The ECB’s campaign to “sex up” the image of English cricket seems to be gathering momentum as this “Exciting Summer of Cricket” proceeds. We have already seen one prominent campaign featuring Michael Vaughan in his long johns and another featuring Broad, Anderson and Cook stark naked (I can’t remember what the excuse for that one was). Now, in today’s Observer, we find a curious kind of advertorial for Hugo Boss (an England partner) – based around the lifestyle journalist Adrian Deevoy observing the players getting fitted out with their uniform Boss suits.
On the cover we see Strauss and KP doing up their ties (or perhaps taking them off). Inside we have an advert for Boss featuring Flintoff (I think, though someone’s been at him with an airbrush), Anderson and Cook (like two brothers from a Godfather film), Pietersen again (looking relatively restrained) and on the end poor old Monty (who looks like he’s going to a family wedding and standing in a hole, in spite of the fact that he’s 6 feet tall). They all stand in that pose – chests out, stomachs in, arms by their sides – that seems to be saying to us “oi mate – you want some?”.
Moving on to the article itself “England suits up for battle” (not, to my mind, an idiomatic phrase) we find further moody shots of the boys robing and disrobing. Matt Prior adjusts Andrew Strauss’s tie for him. There’s a nod to Caravaggio there, a hint of Reservoir Dogs.
The text begins “Dont mention the A word” – at first I assume he means “Ashes“, but by the end of the article I’m not so sure (perhaps Armani?). KP pitches up, removes his camouflage shorts, offers some thoughts on the merits of the England football team’s suits, puts his shirt back on and then “the man who moisturises nightly is out the door“. Next is Collingwood, who is reminded that he wasn’t wearing any underwear the last time he was fitted for an England suit, followed by some banter about what size underpants he needs. “Member of the British Empire, indeed” comments the Observer, admiringly.
One by one in they come. Cook is “unpardonably pretty” and has “the detached air of Flashman-like cruelty to match“. “An anonymous off-spinner” (Swann) comments about Broad “I’ve often said to him if he had a pair of breasts I’d fancy him too“. Even Matt Prior’s “even blue gaze and close crop give him the look of an assassin in a TV crime reconstruction“. The only one a little left out is the unfortunate Panesar. In spite of having “mesmeric cola-coloured eyes“, “there’s a seriousness, sadness even, to the be-patka-ed leggy“. Perhaps that’s because the reporter can’t remember what type of spin he bowls (or perhaps by “leggy” he means he’s got long legs).
Onions –“willowy”– wears baggy, brightly-coloured underpants, whereas, as the Observer gravely notes, “uniformly his colleagues have favoured the tight, short-legged variety of pant, preferably in simple black of white with, perhaps, a waistband of complementary hue”. Ravi Bopara (“compact physique”) wonders about his suit “Do you think it should be tighter here … or would that look a bit … you know?“.
And finally, Andy Flower – “commands a respect that slight men with strawberry-blond hair who were once known as “Petals” are seldom afforded”.
Now it’s not, you understand, that I have any objection to That Kind of Thing, but I am a bit worried that team selection may come to depend on looks rather than ability, if this trend continues. We have already had poor Patel being dismissed from the side for being overweight – ostensibly because his fitness level might affect his form, but actually I suspect because he isn’t “buff” enough to look good in one of those tight undershirt things. And what, I wonder, would Mr. Deevoy have made of the English dressing room of forty years ago? What would he have made of Cowdrey, Milburn, Sharpe and Parfitt in their underwear? And what poetic epithetics might he have found to match the eyes of – say – Fred Titmus?