Monthly Archives: February 2013

Diary of the 17th Man – Feb 27

For what was supposed to be a day off, the team meeting was a little tense this morning.  Half way through a lecture about what happened last night, Mr Darcy, wearing tell-tale sunglasses, told Coach he thought “curfew” was a migratory bird.  Not a good move when it’s a certainty that one of the quicks is going to be dropped to make way for Rabbit or Gipper for the second test.  “Unless the groundsman produces a F-ing greentop!” yelled the Coach. The moment of silence that followed was broken by someone up the back whispering “I’ll ring Sunil to see what odds I can get on that.”

Head of Security took centre stage and gave us a full briefing about procedures while travelling to and staying in Hyderabad for the next Test.  It was all rather sobering, not to mention comprehensive.  After an hour and half, most were nodding or snoring deeply.  His parting words were: “Lads, just remember.  Indians love their cricket, which mean they love you.  Stay alert!”

It seems that the exact time that we’re going to head north is going to be kept secret until the very last minute.  Apart from the request to carry our team-issued secure mobile phones at all times, we were given two very unpopular instructions, and third made unpopular in the manner of its execution:

1) Pack up your rooms as if you’re about to leave, and

2) Don’t be more than 30 minutes from the hotel at any time.

Plopper seemed very relaxed about this at the time.  It was only later that he found out that most of his kit did not comply with instruction 2).

3) Sponsorship duties in the Hotel lobby.  Today, this meant hanging around for yet another hour, signing memorabilia for the Indian market. The Head of Sponsorship takes this very seriously, making sure we sit in line, in order of heigh,t and sign only our own name.  Misbehaving knuckles are punished with a whack from a little signature bat. A touch draconian perhaps, but  fair enough after what happened on a recent tour when someone signed all 100 editions of a special comemmorative team bat with the name of a player who had to leave the tour to deal with some “personal and private issues.”

We dispursed for a dull day moping around the hotel.  Most of the lads used the time to catch up on media commitments and social media engagement.  I’m not sure what was in the video that Puff tried to upload to YouTube, but he kept the hotel wifi locked up for hours.

Diary of the 17th Man – Feb 26th

Day 5 – Chennai – First Test

The Reject Club were at the team meeting early, feeling smug and blameless and expecting to see some fireworks. The Captain had been there for the last hour alone with Coach and a few of the management team he still had faith in (exclusing the psycho psychologist Darren). He called us forward with his usual politeness, asking The Prof for the odds of a miracle – rain, natural disaster, plague of snakes or boils.  “We’re screwed.”  The Prof tapped his iPhone a few times, looking grim. “Better chance winning the Ashes.” He’s great with numbers, not so good on tact.

The ten knew they had cocked things up. They straggled silently into the team meeting this morning like cows with bloated udders, Teddy included.  It looked like the start of a Papal conclave.  Coach called order. The Captain began by ripping into them with caustic one-liners he picked up from ESPN’s commentary and today’s TOI front page which read: “Aussie pride torpedoed by spin, again. India certain in Hyderabad”.  No one said anything. Ten bums wiggled around uncomfortably until they synchronised to the Captain’s tapping foot.  Rabbit strangled a nervous laugh, The Captain making it clear he would not get a test this side of hell if he didn’t shut up. “What are you 10 going to do about it?” he yelled.

Popeye explored cloud-seeding aloud to buy some time until Mr Darcy pointed out that the local market only sold tumeric in bulk an no one had ever seen spicy rain. The Prof said there wasn’t time anyway. Eventually, Jacka and Plopper offered to bat all day. Rabbit risked being sent home but managed to contain himself somehow.  The Captain closed with a quick prayer. *

The team strategising meant nothing.  The final wicket fell early after play began. 241 all out.  The quicks got a few overs in, just enough to avoid rotation for overbowling, while Plopper ‘worked’ the other end, because at 4 for a shed load for the match, he hasn’t tied up anything all game.  TLM got to the crease, greeted by a gracious crowd.  First ball SIX, second ball SIX.  India 2/50.  Game over at 10.55.

The debrief was delayed by preparations for the team after-party at a local beach rave, although it got very complicated.  Coach had booked himself into a therapy centre where you strip naked, soak in a spice oil bath, and get rubbed down by two really big masseurs with arthritic knuckles.  Hollywood, Popeye, and Wicky had signed up for an Ayerueda rub to balance their humours **, basically to reduce raspberries and on-camera spitting.  Puff and Mr Bean were still needing to hover within striking distance of a loo.

