Christmas appeared through the big block panelled glass doors in CA’s headquarters with a sheaf of papers in one hand and a switch full of angry intent in the other. She had called an emergency meeting with The Prof and Puff as the Test Players Representatives. I was there to take notes.
“Hi Christmas,” Puff began.
“I get it. Ha, ha. It’s November, Petal.”
She slapped the papers on the desk fronted by a memo headed Stakeholder Feedback. The Prof winced. “A problem?”Christmas gave him that cold grey look the sea turns on a squally day in Hobart. “Ch9 is paying out on the make good clauses in their add partner contracts. They are losing eyeballs. The Third Test betting markets have turned sour. They aren’t happy.”
“What do they want us to do about it?”
“Make a contest with the pink ball perhaps, maybe even win? No one wants to see a flameout inside 4 days.”
“Except in Sydney’s South African enclaves,” Puff volunteered. “A white rat – a mint with a tail – wouldn’t feel safe at night in these parts.” (Puff is working on his sledging pattern for Thursday.)
“Calm down. It takes a lot to excite a Voertrekker,” The Prof said, “unless you are trading in diamonds or ivory, or have nicked a bloke’s biltong.”
“Ch9 has a list of demands.” Christmas distributed the 15 point list. It read like a Lutheran thesis. Puff circled the obvious points with his red sharpie.
1. Chairman of Selectors (rumoured to have climbed out the bathroom window and dropped into a skip)
2. The Middle School (went on a school picnic to Hanging Rock)
“Reminds me of the first lecture I went to in statistics. The bearded guy at the blackboard said look behind you, to each side and in front. Only one of you will make it.”
“Was it you?”
“Dunno,” The Prof said. “I never went to another lecture.”
3. Random player frisking for ball tampering devices.
Puff hesitated. “Can your wife do it?”
“Can she suck mints?”
Puff thought that maybe his new mate Rickshaw might do it (meaning frisking, not fagging). It would be a nice way to get to know him. He was no surer of Rickshaw’s staying power than any old nag in the Perth Cup. No one hangs around until the afternoon anymore.
“What about the 12th Man?”
“Could be a swing blower [sic. bowler?]. No! Swingers shave their legs in the shower like cyclists. Kills me. I have to wear thongs. I don’t want their hands in my pockets either. No, no, no.”
4. Blood the young guns.
They won’t try to tough it out in the middle. They’ll bash it out like they have nothing to lose. Tick.
“One of them asked me when the tough periods are” said Puff “He was confused.”
“That’s easy,” Christmas replied. She has a Masters in Physics. “It’s like the Doppler effect. You know when you hear the horn before the train hits you, and afterwards you hear the priest run over you with a prayer. It’s that middle bit.”
“Well sort of,” added The Prof who doesn’t care about physics. “A tough period is invisible to the naked eye. You don’t know you are in one until you get out.”
“You mean they are fleeting? They can hit you at any time?” Christmas had never seen these trains.
“You can’t tough it out if you don’t stay in.”
Puff went silent. He felt like he had been hit by a train. Maybe he should bat No1 and face the first over.
“So staying on strike gets you out?”
“Something like that.”
The Captain feels the team might have more energy now. The Prof explained it this way. If you haven’t been in a collapse before you still have pride in your achievement.
5. Poor equipment.
If everyone shines the ball in the same way and some bowler’s reverse swing it and some don’t, that’s a problem with the red ball sugars just like dud artillery shells. Do pink balls need a persuader?
“That list is pathetic.”
“No one’s got a clue.”
“What happens if we lose?”
“What will Ch9 do then?”
“Shit themselves even more. Just like Obama.”
“What will the Head of High Performance do?”
“Go for a long walk in the woods. Just like Hillary. Then sack the cleaner and anyone who might be responsible.”
The Captain released the team selections early. No surprises. Every batsman was in. The Adelaide swing bowler is carting the drinks. The Hobart swing bowler carted the drinks in Hobart so I guess that’s consistency at its best.