Fitter than fleas on a stray dog

The national team are not lazy and they are not unfit. Sure, they enjoy a drink at the end of the day and sometimes they have a serious party after a match when they know they will not see active duty for at least 24 hours.

Barring the odd chocolate bar the national squad players eat healthily and know the difference between carbohydrate and protein. After a couple of months at the highest level they know the difference between aerobic capacity and physical strength so they comprehend what it is to be ‘fit’.

This process of education began in earnest in 1995 at the behest of Bob Woolmer and Hansie Cronjé and under the guidance of biokineticist Paddy Upton.

Fanie de Villiers, some may recall, was the leanest and strongest man in the squad but his hamstrings were as tight as guitar strings and he frequently overloaded on protein (steak) at lunchtime necessitating a quick nap and making him an unlikely option for a post-lunch bowling spell.

After three and a half years in the job Upton spotted a frustrating and often repeated pattern. While the core of the national squad required almost no guidance and supervision, having been ‘educated’ to the ways of their body and its optimum performance, new squad members were a disaster.

Time and time again Upton would have to dedicate his working day to the new boy, starting from scratch in the most basic, frustrating way. “If only,” he thought, “I could spend some time at the provinces and at schools.”

So what did Upton do? He wrote a detailed proposal to Ali Bacher suggesting his time would be more profitably spent spreading the base of the ‘fitness pyramid’ throughout the country and therefore make the jump from provincial level to international level less tortuous for all concerned. He also suggested it would be far more economical for the Board to lessen his time with the national team. It all made such perfect sense.

Upton was sacked.

Six years later Andy Gray reached all the same conclusions except he only needed two years in the job to realise that cricket’s tiny elite made the rest of the game’s participants look like pot-bellied pigs. Gray had the same thoughts as Upton. Exactly the same thoughts. So what did he do? He wrote a proposal to Gerald Majola suggesting that…well, you know.

Gray was sacked.

Yes, he was as good as sacked because his job description was changed unilaterally leaving him a) to kick his heels with a national squad that didn’t need him fulltime and b) to spend three quarters of his life away from home despite having two young children.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The new man, apparently the excellent Adrian le Roux, will be announced shortly. Wonder how long he’ll last before he realises the system isn’t working.

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