Sunday, November 30, 2008

On the Clapham omnibus - Allout

Charlie, the thirty something man on the Clapham omnibus, carefully picks the one graffiti free seat and stretches back following a hard day at work. Out of the corner of his eye he sees a large sports bag and, eschewing the obvious explanation that it is being used to transport the takings of a local break-in, he thinks how unusual it is to see a Briton participating in sport, rather than drinking copious amounts of lager whilst watching others sweat. Showing lateral thinking he didn’t think possible, his mind turns to the personnel of the England Test cricket team.

And who could be more “cricket” than the well-spoken, public school educated opening batsman Andrew Strauss. Unfortunately, Strauss’s career is beginning to resemble Charlie’s year so far: it started with fireworks but got pretty bad, pretty quickly. In fact, the only serious runs Strauss has scored for the last two years were against New Zealand (or New Zealand 2nds as some Mouthy bloke on a pinko-liberal sports blog aptly calls them).

No, Strauss has clearly been found out thinks Charlie as his mind moves to a more enigmatic batsman. Oscar, Charlie’s former work colleague and born optimist, has told Charlie for months that Ian Bell is the most technically adept batsman in the side with a highly respectable Test record. Charlie is more streetwise though. Bell will always be soft and prone to being bullied by the likes of Shane Warne; his debut Ashes series proved that. With his character he will never score runs when it really matters. Charlie grins as he thinks back to flushing younger kids’ heads down the toilet as a schoolboy.

There is one England batsman who will never be intimated though. Charlie hadn’t known what to make of KP when he first broke into the Test side – he hadn’t liked the sound of someone choosing England because of a quota system in their country of his birth. Pietersen had won him over with his batting form though. And nobody can claim that KP only thinks of money any more. After all, he decided not to pump his team up for the possibility of winning $1 million a man for a couple of hours work, preferring instead to save them for the proper challenges ahead.

And what about Andrew Flintoff? Great man chuckles Charlie to himself thinking about both his outstanding performances in the Ashes 2005 and his hungover demeanour at the post-series celebration. Just a pity he has been at more breakdowns than the AA over the last three years. Or maybe the other AA would be more appropriate thinks Charlie mischievously as he considers the infamous Fredalo incident.

Then there’s Steve Harmison. How many chances does he get? In real life you only get one chance. Oscar learned this the hard way when he got into a booze-fuelled fight with the boss at the office Christmas party. Unsurprisingly, a P45 was on Oscar’s desk the following Monday. What chance was Harmy on? Sixth maybe, or seventh? Charlie had lost count. Yet still some people view him as the saviour of English cricket.

Charlie has always had a soft spot for spinners, and he smiles as he remembers Monty Panesar in 2006: unable to bat and field, and with limited bowling variety and cricketing nous, but with a beautiful high action and dangerous on turning pitches. Yes, he had a lot of rough edges but he was young and would improve with coaching and experience. Charlie’s smile turns quickly to a grimace when he realises that the Monty of November 2008 is exactly the same but two and a half years older.

Not much of a team, but at least the Aussies are suddenly struggling. Plus, reflects Charlie, Beefy thinks we will win the Ashes and he took more than 350 Test wickets and scored over 5,000 Test runs, so he should know.. Right? Unable to answer that question definitively Charlie’s mind turns to more pressing matters, like whether the long-legged girl from accounts will make it to post-work drinks at the Rat & Parrot on Friday.


Anonymous said...

It's written in an interesting and original style. Plus, there's a nod to my public school hobby horse in the reference to Andrew Straus's schooling.

My criticism would be that the subject matter is fairly modest; but then, that's kinda the point of this article, and most blog entries have been on similarly modest themes.

I like it. I haven't read anything like it in this competition, and that has to be a plus.


MotM said...

Very nice Allout. If not the view of every man, perhaps the view of Everyman?

Reminds me a little of a couple of apst pieces that failed Big Blogger 1. This (written with Mimi) - and this They might amuse again.

zeph said...

Good piece, Allout.

No need to worry about Strauss, as soon as he's out of the England side he'll jump neatly into a job as a commentator.

Bell: don't get me started.

Allout said...

Thanks for the comments folks.

The idea was for the piece to work on two levels with Charlie's views of various players as one source of debate and then on the other level the idea that sporting debate in general is too black and white plus a little comment on British society (hence averything came back to alcohol!)

That was the idea - of course whether it worked or not is another matter altogether!

Tweet it, digg it