We had a few drinks with the Indian team. We tried to get away but they chased us into the carpark when their simple offer of a few settlers before tonights proceedings broke our spirits. TLM and the rest of them were at their diplomatic best sharing a few gags, rubbing shoulders with our spinners in particular as if we were family, and generally trying to rub it in.

After dark, we piled into a convoy of 8 auto-rickshaws, an dheaded for the beach to wash away the scent of defeat.  I swear we turned the same corner 4 times before we got anywhere. Coach was in a catatonic state.  He lost his smile when we told him he had probably just been rubbed out with a mix of milk, bones, gallstones and heavy metals. We let him pay for the shaws and the first few rounds until his credit card maxed out. Mr Darcy was in his element, a lone shark in a school of slimn saried beauties, deep set satin lounges, a flock of fluffy gold embroidered satin pillow things, pulsating music, peppy dances and shooters on tap. He swam off with Mr Bean and the quicks pretty smartly. The Prof and I surveyed all the hula gula with interest letting the cool breeze running off the ocean spice up our general mood.

The rest of us tried to eat elegantly with our right hands (Wicky had to take his gloves off, finally) and hold up an end with the locals. Lucky got talking to some girls from Assam or Nagarland (can’t remember what he said) in the import/export business, while the rest of us crowded round a sweet backpacker from Brissy (who knew nothing of cricket and doesn’t read TOI).  The party ended when the cops raided the place at 3am – no idea why, but we got out before any photos were taken.

Left a voice message for Thea and Mum letting them know I’m okay.  Dad had left me a short message at the hotel.  You can guess what he said.

Rest day tomorrow in Chennai.  Considerable uncertainly about when we go to Hyderabad for Friday’s Second Test.

* “Sometimes the cloud was over the tabernacle only a few days; at the Lord’s command they would encamp, and then at his command they would set out.” Numbers 9:20

** Air-space (‘wind’), fire-water (‘bile’), and water-earth (‘phlegm’)

 

Diary of the 17th Man – Feb 25

Day 4 – First Test – Chennai

It was a long hot day. At the end of it, all the toil and preparations had come to nothing.  I came second last in the Oscars picking competition, which was won as ususal by The Prof.  Damn statistics of his, I don’t know how he does it.  I also think he had some money riding on it, and what he’s rolled that over for on spreads for Day 5 is anyone’s guess.

On the field, the slim hope remaining relies on the last pair getting us to a three figure lead.  It also depends on being able to knock the opposition off cheaply in the fourth innings.  Coach called a special bowlers’ clinic after play, and this simple task nearly caused a riot in the dressing room.  Plopper and Jacka had already left for a net session with the bat and Rabbit and Gipper were heading off to bowl at them.  The idea that they were going to spend the next hour trying to help Plopper become a hero with the bat was galling enough, but to see a bunch of batsmen with part-time spinner delusions also heading off to practice for heroics tomorrow was too much.

Darren could see that Gipper was about to explode.  He moved in gently, applied a length of gaffa tape to Gipper’s mouth before he could say anything he would regret, and lead the two frustrated spinners outside.

A stony silence descended in the dressing room.  Occasionally it was punctuated by Puff, Mr Bean and Hollywood groaning from the stalls and doing a little exploding of their own.  The Indian Spinners were not the only thing that had ripped through the top order today, and we’d all been ordered to steer clear of them in case it was gastro rather than the ham and pickle sandwiches Hollywood had brought from home and shared with them just as they went out at the start of play.

It was too hot for the net session to go on too long, and in about forty minutes everyone was back in the dressing room, packing up their gear and eager to get away from the scene of today’s disaster.  Puff had emerged from the loo a few times, running over to his kit to put a few things away before running back to the safety of his designated stall.

Just as we were about to leave, Darren stood up and cleared his throat.  “Are you ready to do something heroic tomorrow?”  He mistook a loud report from Hollywood’s stall as a “yes”.

“Good.  Let’s go down to the ground and do some visualisation of the scene of our great triumph tomorrow.”  There was another loud sound from Hollywood’s stall.  “Of the Eleven, those who are able, come with me.”

