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AOC Book Club: Jimmy: My Story

In James Anderson’s autobiography, Jimmy: My Story, England’s attack leader makes some startling revelations about the truth of that disastrous tour Down Under in 2006/07. In the following extract, he reveals the boozy culture that developed amongst the players that ultimately led to Andrew Flintoff’s infamous ‘Fredalo’ incident at the World Cup in the Caribbean.

A Sobering Winter

There is one night of shame that will be indelibly linked with the winter of 2006/07. It has been referred to ever since simply as the pedalo night. The night that ended with Andrew Flintoff knee-deep in the Caribbean Sea at around 2am, and he and a number of other members of our World Cup squad, including yours truly, in altogether hotter water.

However, this excessive night on the beer wasn’t spontaneous and isolated. It had been, excuse the expression, brewing for months. There weren’t many England tourists that winter who could paint a saintly picture of themselves when it came to the consumption of alcohol in Australia. When you consider that we were an international sports team, it is shocking to consider what went on during that Ashes trip.

Undoubtedly, some of our guys turned to booze as a direct consequence of what was happening to us on the field against one of the best international teams in history. Things hit new lows for a lot of our Ashes squad that winter, we weren’t enjoying the tour either individually or collectively, and we were being comprehensively outplayed by a side intent on putting their name in international cricket folklore.

We were getting abused by crowds to an Olympic standard – in volume at least, both noise and amount, if not content: ‘What do you call an Englishman with a hundred next to his name? A bowler’ is a slow burner I grant you and one day soon it might raise a laugh. While their punters got zero marks for originality, however, we got a similar score for our efforts. Goodness knows what level of stick we were getting back home – thankfully we have an out-of-sight, out-of-mind approach to British headlines and news bulletins when on the other side of the world.

But we got the gist of disappointment resonating around the country because we felt it ourselves as we lurched from defeat to defeat. And we sought solace in the bottom of pint glasses.

Our first beer was usually in what the Australians call their rooms – never been sure why they use the plural as they only ever showed us one, and it was the one they got changed in – after matches. Having a drink post-match with the opposition became a feature of the 2005 Ashes and so we upheld the Australian practice of displaying grace in defeat throughout the series, although being there among them became increasingly annoying with each pasting.

To be fair, the Australians displayed great levels of humility throughout that Test series, except that is for Michael Clarke, in the aftermath of Adelaide, where we prised defeat from the gums of a well-chewed draw. While others chatted with opposite numbers about the game, Clarke was being a complete pain, whistling away to himself and carrying on in a most arrogant manner.

He and I are very much contemporaries. Having first met on a night out in Blackburn in the late 1990s when he was an overseas player in the Lancashire League, we then made our international debuts within the space of a month during the VB Triangular Series in 2002/03. And his aloof behaviour on this occasion seriously pissed me off.

I said as much to Damien Martyn, who I was sat chatting to at the time, and, looking down at my feet, added: ‘See this pad here, I really want to wrap it around his head.’

‘Do it,’ Martyn replied, completely straight-faced.

Now while Martyn was notorious for being someone who did not mix particularly well with his own teammates, and was not close to anyone, preferring to be something of a lone wolf, his bullish attitude nevertheless took me aback.

I looked at him again as if to ask: ‘Are you sure?’

‘Do it!’ he repeated.

As I’d had a couple of beers, I didn’t need a second invitation, so I picked this pad up and cuffed Clarke with it, making the biggest thud imaginable in the process, and causing everyone in the room to stop nattering. For a split second there was complete silence.

‘What the f**k ya doing?’ he snarled.

Naturally, the temperature in the room had risen and the sensible thing to do was to cool it by cutting the night short and leaving. For once that winter, we did the sensible thing.

It was not an episode I look back on with any pride but the theme of drowning our sorrows and seeking solace in beer was extended throughout the rest of the trip. It is fair to say that I was lacking direction both on and off the field at times.

Although I considered that scene with Clarke to be something and nothing, there was one incident during the one-day triangular tournament that followed which makes me cringe with embarrassment and regret. It came on the eve of the series when, typical of the drinking culture that had developed, a few of us really went for it one night. Not any night, mind: a night 36 hours before a one-day international.

Now we all make mistakes, and I’ve made my share during a 10-year international career, but this escapade in Melbourne broke all the rules. In a disciplined team you do not need curfews and clock-ins because common sense prevails and players self-police – but on this tour we lacked maturity.

“One thing led to another”: defeats and drinks started to snowball on the 2006/07 tour

There were no thoughts of anything heavy when Andrew Flintoff, Ed Joyce, Chris Read and I headed out from our Hyatt hotel base for the evening. We were just popping out for dinner and a glass of wine. But one thing led to another, a late night developed into an early morning and we ended up staggering back at 6am. We hadn’t ventured very far – both the pub and the karaoke bar we frequented were within spitting distance – but the fact that I would even consider boozing in the early hours, other than after a landmark Test victory or series-sealing one-day win, during an international tour obviously doesn’t reflect well on me.

We displayed complete disdain for the trust that had been placed in us, and such was our lack of self-respect that we sneaked into fast-food joint Hungry Jack’s – Australia’s Burger King – for breakfast before nabbing an hour’s sleep. Hardly an ideal diet for an international sportsman, let alone one that was required on the bus for practice at nine o’clock that morning.

Stuff like that shows how bad things had got on that tour. It had worn us down to such an extent that all sense of professionalism had been eradicated. Nights out, guzzling, were our form of escapism, our release from reality.

Fred was pulled up by Duncan Fletcher after turning up for training in Perth smelling of alcohol, following a typically one-sided defeat against Australia on Australia Day a couple of days earlier. He was fined for his dishevelled state and threatened with removal of the captaincy. But he was one individual among many on a tour that turned into something of a booze cruise. The presence of New Zealand, probably the most sociable team in world cricket, as the third country in that VB Triangular Series hardly helped. Because there were always a few days between games, it meant you could generally hit it hard immediately after a match – the Kiwis were nearly always in town and hail from a nation that doesn’t need asking twice when it comes to a night out – with the guarantee of a recovery kip the following afternoon.

The management were certainly not aware of our state of inebriation in the build-up to the MCG opener, and I must confess I managed to wing it very well at practice that day. I am sure others did too on other occasions. The universal attitude seemed to be that as we couldn’t do any worse preparing properly, we should try to have a bit of fun along the way, and see where that got us. There was a real mood of c’est la vie around the camp, and whenever you’ve got social animals like Fred in tow, and aren’t discouraging them from drinking, things are bound to get messy.

So the seeds of excess were sown thousands of miles away, down the road from St Kilda, rather than in St Lucia, the place in which our shoddy behaviour was well and truly exposed. These things tend to snowball if you don’t nip them in the bud immediately, and to add to the routine of getting blitzed immediately after one-day internationals, one or two crept out for a few quiet ones rather too often. Evidently, I was one of those transgressors. It was indicative of my state of mind at the time, and is behaviour I would not contemplate these days a week before a match let alone a few hours. At the time I was in my mid-twenties, one of a number of young players in the squad, and confidence was fragile as we switched from red- to white-ball cricket.

Jimmy: My Story, available online and in book shops, is reviewed in this month’s All Out Cricket magazine

Jimmy: My Story

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