Driving Ambition by Andrew Strauss

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In this first extract from his autobiography, Driving Ambition, Andrew Strauss looks back at last year’s ‘textgate’ saga.

It’s no secret that the recent success of England has been built on the solid foundations of effective man-management and team discipline. We select players who slot effortlessly into that team ethos, so that we form an impenetrable wall that allows in nothing that could disrupt our preparation and allows out nothing that the press could find remotely interesting.

I’d been aware for some time that KP was struggling with the demands of not being newsworthy but I was still unprepared when allegations were made that he had sent defamatory text messages about me to members of the South African team.

I felt shocked and betrayed by the content of one of the texts in particular.

ENG SHOULD DECLARE & SET UP GAME TO ENTERTAIN CROWD. YOLO!

It was only then that I realised how isolated Kevin had become. How out of step he was with the ethos of Team England. Entertain the crowd? Who did he think we were, the Harlem Globetrotters?

In our next extract from Driving Ambition: Chapter 12 – Educating Yorkshire, The England captain’s failed attempt to school Tim Bresnan in Received Pronunciation.

Grand Theft Auto V – BCCI Expansion Pack

GTA V - BCCI Extension Pack3

Rockstar Games Press Release

World Cricket: a sprawling sporting ghetto full of self-interest, corruption, and cucumber sandwiches for lunch; once the height of cultural sophistication, now struggling to stay afloat in an era of economic uncertainty and ever multiplying Twenty20 leagues.

Amidst the turmoil, can you increase your chances of survival and gain promotion within the cut-throat ranks of BCCI officialdom?

Use the familiar Grand Theft Auto game engine to cruise the mean streets of Kolkata, St John’s Wood and Dubai. Find favour with your bosses by running over Gideon Haigh and uncooperative members of the cricket blogosphere. Search sleazy bars and strip joints for commentators that can be added to the payroll. But can you get Sachin to his 200th test appearance through the Mumbai traffic whilst keeping one step ahead of the chasing Indian Revenue Service officers?

BCCI Expansion Pack missions include:

Ram-raid the Lord’s museum

Destroy Hawkeye Company HQ

Blackmail ICC official into giving you a lap dance

But remember that crimes, hustling, and stealing cars can only get you so far. Find a way to completely humiliate one of the other national boards and you have a short-cut to the top!

Developed by series creators Rockstar North, Grand Theft Auto V: BCCI Expansion Pack will be available worldwide for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

Nick Knight application to be England MD

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Giles Clarke
The England and Wales Cricket Board
Lord’s Cricket Ground
London NW8 8QZ

30th August 2013

Dear Giles,

I would like to apply for the advertised post of Managing Director of the England cricket team as I believe that my experience, skills and qualifications are an ideal match for the job’s requirements.

I have enclosed my CV for your perusal but would like to draw your attention to the following skill in particular:

  • Relationship with Kevin Pietersen unlikely to deteriorate further

I’m sure you’ll agree this places me in a unique position amongst the other candidates under consideration.

Yours sincerely

Nick Knight

Tony Blair: “Precision Watering” the only deterrent to rain

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London, England – In the aftermath of Friday’s abandoned one-day international at Headingley, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has called on the ICC to sanction use of “precision watering” at cricket grounds as a way to deter rain.

Speaking in his role as Special Envoy to the Middle East and spokesman for Chessington World of Adventures, Mr Blair issued the following statement:

“The events of this past Friday have once again highlighted how ineffective umpire inspections have become in preventing rain during international matches held in England. As a global cricket community we can no longer stand idly by whilst the paying spectators of that weather ravaged country continue to be terrorised by its unpredictable atmospheric conditions.

I have therefore written to the ICC asking them to sanction the use of unmanned sprinklers backed up by wellington boots on the ground, in the form of groundsmen armed with hosepipes. Through this use of precision watering it will be possible to flood bowlers run-ups thus making any rain in the area completely irrelevant.

I understand that this will result in some collateral damage to spectator enjoyment but in the long-term millions could be saved in weather-based insurance premiums.”

A spokesman for the ICC commented, “At face value this idea seems both counterproductive and a huge waste of time. As such it’s been passed to our cricket committee for evaluation and field testing.”

The second ODI between England and Australia starts today in Manchester. Conditions are expected to be dry with the chance of limited outbreaks of political idiocy during the afternoon.

Ray Illingworth reviews My Dinner with Andre

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Ray Illingworth Film Critic My Dinner with Andre (110 minutes, PG Cert, Dir: Louis Malle)

This week on Ray Illingworth Film Critic I’ve decided to take a break from the latest Hollywood blockbusters and look back at one of my favourite films, the 1981 art house classic, My Dinner with Andre.

