Monday, 23 April 2012

What goes on tour...

The Thorpster gives you his take on cricket tours

Whether six months away in Australia, a calypso winter/early spring in the Caribbean or a week on the lash somewhere down on the south coast, cricket tours have always been synonymous with one thing, and that is bad behaviour.

As an international cricketer steps on to the tarmac about to board the first class section of a Virgin flight to Kingston, or a club cricketer who stumbles out of a bar into the back of his mates old banger, the phrase “what goes on tour stays on tour” is never far from the mind or lips, roughly translated as, “For gods sake don’t tell the missus, whatever happens.”

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Cricket Tour Behaviour

Freed from the shackles of domestic duty, cricketers are renowned for letting their middle stump guard down, and aided by whatever their preferred type of lubrication is, getting into scrapes which frankly take some explaining if they become public knowledge. Whilst this isn’t just confined to cricketers, just ask Mike Tindall, it seems that those donning the whites have almost monopolised the market.

Now the bad behaviour on tour I am referring to can take place both on and off the field and at any level from the international arena to the annual club mid season trip. As a young lad aspiring somewhat unrealistically to a profession in the game, I revelled in the red top headlines of Botham “allegedly” breaking the bed during an all nighter with ex miss Barbados Lindy Field and a few years before his widely reported Jimmy Tarbuck (difference of opinion) with Ian Chappell in an Australian bar. Moving on a few years I chuckled whilst taking in the tales of Tufnell in a toilet cubicle in a New Zealand Bar with plumes of “sweet smelling smoke” rising over the top of the door, and on another tour his attempt at interior design in an Australian Hotel room after a “difficult” conversation with his then wife. Jumping forward to recent times, Freddie Flintoff’s late night attempt at replicating the Americas Cup in the Caribbean Sea is another incident, which has become the stuff of legends.

While on the field, Gatt’s legendary finger pointing rant at Shakoor Rana and John Snow’s confrontation with a lively and lubricated Aussie fan at the SCG in 71 are two which spring to mind.

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The Middle Stump advises to always respect your hosts in their differing ways and cultures!

My own memories of tour incidents at club level can in some ways be compared to such incidents. There is an allegation that whilst captain in the West Indies in 1980/81 the aforementioned Beefy, banned Mr Gooch from his early morning jogs as he and Gower did not want to be caught returning from their “nocturnal activities”. Well, a similar thing happened on a club tour to Somerset in 1990. Two club members (not well known to each other) of shall we say differing personalities were thrust together in a room sharing arrangement, with the younger more lively half of the partnership having the older more studious occupant described as “a biker who is a right laugh”.  During that tour despite “sharing” a room for a week, they were never actually inside the room at the same time. The only times their passed crossed was when the older man playing the Gooch, setting off for 5am hikes on Exmoor “exited”, and the younger man playing the Beefy role, arrived back not alone from his night out and “entered”.

Another tour story about Beefy is that if his skipper came in on the morning of a Test match and said “we're batting lads”, Ian despite often batting at 6 of 7 would stick his pads up and tell his team mates to wake him up when he was in, while laying down on a bench to sleep off his hangover. In a similar vein an opening batsman came down to a club tour I was on in Hastings on a Thursday night with the intention of playing a long innings on the Friday at the new county ground. The next morning and decidedly worse for wear, the opener asked his skipper if he could bat 3 in order to sober up a bit, stuck his pads on and laid down in his motor for a kip. As the first wicket went down, frantic efforts were made to wake the star batsman up, which continued as the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th wickets fell. Finally as wicket 7 went down the “opener” stuttered into life and after much cajoling was escorted to the crease. After taking about 10 minutes to mark his guard his innings lasted 2 balls, both of which he missed by a mile and as the 2nd crashed into his middle stump, he stumbled back to the motor for the last half hour before tea.

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The Middle Stump do NOT condone in any way, doing this to your hotel whilst on cricket tour!

I also remember another on field incident during a game at Worthing, which could be compared to Gatting v Rana incident. As usual turning up nursing thumping heads, we could just about field eleven players that were alive. In contrast the home side had not only eleven players but an umpire and scorer and also a few spectators. Batting 2nd, as the home side took the field and our 2 openers made their way to the crease, the host skipper noticed a decided reluctance from our side to make up the 2nd umpire. The skipper usually a mild mannered chap marched onto the pitch and exclaimed “you can’t expect us to provide a scorer and two umpires throughout the game” followed by the statement “THIS IS NO LONGER A FRIENDLY!”.

Young tourists are always particularly vulnerable and therefore come in for some “special treatment”. Such treatment was meted out to a teenage tourist, who on the first night of his “virgin” tour became particularly inebriated after consuming many pints of Red Stripe. He was escorted back to the room by concerned fellow tourists and advised to leave his door unlocked in case he required further “care”. The mob soon returned and as the lad lay snoring he was quickly covered from head to foot in shaving foam and had a rose bud “inserted” for good measure. When he awoke from his Red Stripe induced slumber he was convinced by the sniggering and his bodily soreness that he had in fact been deflowered and not only by the rose. He soon realised otherwise, but to this day is serenaded by the line “Now that your rose is in bloom”, from the Seal hit, A kiss to a rose!

There are other legendary tales which have done the rounds of cricket clubs across North London and Hertfordshire, that I have had no personal involvement in or corroborating evidence of, but never let the truth get in the way of a good a rumour. The most outrageous is that of a country hotel laying on a particularly warm reception for a side from North West London. Their visitors made things far warmer, by somehow contriving to “burn down” one of the rooms they were occupying, leading to the hotel engaging the services of the local fire brigade. Let’s just say they weren’t welcomed back the next year.

Of course most cricket tours across the country and the world at whatever level “go off” smoothly and without any incident similar to those outlined above and form an integral part of the cricketing calendar. But if you are inclined to “get involved” in antics which you would not go near to in every day life, please remember to agree on the immortal rule for all tourists – “what goes on tour….”

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