We waited respectfully until the eight of them had left the room, then crowded over to the window.  “This will be good,” said The Prof, “last time he tried this, they ended up skipping around the boundary in formation.”

It’s lucky that no photos of what followed will make it back to the Australian Press.  It was just too damn hot for the Hokey Pokey.  Or was it a rain dance?

Diary of the 17th Man – Feb 24

Day 3 – First Test – Chennai

I spent the last part of the evening last night with the other Rejects. The degree of outright contempt Rabbit and Gipper, the outcast spinners, reserve for the selectors is quite incandescent but sobering all the same, not that I supplied anything but a sad face and a sympathetic ear.

The team meeting this morning zeroed in on The Little Master.  Lord knows why. He hasn’t scored a ton for 2 years. Even though he made his first ton here in Chennai, The Prof’s analysis of runs per balls faced in the last hour yesterday shows that TLM has less than a 10% chance to back-up today in the same uncompromising mood. The Prof volunteered to show Coach how to use the Ouija board correctly amid howls of laughter from The Reject Club and smiles from the eleven.

The Captain called order. Same game plan as yesterday.  Rotate the quicks (Rocket Man in particular), tie up the other end with spin, dismiss the little man early and domino the rest by mid-afternoon. Darren assigned seating for the bus, claiming it was to build team coherance but we all knew it was to prevent any more unseemly jostling in front of the journo’s. Everyone clambered on regardless, the Captain’s elbows working overtime. The Reject Club of course settled up the back where the Prof. pulled out two crumpled cardamon infused respirators he had made last night from spent toilet rolls to stop us gagging on the orchestral winds from the quicks on the trip to the ground.  Mantis was going full bore until Lucky threatened to really put the wind up him with one of his large bats.  The graffiti on the wall in the vacant lot outside the ground showing Plopper’s test figures burning on a funeral pyre didn’t do much for his confidence.

The locals were still streaming into the ground when play began.  The same number streamed out again when TLM was dismissed, the Captain lifting his cap to the Prof in respect.

That was the best of it.  The Indian bats fired up and kept firing. Lunchtime was civil enough, with the squad washing down slabs of curried meatloaf with herbal tonics and green tea. The Captain was more animated at tea telling the bowlers, apart from Rocket Man who he really rates, in no uncertain terms that the ball was not part of the Indian space program or something you could tie a ribbon around and mail to your Valentine.  Plopper was in the front row and copped most of the Captain’s froth.

The game had for now slipped through our fingers.  8/515 at the close.  The Captain was pretty dark, as if anyone cared.  Rabbit offered to paint a portrait of him.  The Captain just stared at him and told him to go and do something useful, like practicing making his stock ball turn.

The team debrief was short.  Coach said it would be better tomorrow.  The Captain broke Coach’s Selection Ouija board over his knees.  He didn’t need to say anymore.  The Prof leaned towards me whispering that the scores were similar to 2001, the double ton apart, and that the betting market was firming for a 5th day finish first hour after lunch.

Diary of the 17th Man – Feb 23

Day 2 – First Test – Chennai

The mood was bouyant on the team bus this morning, mostly because of the promise of making a decent total, but also because Darren slept in and missed the bus. Plopper noticed him running through the lobby just as the bus was pulling out into the traffic, but before he could yell out to the driver to stop and wait, I managed to insert a part of the team mascot into his gob and shut him up.

All the talk on the bus was about the DRS, and BCCI’s refusal to let it operate in these tests.  Funny thing is, given how stiffling hot it is, who knows if Hot Spot would even work.  One wag suggested that on this pitch, you’d need a geologist handy, and if there was a review they’d run out and see if they could detect any mud on the edge of the bat.  Bring on Geo-Spot.

The rough developing outside the off stump is going to make batting in the fourth innings a challenge.
The rough developing outside the off stump is going to make batting in the fourth innings a challenge.

                 While we were willing the bowlers on as they scratched around in the mud with the bat, slowly building the total, it was a relief to finally get them all out of the dressing room when India started their innings.  The Twelfth, still operating under the delusion that he nearly made the team, was actually paying attention, waiting to be called onto the field with drinks, tablets, hats or the latest results from Caulfield.  The five members of the Reject Club got bored after the first five overs, and retreated to the coldest part of the dressing room to plot some practical jokes for the rest of the tour.Darren showed up after tea, looking like he was in need of some of his own “relaxation routines.”  He put on a brave face about his adventures getting to the ground. He’s not much for emersing himself in the culture, so doesn’t even carry any rupees in his wallet.  He was very sheepish about how much he’d paid the taxi driver, but I suspect the driver’s kids might well be going to college on the $A proceeds of today’s fare.

