|Cricketers fleeing in panic |
before FB's text arrives
For these are the hard weeks. One factor that England's happy trio of skippers will not have to take into account is the impact of summer holidays on their freedom of selection. Much as Cooky might have liked Broady say as he packed his kit after another uninspiring performance - 'Not available next week, skip, the wife has insisted I take the kids camping in Wester Ross for a fortnight.' - he didn't.
Contrast the travails of Fantasy Bob who, along with lower league skippers the world over, now faces those critical weeks of the season when the whole junior section of the club decamps to somewhere near Puerto Pollensa. More well heeled and aged members take themselves off to a 'lovely little spot in the Dordogne. We've being going for years and we never get tired of it. We weren't going to go this year but the weather has been so poor that we need a bit of sun.' The curse of lastminute.com can strike at any batting order any time. The masochists boast of their intended caravan tour through monsoon country in the west of Ireland. Other even more masochistic individuals just go to play golf for a fortnight in some backwater. For Scottish clubs the first 2 weeks in July are when the mass evacuations reach their highpoint. People movement reaches the levels associated with refugee crisis following civil war.
Tighter regulation of the holiday industry is obviously required so that they are only legally allowed to take a defined number of cricketers away from their registered post code area in a defined period. Or they must match each cricketer taken away with an incoming player of similar ability certificated as willing to play as a guest for any club who requires him - notwithdstanding pre-booking for the bus trip to the Trossachs.
That restful Friday evening of soothing preparation of body and mind that is so essential for an elite athlete such as FB to deliver a top performance is shattered by frantic searches for phone numbers and e-mail addresses from that chap he met a couple of weeks ago who just might fancy turning out. It is amazing what a big number eleven actually is - from every angle it is one more than ten - and even worse two more than nine.
So it is a physical and nervous wreck who finally finds the comfort under the duvet with fingers sore from texting possible players all night. These might not be players at all - just chimera, mirages figments of FB's fevered imagination. Even where there is a player on the end of the number , they have strangely lost the capacity to respond to a simple polite inquiry as to availability. They have never shown this strange lack of responsiveness when offered a drink in the clubhouse.
Just as his aching head hits the pillow the phone clangs to tell him that a text has come in; with a groan he reads it - 'FB bad news but good news - sorry have to call off tomorrow - mother in law fallen under bus.' That is one of the better and more credible excuses for a late call off - but it means a night of restless angst for FB.
For in these weeks, there is no end to what has to be done to find that elusive eleventh man - geriatric care homes have to be raided, hospital wards have to be combed, bribes involving drink and sexual fantasies have to be offered (FB assures his readers that this does not imply that journalists from the News of the World are invited to play), favours are mercilessly cashed in.
In this hunt, technology has been a mixed blessing - it makes it easier to call people up. In FB's heyday he had to sent a native bearer with a message written in copperplate script to prospective team members. But these days the impersonal text makes it easy for players to withdraw without the fear of the face to face interaction that was always a disincentive. Many a player couldn't stand FB's cross examination as they offered up their pathetic excuse - 'What do you mean you've broken your leg, you've got 2 haven't you?' Nowadays they text and switch the phone off, immune to any further pleading.
So Vodaphone's or O2's profits are swollen and with any luck eleven will find their way to the right ground at the right time with the right equipment - FB always makes a point of stressing to those relatively unfamiliar with this particular sporting endeavour that golf clubs are an unnecessary encumbrance. With a bit more luck it will rain heavily and the cakes can be shared among the ten who have actually turned up and consumed at leisure
None of England's triumvirate of captains has to face these tests - they do not know what cricket is.