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March 29 – Match Eve

The long flight to South Africa presented a few challenges.

The first was to prevent The Prof from boring me to death with his false piety. The Executive Summary of his recent paper on International Crisis Management co-authored by Gareth Evans, Bill Clinton and Micky Arthur is a rollicking read, but I don’t need The Prof constantly jabbering in my ear about it. Anyway, I told him, it could hardly be treated as a serious academic paper when each of the co-authors has been involved in scandal:

  • Gareth sandpapering his senatorial nemesis Cheryl Kernot on long haul flights,
  • Bill using the grit from his Cuban cigars with Monica in the Oval Office, and
  • Micky sandpapering his playing group with homework. Friction creates climax.

Climax (some say high performance) precipitates crisis. Crisis management is about removing friction – chopping heads.

“In other words cleaning up and washing the beach.”
I looked at him. He stared at me, then resumed tapping away on his new Surface Pro.
“What are you doing?” I knew he was up to something.
“Removing friction.”

The Prof turned a little crimson. It turns out his Ukrainian IT team were spamming Twitter and Facebook with fake messages of support for The Captain. CA has decided to resurrect The Captain as soon as they have finished crucifying him upside down at an evening media conference at Sydney Airport. This makes sense. Today or tomorrow is Good Friday. The Captain is a cricketing God betrayed after the last supper by one or two or more of his disciples. Cricket Gods, including artisan carpenters who know how to ransack a Temple, are marketing bullion. CA will not abandon such a prize property as The Captain’s youthful appearance or his underlying decency without a strong make-over and 100 hours community service.

On the other hand, Puff (or The Reverend as he likes to be known these days) doubles as Judas, the only one of the 12 pre-destined to be The Captain’s foil. [Ed. Maybe, but an average of 48 is pretty hard to forget]The thief Camera-on Ban-Croft (Barabas) is a sidebar to history. As the keeper of the Temple and its money spinners, CA is just as likely to leave both of them on the cross, like Spartacus and his rebels, than to rehabilitate either of them. Calvary Hill is a stony desolate place at night and belted with blistering heat in the day. So is the grade cricket wilderness.

Cleaning up. Washing the beach. Removing the friction.

I looked at The Prof. He stared at me. I narrowed my eyes and lifted a questioning eyebrow.
“How much are we making?”
“USD50million. Don’t worry. It’s all for the Players Pension Fund No11 (‘Resurrection’). We have to look after the player’s fragile psychologies, and
Puff has to finish building his big house on the water.”
“What about their sponsors?”
“Gone. As soon as the three were banished, the cock crowed thrice and they ran like Peter.”
“He had a conscience.”
“They also have a bottom line. They will return when they can. They always do when the public blood lust has been salved.”
“And the TV rights?”
“Well, let’s just say it won’t cost CA anything.”

Cleaning up. Washing the beach. Removing the friction.

I had had enough of the Prof’s sanctimonious hypocrisy and ordered a bottle of Bollinger for the two of us to exorcise his ambivalence and my annoyance. We could have been two friends at a Hotel bar after a tough day. It seemed to restore harmony. All expenses paid.

CA had warned me not to expect to play in the Fourth Test. The Prof knew he wasn’t playing. Until the Western firebrand JL takes over as Coach3.0 the Prof hasn’t got a prayer, despite his lusty innings for Queensland in the Shield final. I had better find a way to get a game just to appease Dad.

My other challenge was to reacquaint myself with the four laws of crisis management:

1. Avoid the phrase ‘no comment’. People think your team is guilty and you are hiding something. It’s much better if you remove yourself from What’s App and say nothing until you have to. If you can live in a nuclear bunker for 6 weeks that might help. Your sponsors can communicate with you by text.
2. Present information clearly. Avoid technical terms like ‘sandpaper’ in favour of terms like ‘tape’. Avoid appearing like you are deliberately obfuscating. Don’t hide things in your trousers or use a black hanky to signal surrender. If you need to talk it’s ok to exonerate yourself by asking “what the f..k is going on?”
3. Your spokesmen must maintain eye contact. Avoid repetitive nervous behaviours like saying ‘sorry’. People interpret this as deception as in “I’m sorry for myself that I am surrendering my place in the Australian Cricket Team for someone else”.
4. Make sure all your spokesmen know the key messages like “I take responsibility”, “I don’t blame anyone” (as in ‘an alien did it’), “I understand I broke the law and spirit of the game”, and say sorry thirty times before you seek sympathy and beg for salvation.

I’m not cynical, but law 5 is just as important.

5. Always have another head in reserve that you can chop off depending on how things go. If the crowd hasn’t dispersed by sundown and snaked its way to Calvary Hill, fashion another cross, call it Kultur, and nail the Coach to it. After all “it’s the right thing to do”. If you can get him to say that for a decent payout even better.

Cleaning up. Washing the beach. Removing the friction.

So we got to the team Hotel. The bar was empty. The team led by The Evangelist, the 46th Captain of the Australian Cricket Team, was at the nets. So we booked into the Presidential Suite, dropped our bags and short-sheeted the beds of the squad and coaching staff just to lighten things up. The Prof wanted to sandpaper their passports but he couldn’t find them. Sarah, the Head of Marketing confiscated them earlier in the week apparently. She didn’t want anyone wandering off the reservation.

Maybe now we can cool down and get on with it. That’s what they do in South Africa –  cop a one match ban, say sorry a couple of times, and get on with it.

Life is simple on the African plains.


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