The day’s play finished with the game evenly poised.  There is just one wicket we need desperately tomorrow, and I’m sure this will be the only subject of our team meeting in the morning. But there must be a way.  After all, if Pistorius can get out, so can Tendulkar.

Day 2.  Aus all out 380, India 3/182.

Diary of the 17th Man – Feb 22

Day 1 – First Test – Chennai

The Captain called the team talk at the Hotel. Team Management (how many of them are there now?) opened with a few pleasantries until The Captain cocked an eyebrow that sent them all scurrying into the usual early morning hullabaloo in the foyer.  When the big doors eased shut we were by ourselves at last. Coach gave us a quick run down on protocol, weather forecast, the ground and likely pitch conditions followed by The Captain’s address at which point the eleven shoved their keep safes deep into a spare pocket to listen for the order of battle.  I will not name the player who at this point realised he was still carrying his lucky teady.  Nor where he was forced to hide it.

Captain began in a quiet voice sweeping through the history of test campaigns on the sub-continent laced with stories of lone hands, last man stands, wounds, ties, heroism and the odd statistic just to remind us that many more promising careers have been shattered on the sparse loam of Indian pitches than have been made.  Fortunately he glossed over the story of Deano’s 200 – heaven knows we’ve all heard that one often enough from the man himself.

Coach, with Darren’s help (they seem to hang out together an awful lot), scratched out a single message on the whiteboard:

“Mental discipline.
Bat well. Bowl well. Field well. Stay alert.
Support each other
Observe the spirit of the game
WIN!

The Captain closed with a hastily constructed prayer for the opposition to bat, bowl and  field poorly while eleven sweaty hands, amid the general unease, gently reached for their pockets aware of the enormity of the task before them.  I’ve never seen so many multi-colored socks or jocks. Wicky’s hoarse tones bled the team song dry yet again.

With that he held up the official batting and bowling card, fixing it to the door with a rusty bayonet he picked up in a market a few days ago. In the melee that followed, the bayonet slipped to the floor between Coach’s feet. By the time he regained composure, the card lay around him like confetti. His cheek smarted from a paper burn.

My regular paper boy threw me the TOI with the latest betting market pinned to the front page. Both predicted a grinding comprehensive win to the home side in the morning of the 5th day. No rain, no draw. I brushed up a nice note to Thea on the bus, then a punchier note to Dad to check my shares, reminding him to be civic-minded and stop kicking the neighbour’s cat. I’ll get a game.

The pitch was the parched dustbowl we expected with all the colour of an Ethiopian drought.  A spinner’s paradise. The Captain won the toss and said “We’ll have a bat, mate,” before anyone even blinked. A wave of relief washed through the dressing room when he made the signal – and sent the openers rushing off for a nervous wee.

Plopper announced “I tickled a fish once at a salmon farm in Tassie,” meaning to release the stench of accumulating anxiety. A few of us in the front row guffawed, throwing open the windows for fresh air. The rest thought differently, suspending a terrified and shirtless Plopper over the side of the terrace in a three – point harness anchored by Wicky’s kit.

Things were going well at lunch (2/126).  Darren took the number 1 aside to remind him that stumping is a legitimate dismissal, not to glare the umpire as you leave the field, and to measure the distance between the crease and the top of the stands before you attempt to smash the pill into the snake charmers.  On field decision-making is a fine art.

The early promise faded in the first hour after lunch. The Captain left the rooms with his heavy bat, tanked up on Gatorade, intent written on his lips. His presence reversed the momentum leading us out of the doldrums to a solid 7/316 at stumps. His prayers had been answered directly on 38, the umpire unsighted on an inside edge to bat pad. Providence rewards those who don’t walk is one way to see it, and as far as the BCCI’s objections to using DRS, what goes around, comes around.

The game is evenly poised. Only the spinners are making headway, threatening to unleash real venom if we lose focus.

