Source: The Telegraph
Inside the tormented minds of the captains
It is the eve of the most important match between England and Australia for two decades. Both captains have finished their preparations and have given bullish press conferences.
Each has confidently asserted that neither fears the other and that the momentum is with his team. Each has eaten alone and retired early to bed. Now it is past midnight and neither can sleep...
Ricky Ponting ...
Still canít get the team settled in my head. We have to change the bowling because at the moment Iím relying on two blokes to do the job. Dizzy canít buy a wicket right now. And if thereís one bloke the rest of the guys want to do well itís him. Iím not looking forward to confirming the news tomorrow morning - it could be the end of his Test career.
Maybe Iíll let Merv tell him - the fat b****** has to do something for his money. Who voted him in as a selector anyway? Who should we play instead of Dizzy? MacGillís a wicket taker - but what if I lose the toss? Tait is as raw as they come - Iím just not sure what heíll produce under pressure. Kasper got smashed at Edgbaston.
Maybe we should play an extra bowler and drop Katich. Trouble is, Gillyís so short of runs that No 6 looks high for him. If only we had an all-rounder like Flintoff. Iíll take a last look at the pitch tomorrow morning and decide then. Looks flat, though. God, I hope I win the toss tomorrow. Havenít really seen England batting under any pressure since Lordís. What the f*** was I thinking of at Edgbaston? I reckon Warnieís still got the goods on them if they have to bat last on a wearing pitch. He can be out of order at times, but heís been immense on this tour.
Really need Haydos to get a score tomorrow. Heís looked half the batsman we know he is over the last year. I mean, Hoggard? Two years ago, Haydos would just have smashed him out of sight. I see Tubby came out in support of him in the newspapers this week. Nice. I wish those b******* would be as supportive about my captaincy. Itís a lot easier sat behind a microphone. Itís not taken AB long to start criticizing, either. What is it with our batsmen? We look like nervous wrecks. Reverse swing? Itís not that difficult. Just got to watch for the shiny side and play the ball late.
Mind you, Jones and Flintoff have got it on a string right now. Why canít our blokes reverse it as well as theirs? Maybe we need a bowling coach to travel with us in future. At least Pigeonís fully fit tomorrow. Wish heíd keep his mouth shut, though. Why did he have to bang on about 5-0 at the start of the tour? Gonna make me look a right idiot if I become the first Australian captain in two decades to lose the Ashes. Christ itís hot in this room. Canít they put us in a hotel with air conditioning? I bet England have got air conditioning ...
Michael Vaughan ...
We canít afford to lose this game. Lose this one and we can kiss the Ashes goodbye for two more years. If only weíd have taken our chances at Old Trafford... canít believe KP dropped that catch - mind you, Iím a fine one to talk. He looks so confident, though. Today, you wouldnít believe how noisy and boisterous he was at practice.
Maybe itís all a bit of a sham. I just wish heíd catch his catches. And the run-out. Maybe we should have had our best fielder at Old Trafford. We should be 2-1 up really. This game usually makes you pay for missing your chances. The press are banging on about Hoggyís place in the team. What do they know? All these former England captains who sound so certain about everything.
They werenít so certain when they were in charge, were they? Still, Hoggy must be the highest paid bowler pro rata in the world right now. It might just swing normally at Trent Bridge, though. And since they built the new stand there it seems to have swung a bit more. Weíd look stupid if we brought in Tremlett and it swung all over the oche.
Mind you, Jonesy could bowl with the new ball. But then again I need him for the old ball. F*** it, things are going well, why change it? Iíll see what Duncan thinks. Got 197 the fi rst time I batted in a Test at Trent Bridge. Had a double hundred for the taking then as well. Punterís gonna bring on McGrath as soon as I come in tomorrow.
He keeps banging on that I donít like facing him. Who does he think I am? Atherton? Iíve got four hundreds in eight Tests against this lot. I wonder if theyíll play Tait or MacGill instead of Gillespie? Hope not. Hope they keep the same team. Apart from KP things were really quiet at practice today. None of them have really played in as big a Test as this before. None of them went out for dinner tonight, either. They all stayed in their rooms. I hope theyíre all going to be alright tomorrow. I need to have a word with Freddie in the morning to be as upbeat as possible. Good energy and good vibes from him will spread to the rest of the team.
At least heís fresh and ready to go after a few days off in France. Thank God we didnít have to play in those semi-fi nals at the weekend. Whatever happens, itís a lot better than last time the Ashes were at stake at this ground. We were useless then. Sh**, Iíve still not got those tickets organised. How am I supposed to get 22 for tomorrow? Some of these guys you donít hear from for years. Theyíre all coming out of the woodwork for this series thatís for sure ...
At 10 oíclock the next morning both will emerge from the Trent Bridge pavilion for the toss. Both will be dressed immaculately in whites, Ponting wearing the traditional touring blazer and his baggy green cap, Vaughan a sun hat. In the middle they will shake hands firmly - their body language strong and assertive - and look the other in the eye. The dark lines will be the only clue to their midnight torments. Deep down each knows what the other is going through.
How good is that? Very creative.
Atherton is a great writer.