A last laugh

Bill Lawry, my favourite Channel Niner, says he thinks someone ought to name a pizza after Shane Warne; perhaps a Flipperoni, someone suggests. The Hi Darling, It's Shane Calling Pizza is my best effort and, yes, I do have a recipe. Ted Corbett continues with his diary of events.

December 25: We hold our Christmas Day lunch in a downtown restaurant and find that the children outnumber the adults to such an extent that they are able to form a quiz team all of their own. Sensationally, they win too, although if I am acting out the role of a true investigative journalist I will be bound to report that their triumph is down to the kindness of a father who supplies them with most of the answers.

December 26: We enjoy our walk to the "G" — short for MCG, which is in turn an abbreviation for the Melbourne Cricket Ground where Tests began — down the hill in Exhibition Street, across the new freeway, over the singing bridge — Aborigine songs with Aborigine voices — and through the salesmen, the charity collectors, the ticket hustlers, all 80,000 or so spectators — well so it seems — and around the searchers of bags "just open it, mate, I'm not going to look that hard" and the automatic, bar-code operated turnstiles. We walk the concrete corridors to the overspill press box where Cricket Australia puts those of us they undervalue. Don't be afraid if you get lost in this vast stadium; everyone does. Take the lunch room, stuffed with good food, served by a chef who clearly thinks a lot of his own food and supplemented with high class cheeses, drinks, biscuits, tea, coffee and every other form of delicious edible. But try to find it! According to our steward "just go down in the lift to basement two and you can't miss it." Well, thanks, mate I can't even find the right lift. There are so many identical stairs, passageways, toilets with queues, food stalls with queues, bars with under strength beer, advertisements, direction signs, catch phrases that only an Aussie understands and, in particular, security men with roles that can be summed up in the phrase "stop the commonsense, make everyone obey and try to see that life in the G is difficult." It takes half a dozen of us two days to find the food but when we get there it is worth the wait. On the last day I walk right round the place in a — finally successful — attempt to buy a decent cup of coffee just as play restarts after lunch and hear the most magnificent sound. It is the Barmy Army greeting the England team with a booming chorus which echoes as it may in the Albert Hall. Perhaps when life is quiet during the winter months — and the stadium turns over to Aussie Rules or footie as it is known — there is room for a classical concert under these concrete structures.

December 27: During the 1950s and 1960s when I am learning my trade I spend plenty of time with two football giants. Jock Stein, manager of Glasgow Celtic and later of Scotland, and Don Revie, of Leeds United and, less successfully of England, always make it clear that there is no point in asking a player to perform a task which is beyond him. If you have a plan you must present it to your players in the simplest possible way, they tell me. So, if it is true, as Matthew Hoggard says that the stolen bowling plans have to be stuck on the toilet wall where they can be learnt by heart that is a fault not a virtue. Stein, known as The Big Man in Scotland, was no more than 5ft 8in tall and is often heard pointing out a major error in which he asks John Clark, a noted double centre-half, to play as a defensive midfield blocker. "The wee man has not got the pace for that job — my mistake," Stein says. Revie reckons his success with Leeds is due to his decision that only two players — the ferocious Billy Bremner and the clever Johnny Giles — are allowed to pass the ball into the middle of the field. The remaining eight outfield players are only to hit the ball towards the touchline. The result: Leeds are a boring but highly effective team. If only the England planners can keep their plans so simple. I admit to surprise that Duncan Fletcher, the England coach, does not follow these two great managers. Like them he was not a top player but had to obtain his results by thinking alone. Until this tour Fletcher's thought processes are perfect. So what went wrong?

December 28: I bring an anthology of Sherlock Holmes' stories to help me pass the wee small hours of jet lag and sleeplessness; and I cannot help wondering how the greatest private detective will deal with The Mystery of the Stolen Bowling Plans. I suspect he will look for the Australian who spells "nicks" with a "K" and send Inspector Lestrade to arrest the man and, as his author Conan Doyle makes him say: "Send him back to those shades from which he has just emerged." Back to prison or, in British criminal slang, "nick", in other words. Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson may also add advice on security. Did the management really need to stick up the plans — in such a garbled form too — on the toilet walls? Or is the whole thing an imitation of Australian coach John Buchanan's tricks of misinformation? Over to you, Sherlock; because whatever the cause, the scheme is not working.

December 29: Surprisingly Adam Gilchrist, not Shane Warne, is the leading money earner in 2006 among all the Test cricketers but his two million dollars in no way competes with the 20 million dollars banked by the golfer Greg Norman. Six years ago Warne is the only cricketer in a list drawn up by a business magazine; now our Warnie, Ricky Ponting, Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee, Matthew Hayden and Michael Clarke all get a mention. As they have a grand total of 17 children, often at the Christmas and New Year Tests together, they will certainly need fat purses in the next few years.

December 30: A last laugh for 2006. Bill Lawry, my favourite Channel Niner, says he thinks someone ought to name a pizza after Shane Warne; perhaps a Flipperoni, someone suggests. The Hi Darling, It's Shane Calling Pizza is my best effort and, yes, I do have a recipe. The HiDISC Pizza — in the shape of his mum's diuretic pill — must contain a giant portion of ham, a lot of rabbit, more pork than is necessary, 145 baggy green capsicums and a health and safety Warneing!

Another weekend, another party. This time we gather to see in the New Year at a function organised by the ECB public relations people. Ouch, my head. My resolution for 2007: no more parties.