Imagine you’re the best-performed spin
bowler in a Test match dominated by spin. It’s day four and, having taken a
career-best eight for 108 in the first innings and one so far in the second,
you wake up with a grin of anticipation, for there are five Bangladeshi wickets
out there and you can reasonably expect to pick up at least three.

You’re finally getting to play a game,
you’re the form bowler in your side and you’re turning it a mile with the old
ball. Clearly, you are the man for the job today. It’s going to be a good day.

Now imagine watching as your captain throws
the ball to Shane Warne. Watch as his first three overs go for 20 while the
captain avoids your gaze. Watch as Warne gets his game together and cleans up
the tail, returning figures of three for 28. Consider your innings tally of one
for 29, match figures forever stranded on nine for 137.

Try to console yourself with the thought
that at least you’re on the field. Few Test cricket players have been selected
in as many sides for so few actual days in the first eleven: you’ve been in the
Australian squad for 103 Tests since 1998 and actually played in 39. That’s 64
Tests spent guarding the drinks, including two full Ashes campaigns, so be
grateful you’re out in the sun in Dhaka.

Try not to think about Shane Warne. Quite
aside from the headache it causes, you know he’s not the problem. All of your
analysts agree.

Instead, as you walk off the field a
handful of steps behind the greatest spin bowler in history, work on your press
conference patter. You’ll be as magnanimous as ever, maybe talk about how much
you like wine and cinema. You’ll be affable and eloquent, and the media will
write that you’re aloof and “unusual”.

As you hit the showers, don’t allow
yourself even a second to think: why does everyone hate Stuart MacGill?

Peter Fray

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