Australian cricket suffered a blow this week when the talented batsman Sam Robson opted to join the England Performance Programme (EPP).
Robson, who was born and raised in Sydney but moved to the UK six years ago, remains eligible to play for either country until his international debut. But inclusion in the EPP is a clear indication as to where his heart lies.
Choosing between two such great nations must be an agonising decision for any sportsman.
Imagine having to peer deep into your soul and decipher if it is green’n’gold or red, white’n’blue.
In order to help Robson, and others in his invidious position, I have devised the following quiz.
You enter a gentleman’s outfitters to purchase a new hat. Do you choose:
A. A timeless classic in the correct size.
B. A baggy number which makes you look like you are playing the role of “third street urchin” in an amateur production of Oliver!
C. Something in green felt, with a feather tucked into the band.
While travelling abroad, you meet a man who tells you that his second cousin had a great grandmother whose next door neighbour came from your home nation. Do you:
A. Well up, hug him like a long-lost brother, and suggest he joins you in a chorus of your shared national anthem.
B. Slap him on the back, keep smiling, and hope he doesn’t realise you can’t understand a word these foreigners say. It’s like, they don’t even end every sentence with a question mark?
C. Suggest he is mistaken. Nobody has ever left your village, let alone your country. Why would they?
In your opinion, sledging is:
A. A disgraceful and ungentlemanly element of cricket, which is why it is best delivered sotto voce.
B. Hilarious, mate! The louder and coarser the better. Or telling a guy he is fat. Priceless.
C. An efficient method of getting home after a long day of goat-herding.
To achieve world domination in sport via large sums of government cash and a ruthless abandonment of amateurism is, in your opinion:
A. A bit of a shame but it feels a lot better than losing all the time.
B. Totally unfair, now that everyone else is doing it.
C. Do you mind if we don’t speak about world domination? Long story.
A batsman who refuses to walk after being caught behind from a nicked edge that Hotspot failed to detect is:
A. Surrendering to the inevitabilities of top-level professional sport.
B. Pinching all our ideas.
C. Sorry, can you please repeat this question, preferably with reference to the equivalent situation in ice hockey?
To grease the edge of one’s bat in order to reduce the effectiveness of Hotspot is:
A. Outrageous and cannot be condoned. In public.
B. Outrageous and cannot be condoned. In anyone else’s country.
C. Seriously, I’m totally lost now. Is this like when you wax your skis?
Tell me about the musical section of the so-called Barmy Army.
A. They are a band.
B. They should be banned.
C. They should be an oompah band.
How did you score?
Mostly A’s: Congratulations, you are English. You belong, as Shakespeare wrote, to “this happy breed of men, this little world, this precious stone set in silver sea”. Now, if you can play cricket, go and stand with the other Zimbabwean, South African and Irish chaps over there.
Mostly B’s: Fair dinkum, you are Australian. I’d love to include a stirring quote from your national poet, but the library did not have any Kevin Wilson tapes in stock.
Mostly C’s: Oh, I see. You are Austrian. I get it now.
IT’S ALL JUST PUN AND GAMES FOR RODGERS
Did he just say what I thought he said? No, surely not.
Hang on, we’ll check the tape.
Yes, I’m afraid he really did.
Brendan Rodgers, the Liverpool manager, really did say that Luis Suarez, having served a 10-match ban for biting an opponent, was “champing at the bit” to return to the field.
This was arguably the most punned-upon moment in the history of sport – seriously, Twitter had only just calmed down – and Rodgers starts it all off again.
Could it have been a joke?
If it was, then Rodgers must be a mean poker player, because his face did not betray the slightest flicker.
Perhaps we should just be thankful – or more truthfully, quite disappointed – that Rodgers was not in the spotlight for any other players returning from infamous bans.
Can you imagine:
“Yes, we’re glad to have Joey Barton back after he was sentenced to jail for detaching Ousman Dabo’s retina. He seems to be OK, but we’re all keeping an eye out for him.”
“No, Eric Cantona has not lost his appetite during that 10-month ban for attacking a Crystal Palace fan. His spirit is alive and kicking.”
“Of course Rene Higuita kept himself fit while serving his prison sentence for assisting in a kidnapping. He ran some, then he ran some, then he ran some more.”
“Paolo Di Canio is sorry for what he did to that referee, but he will always stand up for his rights. He is no pushover.”
“Mr Mourinho has served his Uefa touchline ban and that is all we will say on the matter. We have no intention of airing our dirty laundry in public.”