I woke when The Prof’s Mickey Mouse alarm bounced off the bedside table. His mother had packed it at the last minute, along with a heavily thumbed boyhood anthology of Oscar Wilde and an old photo he had shown me earlier dated 1949 of his great uncle standing next to Dudley Folland and his newly imported British racing green 166 Spyder Corsa Ferrari. Scribbled on the back were the words “Fortune favours the brave”. Wilde sat on the table, the photo tucked into a favourite passage.
The Prof lay peacefully sunk deep in the middle of the bed – as comfortable as a roadside ditch – dead asleep underneath a fluffy edge-worn duvee and white starched hospital sheets. I let The Freak in at 5.00am as planned, equipped with 4 rolls of extra thick high stick green gaffer tape that we used to wrap the bed, the Prof and the fluffy duvee in a gaffer cocoon. The Freak wrapped carefully from one end, I very gently from the other, ignoring The Freaks pleas to take more care. The Freak surveyed the completed sculpture ‘The Prof in his Tomb’ in silence. “Better than Christo,” he whispered. I motioned to the door “Are you ready to go?”
We walked to the harbour promenade avoiding the Cardiff rubbish collectors and the first empty bus runs of the new day. Cardiff was still asleep as we made for the over-sized street lamp where a huddle of fisherman were unloading their catch from the night’s exertions. A single pelican circled lazily overhead watching us and the fish. Neither the bird, the fish nor the fisherman looked pleased.
The Freak was in an engaging mood. He chatted away recalling his boyhood as the incoming tide slapped harmlessly against the grey wall of the breakwater. I listened caught in his images, the glint of the sea off the soft dawn light, and the thump of laden crates on the quay. He ended with a chuckle as abruptly as he began. And just as quickly the fisherman with the fish had gone leaving the quay deserted. We sauntered back to the hotel for breakfast hurried by a freshening breeze and imaginative visions of a wriggling Prof encased in gaffer tape.
The so-called cricket citizenship amendment (CitizenGate) for the part time Pakistani leggie that Victorian stalwarts and ex-players of no consequence have anointed as the next great spinning sensation dominated the chatter over breakfast. The unnamed hero played 10 first class games before seeking asylum in Australia and 3 Sheffield Shield matches for Victoria last summer. “Plenty of test level form to worry the England top order” mused Puff.
“Maybe CA will parachute him in just before the toss escorted by a 5-man ASIS security detail like the Queen”, UnLucky added, “.. although I would first recommend playing 100 seasons in County cricket and scoring a ton against the A-team just to prove yourself”. The Captain split a grin from the far end of the breakfast lounge, to which Plopper responded “Has he played in India?”. When this drew no comment he added: “I mean anyone who warrants the attention of the Parliamentary draftsman must have plenty of form,” at which The Captain brightened up considerably casting a glance towards Darren (the team psychologist), who stopped take notes and began to flick through the index of his pocket DSM.
“Yes,” the Prof replied emerging from the scullery with what looked like a water pistol and advancing on The Freak and I with menacing intent. “I imagine the new Silver Bullet can take 4 wickets in 36 balls playing in the thirds faster than Lucky can score a run” he said, squirting the Freak’s sausage with long streams of cold water. The Freak feigned surprise. “That is so unfair Prof,” he wailed, watching his beans sink into a watery plasma. “And the Bill has bipartisan support,” the Prof smirked, squirting imaginary holes in my toast through the back of my head. “The Western Mail says the England camp is disappointed that this was not considered last year by NZ Cricket. Surely they are more desperate to find a Captain with a winning style who can lead from the front?”.
At this, aspiring Captains who reckoned they have form or might get form on this tour, the Reject Club (everyone who knew they would not play a single Test) including everyone who did not have a Cricket Australia contract, and anyone who everyone else knew did have a contract but thought they did not deserve one, excused themselves to call their Managers. That left the Captain and Darren (even the girl from Marketing had excused herself), who were not amused, and The Freak, the Prof and I, who decided we would finish breakfast.
Meet the Squad here
© 2013 Dave Cornford & Jeremy Pooley