 

 

Diary of the 17th Man – Feb 21

Test Eve.  There’s nothing like it.  The Eleven and the Drinks Waiter are striding around the hotel, looking like they’ve got somewhere to be, something to do.

There were signs of hope at the net session today, with the Top 5 looking more comfortable against the spinners.  There was no point in them facing up to the quicks, so the pace barrage got to take aim at the Reject Club.  I know the Coach wants them to go hard in the three or four overs that the new ball will bounce above waist high, but man they gave it to us. I struggled to keep up the enthusiasm as the thunderbolts fizzed by, or cannoned into the fleshy parts of my person – I wasn’t going to get into the team by showing the brains trust I could handle our pace attack.  Not that I could.

The whole squad sweated through some fielding drills.  The heat was stifling, and it was only an hour after the scheduled start time tomorrow.  I hope the air-conditioning in the dressing room is working.  We then had a team meeting specifically about managing the ball during the game.  It’s clear the only movement we’ll be getting near this pitch, which looks like a slice of the Roland Garros centre court, is through the air.

The Test Squad were then whisked away for essential preparation for the Test – getting their shirts checked and audited by the Head of Sponsorship, last minute haircuts, facials and pedicures.  For the five of us in The Reject Club, it really felt like the train had left the station without us.  Which wasn’t far from the truth – we were left to our own devices, demolishing the lunch spread the host club had left for the whole squad, and by the time we returned to the car park, it was empty.  Even the autograph hunters had moved on, denying us the little bit of an ego boost we needed.

The Indian Press were finally showing some interest in the team, after spending the week camped outside Team India’s training sessions.  The buzz is all about whether or not this will be Sachin’s last home series, so I think there’s a lot of pressure on The Little Master.

The Reject Club is notorious for having a late night on Test Eve, just to squeeze some fun out of a bad situation, and to show the Twelve what they were missing out on by being selected as one of Australia’s elite cricketers – a cheap night out on the slops with four other sad losers.  Coach had read us the riot act, reminding us of our responsibilities to the team, and I had worked out how to get out of the hotel without him knowing, when news came through of the awful events in Hyderabad.  The place filled up with security agents in a flash and team management were suddenly in huddles talking secretively to each other.

So, rather unexpectedly, it’s a quiet night on the eve of the first test.

 

The Diary of the 17th Man- Feb 20

The 17th Man is emailing his diary entries in until he gets his own blog
set up.  Follow him on twitter: @17thmandiary

feb20Things are always a little tense on the day the team selection is announced.  Everyone is on edge, even those who are dead certs to make the eleven. The “rotation policy” has made these announcements even more keenly awaited, with baggy greens (and match fees) hanging in the balance.

The Captain came to breakfast holding a single piece of folded paper, which he left sitting tantalisingly on his table while he went to the buffet.  No one dared peak at it while he was loading up with Bircher muesli and tinned fruit.  No one even dared sit with him!

The spinners were at the next table, picking at their food and talking in hushed tones while taking furtive glances to see if The Captain was going to drop any hints their way. Nothing.

Just when everyone had resigned themselves to waiting until the ten o’clock team meeting to find out who made the cut, the Captain stood up and walked out of the room – leaving the folded piece of paper behind.  As soon as he was out of sight the spinners swooped on it like a bunch of seagulls after a chip, but it was not the team list.  The Captain had pulled a swifty on them, and was no doubt back in his room laughing his head off.  They stormed off in disgust, leaving the scrunched up note paper fastened to the table with a bread knife.

The other players who were there casually made for the door, subtly swinging by the Captain’s table so they could see ir for themselves.  I was last out, knowing for sure I wasn’t playing, so was last to see the single line of text that had so upset the tweakers.  “Luke 12:27.”*  He’s an enigma, really.

One of the young hopefuls was in the foyer talking on his mobile.  “No, haven’t heard anything yet.  Depends how they manage the rotation policy.”  His mum doesn’t understand it either, apparently.

It all went by uneventfully in the end, with a simple reading of the list at the team meeting.  No one cried, which was a relief.  After a rousing pep talk, the Captain gave the list to the press officer, who usually passes it on to the assembled throng of journalists. The corridor outside was empty.

A lengthy net session focusing on the eleven filled up the afternoon. Only one more day of waiting until the real action starts on Friday.

