Darren Gough was only in South Africa for three days before the long journey to Barbados ahead of the first Test match but they were well spent in the luxury of Sabi Sands where he was privileged to see the Big Five and even a cheetah hunt. No wonder he was in such good spirits as we met up at OR Tambo before the long journey to the Caribbean.
The ‘Bobby Dazzler’ and I might have been travelling from 30 degrees to zero and back to 30, but he was considerably better prepared than me for the five hour changeover from Heathrow to Gatwick. Too well prepared, as it happened. In the time it took us to collect our luggage, catch a taxi and enter the next terminal, we’d spent no more than 15 minutes in the biting English winter air. His extra sweatshirts have become burdensome luggage for the next six weeks in the West Indies,
Our accommodation is highly unusual for a working tour. A beautifully maintained, colonial era plantation house with six bedrooms and verandas all over the place – with amazing views. One of which is overlooks the Barbados Polo Club which is barely 50 metres from the house swimming pool.
England’s greatest modern era wicket keeper, Matt Prior, is also part of the TalkSport commentary team for the tour and has a double agenda – to work as hard behind the mic as he did in Sri Lanka in November but also to lose 10 kilogrammes in preparation for riding the amateur Tour de France in July. It is exactly the same route as the professionals ride but the day before. This year, apparently, has more climbs – and more steep climbs in the Alps – than ever before.
So we started our training in the amber sunrise of Barbados this morning. I’m not riding a bicycle anywhere, but Matty P is the sort of special person for whom most people would do anything. So if he needs a training and dieting partner for the next six weeks, I’ll be there for him. It was a brutal hill-running session to start.
But followed by a breakfast, and a setting, to make it all more than worthwhile. Especially for the one half of the team happy to eat toasted bagels and jam as well as poached eggs and bacon. Slightly less filling for the other side of the team who, apparently, will only be consuming carbohydrates some time in February.
The first Test starts at the Kensington Oval on Wednesday. England rampant favourites, of course. If you can’t watch it, join us for exclusive ball-by-ball commentary on TalkSport2.
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