitch. He figured it was wet enough. So he said to the journalists that his team was up for the fight, come what may. Cummins or The Freak was in for Hazelwood, and at least one Marsh was still in the team.  No, Hollywood was not playing; there was too much danger to his front pad. If people wanted to know what he really thought, talk to Warnie. He could read his mind better than anyone.

All the WAGS left on tour – the real diehards – dined with us in the evening. They understand the pressure of performing on a green wicket with half-baked techniques. The Mrs Captain’s, the real one and the one-in-waiting, and Mrs Vice-Captain understood completely. They turned up dressed head-to-toe in green. Puff said he can manage most sledges. This one really swung [Ed. I think he meant stung].  What is more galling is knowing Jimmy will select the Duke ball – the ruby red one with the raised seam. Puff asked The Captain if he could win the toss. The Captain’s reply was unprintable. Even Mrs Captain turned ruby red. I remember thinking she looked like a traffic light.    

Non, rien de rien
Non… je ne regrette rien
Car ma vie… car mes joies…
Aujourd’hui… ça commence avec toi…



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