Some of you might be surprised to learn of my affection for a movie which is, in essence, two members of the New York theatre scene enjoying a meal whilst they discuss experimental drama, alternative lifestyles and the meaning of existence. Well, let me assure you that I’m as much an intellectual as the next man, assuming the next man isn’t Jonathan Miller or Noam Chomsky – he’s not, as I’m writing this at the bar of the Pudsey Congs clubhouse whilst their second XI captain, Billy, cleans the optics. And let me tell you, compared to Billy, I’m Jean-Paul bloody Sartre.

Those of you familiar with My Dinner with Andre will be aware that it’s based on a tactical discussion held over evening dinner between myself, the England captain, and Alex Bedser, chairman of selectors, prior to the 1970/71 Ashes tour of Australia. That’s never been formally acknowledged by the film makers, but the entire plot has clearly been lifted from the relevant chapter of my autobiography Yorkshire and Back which was published just before the film went into pre-production.

At the beginning of the movie its two protagonists are arguing over the relative merits of experimental theatre, much as Alex and I debated which show to see in the West End after our meal together – Alex expressed a preference for Hair, whilst I was more interested in a revival of Uncle Vanya at the Old Vic. In the end we opted for The Mousetrap; a very English compromise in the sense that neither of us particularly wanted to see it.

The remainder of My Dinner with Andre sees the conversation flow over a wide range of topics that are thinly veiled allegories for the planning myself and Alex were putting into place for the upcoming Ashes campaign:

  • perception versus reality – how to play the mystery spin of John Gleeson
  • the de-humanisation of everyday existence – who changes next to John Snow when his corns flare up again
  • should we order the fish or the lamb – who fields in front of the Hill at the SCG, Boycott or Underwood?

The discussion of more formal philosophical theories towards the end of the film is, however, a complete invention. I always tried to avoid the subject with Alex as I knew he was an ardent disciple of objectivism whilst I thought its strict adherence to the whims of market economics would lead to Surrey winning the championship each year with their chequebook.

That minor deviation from the truth aside it’s great to see such an important part of ashes history captured so brilliantly on film. In my opinion My Dinner with Andre ranks as one of the greatest movies about cricket, perhaps bettered only by Peter Greenaway’s breathtaking recreation of the bodyline series, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover.

An enthusiastic thumbs up from me.

Kim Jong-un: My admiration for the MCC

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Kim Jong-un

(Reproduced by kind permission of North Korean GQ)

It should come as no surprise that I am a great admirer of that most venerable sporting institution, The Marylebone Cricket Club. With their labyrinthine organisational structure, strict dress code and ability to create laws within unelected committees, they remain a powerful model for the modern Stalinist state. In addition, their headquarters are situated in central London, meaning that after a day at the test match enjoying some cultured stroke making and broad brush planning of how to destabilise South Korea, you’re just a short journey from the centre of power of the Great European Satan, as well as an evening performance of Billy Elliot or Mamma Mia.

Mine has been a long and enjoyable relationship with the Home of Cricket. My dear departed father and I having been MCC members ever since their former president Peter May inadvertently drifted into North Korean territorial waters in his yacht, Tiger Lilly, back in 1992. I can remember as if it was yesterday the moment we persuaded Mr May to bump us up the waiting list. There was a hint of tears welling in his eyes when the agreement was made. The Supreme Leader’s eyes I mean – Mr May had a bag over his head at the time so I’m unsure of his emotional state, although I’m willing to guess at ‘concerned about the assembled firing squad’.

Ever since that day, we became regular visitors to St John’s Wood during the English summer. A familiar sight to the Lord’s gatemen with our panama hats, MCC red & yellow striped ties and hail-fellow-well-met ‘Death to America!’ greeting.

We became ardent admirers of all that Lord’s had to offer: the relaxed atmosphere of the Harris Garden, the high quality teas served in the pavilion and in particular the Nursery Ground with its ample space from which to launch a medium-range missile strike on the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

The Supreme Leader has since passed on to the great tractor factory in the sky and any spare time I had for visits to Lord’s has been cut short by the need to fully itemise the 20,000 strong film collection he left me in his will – this is proving a difficult task as he used very small hand writing on the labels and has mixed up the ‘Hollywood Musicals’ and ‘Homemade torture footage’ categories.

However I will be returning to Lord’s for the Yorkshire Bank final in three weeks time. I’m looking forward to meeting up with fellow members to watch one last game of the summer as well as to convince the MCC committee to include a painting of my father in the Long Room. It seems appropriate that the Supreme Leader should find a space in there after the oil painting of Shane Warne that was added in 2005 was so clearly influenced by North Korea’s cult of personality.

I understand that the committee may take some persuading in this matter, but, as their former president Mr May found out, that is something at which North Korea tops the rankings.

Death to the enemies of the enemies of democracy!

Kim

Dear Geoffrey #2

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Dear Geoffrey,

As a young(ish) man about town with a blossoming career in international sporting officialdom, a radiant smile and a stunning head of hair, I seem to have it all. But my reputation has taken a battering of late after I was publically barracked for prematurely ending a high-profile match – it was my own fault, I panicked after being caught admiring my back-combing technique in the digital display of a light meter.