The Diary of the 17th Man – as told to Dave Cornford and Jeremy Pooley

* “Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not
even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.” (New International Version, c 1984)

 

Diary of the 17th Man – Feb 19

The 17th Man is emailing his diary entries in until he gets his own blog set up.  Follow him on twitter: @17thmandiary

The Coach came round banging on doors early. Very Rude.  Wicky was asleep his gloved hand all but suffocating him. I tied his ankles to the bedpost, yelled fire and slammed the door.  If I’d thought to film it, I would be a shoe-in for winning Funniest Home Videos.

The newspaper boy jammed a copy of the latest TOI under my arm as I turned to board the bus, flicking a perfect “how’s your father” at Wicky who was trapped in a revolving door.  Not his day already. The headline told it all: ‘Aussie Bats No Match for Our Spinners,’ book ended by the equally subtle back page: ‘Aussie batsman humbled. India on Top.’  I might get a game after all.

We got to the ground at 6.30 am. It was padlocked. Coach threatened to drive the bus through the gate before the groundsman reluctantly agreed to let us in. We set up a searchlight on a couple of rickety stools to light up the practice wicket and a couple of the lads rolled it a few times. Coach produced a can of spray paint to mark out the crease.

He waved us in real close. Pointing to the crease he said “Either full stretch forward or step back. Don’t get trapped on the crease! That’s it! That’s it!  Have you got that?  We stay here today, maybe all day, until you get it right.”

The first two in were about to question the rather murky morning light, but realised that it was not the time or place to be precious about such niceties as the batting conditions.

The spinners bowled all morning, brilliantly and a change up compared to Day 1 of practice game. No one could hit a thing. Coach kept yelling “Forward!” or “BACK! BACK!” over and over again.  It didn’t seem to make much difference.

We broke for lunch sporting a ravenous hunger, only to find an untidy spread of vegemite sandwiches provided by our Hotel. No one touched the fruit.

The Professor found a hose to wash down the bowlers when they least expected it.  Mid delivery stride was about right – it was stinking hot. The Coach yelled at us all afternoon. “Watch it from the hand. Be mindful. Bat with purpose. Get it in the middle.” Late in the day some of us started to do just that. It felt good. The Captain called it quits at 4.30pm.

We found the Coach cutting the TOI into little squares, page by page, with a dirty pair of fingernail scissors from the medical kit. A battered Ouija board lay at his feet. Darren escorted him to the bus muttering soothing thoughts into his deaf left ear. Then Wicky led us in the team song, taking a break during the second verse to cough up a fly and praise the Lord for recovering his kit and its mysterious cargo from a disused subway station in Moscow.

The Captain invited us to the Hotel Bar on our return, Coach’s shout. The first frothy barely touched the sides. Coach shouted a second before the boys relaxed.

Tomorrow the Captain announces the team for the first test. I looked for Coach’s Ouija board, out of curiosity nothing more, but The Captain had it securely tucked under his arm as he left the bar.

The Diary of the 17th Man – as told to Dave Cornford and Jeremy Pooley

Diary of the 17th Man – Feb 18

We were pleased to get out of today with some dignity intact.  Well, that’s all of us apart from Plopper who ended up locked outside the dressing room in the wan light of the late afternoon wearing nothing but a jock strap and a wry smile.  We’d have had an excuse for not hearing his endless bashing on the door if it had been the last day of a series win and Khe Sanh was blaring out.  Instead, we sat there in an eerie silence, listening to him bash and panic for well over ten minutes.  Reminded us of his batting.

A more solid performance in the second dig saw the game meander along to a draw in the end.  The fielding was a little unusual at times – deep third man had a touch of mange at some stage.  A couple of the lads batted well overall, and must be feeling OK about themselves.  For the most part, though, I doubt that the Indian test spinners will be doing anything other than licking their lips tonight.

News from Mumbai that the Southern Stars had added the World Cup to their bulging trophy cabinet the previous evening by walloping the West Indies was no help. They played well, but when it comes down to it, it’s all about whether our top six can come to terms with the Indian spinners.  After our scratchy display against their second stringers, things aren’t looking good with the first test starting in a few days.

A special “spin clinic” has been called by the coach for tomorrow for everyone in the touring party.  It will be interesting to see where that happens – every set of practice nets we get offered by the hosts is as green as Kermit the Frog, while the pitch for the first test is sure to be a dust bowl.