Merv the Swerve

Merv Hughes tells the story best, but here goes. It’s a stinking hot day in Victoria at the start of a Sheffield Shield match and the wicket is one of the flattest in the country. The sun is so hot even the flies are moving slowly. The bowlers in both sides are having ice-cold showers in as the captains walk out to toss, just in case theirs loses calls wrong.

Merv’s captain wins and then looks momentarily puzzled. He turns to his opposite number and says “you guys can have a bat.”

The losing captain is stunned. “Really?! Are you serious…?” he stammers.

“Sure,” he says. “You can bat…eventually, after we’ve scored seven f***ing hundred!”

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Mickey Arthur is a man under pressure, it would seem. The ECB appointed a corporate firm of head hunters to find their next coach and the executive world of business is a very, very different one which governs sport. The idea of a man moving straight from one international team to another sits uncomfortably with those of us whom still regard national ‘pride’ as playing a part in sport.

But if a South African firm of employment ‘placers’ were hired by Standard Bank to replace their chief executive, the first place they would look would be Nedbank, or Absa, or FNB. The ECB’s brief to their corporate head-hunters was “find the best man for the job – and with an Ashes series imminent, we don’t want somebody who has to learn on the job.”

The most successful international coach in the world at the moment is Arthur – and the ECB has the money to boggle the mind of any international coach in the world. Arthur is committed, loyal and highly incentivised to win the World Cup in 2011, but he also has three young children and a future to think about. Rumours are suggesting that he may be offered as much as five times his current salary with CSA. If that is true, he must be a man riven with doubt and confusion.

****

South African won the Test series in Australia 2:1, lost the T20 series 2-0 and won the one-dayers 4:1. Australia won the Test series in South Africa 2:1, lost the T20 series 2:0 and… “No, no! I’ve already worked that one out! The one-dayers here will not be another mirror-image!” laughed Arthur after the second T20 in Centurion. We are not looking at another 4:1 scoreline in the ODIs, but if we are then it better be in our favour!”

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