99.94 welcomes the ex-England captain – at least, I think it’s him.
Michael Clarke – The captain is the key to understanding a team, motivating his men, directing them and stopping them going off to have dinner with their girlfriends when there’s bonding to be done. Michael Clarke will reflect on that during those long nights on tour when captains lie awake tortured by thoughts of why things are not going to plan and typically ineffective British air-conditioning. There’s a passage in the Tathagatagarbha Sutra that says that a man alone is like a chicken without feathers. I suggest that Michael Clarke might do well to reflect on such ancient wisdom.
Shane Watson – The mark of a man’s moral courage lies in his response to adversity. In 1981, Ian faced similar problems to those facing Watson. He didn’t walk away – well, he was sacked before he could – but he came back stronger and wiser and played so spectacular a role in what became known as Brearley’s Ashes. It’s a shame that nobody thinks the same might be true of Watson in Bell’s (and a bit of Root’s and Anderson’s and Swann’s) Ashes.
Chris Rogers – Spectacles lend a man a donnish mien, attesting to a depth of thought about the game. If only Rogers could apply that depth of thought to the DRS, he might do justice to his glasses, if not the cap that sits atop them.
Usman Khawaja – Has the wrists and lovely lateness of stroke that allows him to hit any ball anywhere on the field – though most likely to third slip given where he plants his feet. Unlike most of his colleagues who might be advised to start thinking, Khawaja might be advised to stop thinking and let the generations of subcontinental blood that flow through his veins guide his instinct. Though that didn’t work for Mark Ramprakash. Nor Owais Shah. Nor Ravi Bopara.
Philip Hughes – I can’t help him – I’m only a shrink.
Steve Smith – His nervousness at the crease is manifest in his ticks, his twitches and his tugs at his clothing. And in his scores too. He might be advised to try a little meditation through which he may explore his inner Ocker. And if that doesn’t work, he could ease back on the Red Bull.
Brad Haddin – To be the spiritual heart of the team, its emblematic player, its very id, libido, ego and superego all fighting for space beneath the Baggy Green, is a burden few carry off with aplomb. I remember chatting to Dennis Lillee on this very point during the ’78-’79 tour and you know what he said? Well, it’s pretty much all he said on that tour, if truth be told, and I didn’t take offence. I broached the subject with Haddin last week at Lord’s, but he had, understandably, to attend extra catching practice, so the matter is (as yet) unresolved.
Ashton Agar – To be thrust into the limelight before one is fully ready often betrays one’s subconscious unreadiness for being thrust into the limelight. I suggest few would argue with that analysis of young Agar’s contribution so far.
Peter Siddle – Self-denial lies at the heart of success in any walk of life, since first one must master oneself – a thought never far away in the Holy Month of Ramadan. Siddle’s voluntary foregoing of meat and fish products shows that he has it within him to embrace absence, celebrate nothingness and fill with the spiritual the space vacated by the physical. And he might need to if things carry on as expected.
Mitchell Starc – To bowl left-arm pace is to be Other, to risk the role of scapegoat, to be tempted to wallow in the false comfort of failure ascribed to one’s otherness – the very quality that led to one’s selection. This duality may explain why “He bowls to the left / He bowls to the right / That Mitchell Starc / His bowling is…” Well, the point is well made.
Ryan Harris – A captain’s dream. Will run in all day with barely a murmur of dissent, hitting the bat so hard that his opponents subconsciously long for the sanctuary of the pavilion. Where they’re likely to run into Harris having some physio.
Darren Lehmann – To stand aside from the crowd, to take on the responsibilites of the one who both belongs and does not belong to the team, to feel tender souls searching for your wisdom in their hour of need – such is the coach’s lot. Though he might be advised to land a right-hander each on Watson and Warner and give everyone something to cheer about.
Mike Brearley was speaking to @garynaylor999