I’m struggling to cope with this sudden loss of popularity and despite the calming presence of a beautiful tapering effect at the nape of my neck – thanks once again to the skilled scissors of Maurice from Kool Kuts of Karachi – I’m struggling to think how I can get myself back into the public’s good books.

A friend with experience in marketing has suggested re-branding my image but I’m too set in my ways to consider tram-lines or a crew cut and there’s only so much top end hair product I can afford on my salary.

All this has left me scratching my beautifully manicured head.

Please help.

Yours,

Aleem

Geoffrey Writes:

Well, that is a problem isn’t it? But not as big of a pickle as when I was dropped from the England test team after making 246 not out against India. It was Headingley ’67, a long hot summer and a disappointing one as I just failed to get my expected 2,000 runs for the season. The England captain was Brian Close…

(anecdote continues for several thousand words without ever addressing the question)

Poll: Terrestrial TV viewers unaware England won Ashes

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The_AshesLondon, England – Concerns that the English cricket team could face a public relations backlash following their recent “urine-gate” celebrations have abated after a poll of people without access to Sky Sports TV revealed that only 12% were aware that England had won the Ashes.

The Gallop poll, to be published in today’s Daily Telegraph, further revealed that a massive 71% of the terrestrial TV audience had no idea there had even been an Ashes series this summer, whilst 23% were unaware that cricket was still being played at a professional level.

According to PR expert, Mike Tanner, a consultant specialising in sports branding, England have dodged a public relations bullet.

“If this was 2005 when the entire series was free-to-air and cricket was front page news, we’d have a PR disaster on our hands. But now, as far as half the country’s population are concerned, cricket may as well not exist.”

However, when pushed, Tanner refused to see parallels with rumours that the England squad of 2005 had relieved themselves in the garden during a post-Ashes visit to 10 Downing Street.

“Peeing on the Oval pitch is seen by many as disrespectful to the game of cricket. Pissing in Tony Blair’s garden in the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq was a PR masterstroke. I’ve since advised a number of my clients wanting to improve their image to do the same thing. There’s a huge brown stain on the former Prime Minister’s front lawn that is a testament to my working relationship with members of the Chelsea squad.”

In related news: The England Women’s Cricket Team won their equivalent Ashes series on Thursday night.  Celebrations are understood to have been “boisterous but hygienic”.

Captain of Her Heart – Chapter Eighteen

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Captain of Her Heart

Chapter Eighteen – A Leader of Men

It was only when he was back into the swing of pre-season training that she realised how much the uncertainty of the winter had unsettled them, how much they’d missed the comfort blanket of their old familiar routine.

At least now the insecurity was over, life could resume its soothing tempo and she could appreciate once more the romance of their everyday existence: the long walks in the Dales, the way he’d lovingly hold her gaze whilst she removed a dog hair from his eye and the feel of his body against hers as she carried him up to bed after he’d fallen asleep in front of Premier League Darts. He was the Brad Pitt to her Angelina Jolie once again, although, if she was honest, she doubted Brad would ever discuss the best way to worm a Labrador whilst her family were trying to watch the Queens’ Christmas Day speech.

The hard grind of preparing for the new season also reminded her of the native cunning he’d always shown – one of the first things that had attracted her to him.

‘He’s nobody’s fool,’ she’d thought whilst administering the dead-leg that would prevent him from taking part in the physio’s dreaded bleep test later that morning. A sly smile crossed his face and tears of pain warmed his cheeks as he limped towards the car. She stood there waving him away for what seemed like an age as he pulled out of the driveway and down the road at an uncertain 5 mph – the maximum he could manage with a leg numbed to the point where it could barely press down on the accelerator pedal.

From the vantage point of their house on the hillside she watched as he inched his way down the narrow country lanes near their village, the ever increasing tailback of traffic behind him a testament to how severe a blow he’d taken and how hard it would be for the club physio to deny his injury. That was the genius of Martin; he had avoided ten minutes of agony by inducing just a few days of extreme discomfort.

But this early personal triumph was soon to be forgotten, as Martin’s role as club captain, and his determination to diminish the intensity of the players physical conditioning to “something my bleedin’ knees can cope with,” had brought him further into conflict with the club physio.

It had started when Martin downgraded the traditional early season cross county run into a three-legged race and in response the physio has ensured Martin was partnered with the clubs diminutive batting prodigy, little Jamie Tyler, county crickets first registered midget.

As Martin struggled his way down the roads surrounding the club’s training ground, trying in vain to keep his one stride in step to Jamie’s two hops, he vowed that the physio was to pay for this humiliation. A determination that increased all the more when he was stopped by a police patrol car alerted to reports of a man dragging a small child away across the fields.

As Jamie tried to explain he’d left his identification behind when they had changed clothes, a phrase that did little to calm the situation, Martin, handcuffed and with his face pressed hard against the outside of the police car’s rear passenger side window, reflected that being a county cricket captain was going to be harder work than he first anticipated.