Proteas in Sri Lanka, day 19

For many years, decades even, I’ve written and spoken about the decline in players’ performance towards the end of tours. They were merely personal observations but, from 1996, they were based on the science provided by Professor Tim Noakes who set out to prove that there was an optimal ‘peak’ of performance on tour after which sportsmen and women inevitably waned. 

As always, there were exceptions. If I recall correctly, a young and uninhibited Herschelle Gibbs would have been delighted to be on tour for six months at a time, but team mates with wives and children, according to Noakes’ date, were in irreversible decline after around five weeks on the road.  

Add Covid and bio-secure ‘bubbles’ to the equation, and the time inevitably declines. It’s been almost three weeks in Sri Lanka now, and only five limited overs games out of six, and I can’t recall ever wanting a tour to end more quickly than this one. Out of the 300 or so which I’ve been lucky enough to cover, home and away. If that’s how I’m feeling, it’s fair to assume that the players are also pretty keen to get home – or at least to leave their ‘bubble’ and go for a walk, or the beach, or whatever it is that they’re missing. 

Frankly, I’m surprised that more top sports people haven’t taken more time out. There are have been plenty, but we tend to forget them almost as soon as they have stepped away. Out of sight, out of mind. 

The breakfast crows seem to know that something is up. They have become more brazen than ever, even prepared to snatch at a slice of toast on a side plate. I’m sure they know we’re only here for one more breakfast.

In other news, Pakistan have appointed Mathew Hayden and Vernon Philander as batting and bowling consultants for the T20 World Cup. Newly appointed PCB chairman, Rameez Raja, said: “Matthew Hayden is Australian, and has experience of winning World Cups and was a great player himself.” Who needs coaching certificates and experience when you are already blessed with so many qualities?

Rameez also said that he “…knows Philander personally” so that was obviously a tick in the right place on Vernon’s CV. He might have said: “Vernon was not just one of the modern day greats, he is one of the best Test bowlers of all time with 224 wickets at an extraordinary average of 22.32.” It might not have been relevant but it would have sounded better than “I know him personally” – or “Vernon played in seven T20 Internationals in his illustrious career and took four wickets.” 

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