Team Katich vs Team Pup: Part One – ‘The Choke’
Michael Clare and Lara Bingle - and the story of Simon Katich (AAP)
In the wake of Simon Katich’s retirement from first-class cricket, The Roar is proud to unveil Part One of its series documenting the violent 2009 dressing room exchange between the feisty opener and his former Australian Test teammate, Michael Clarke.
The series, which draws heavily upon Christos Tsiolkas’ 2008 novel The Slap, will look from a range of perspectives at how the Katich ‘choke’ changed the face of Australian cricket – in the way that the admonishing of a child at a suburban Melbourne backyard changed a family dynamic – forever.
(Any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental)
PART ONE: PUP
Young Pup awoke refreshed from his well-earned slumber on the morning of the fifth and final day. Not yet captain of his country and subject to irksome match-day interviews, he could afford a few extra minutes in bed with his latest acquisition, a busty blonde by the name of Lara. And how he relished these tender moments.
But Lara was already awake, preening herself in preparation for the inevitable media frenzy that was their lives. “The Posh & Becks of Australia” they had been tagged as, by no less than Today Tonight. The paparazzi were an ever-present part of their lives now – and despite their public cries for privacy, secretly the couple loved every minute.
“Babe, can you chuck a couple of eggs in the pan?” Pup called out to his prized possession. He loved her – always had – but this comment was in jest: she had no idea how to cook even the most basic of dishes.
“Umm, can’t you do it, darl?” she screeched back in a nasal Australian drawl. Lara applied the finishing touches to her magnificent, powdered face. She was a model – it was her job to look flawless, after all.
With all the confidence of a Test captaincy heir-apparent, Pup bounded downstairs in his Bonds boxers to kiss Lara on the cheek and concoct a protein-heavy, Cricket Australia-approved breakfast. His young girlfriend, meanwhile, settled for a raw spinach leaf; it would get her through the entire day.
“Remember, we’re on for 7pm at Rockpool tonight, so make sure you get away from that bloody dressing room in time for that,” she reminded him, sternly, while pouring herself a third coffee.
She hated the outdated traditions of the Australian cricket team; the celebratory post-win beers and uncouth song, Under the Southern Cross, made no sense to her at all.
“Yeah no worries, we should wrap this one up before lunch.” Pup gave a cheeky grin and, having quickly shovelled down his tucker, sprinted back upstairs to grab his cricket kit, all youthful energy. “Love ya, babe.” And with that he was off to his beloved Sydney Cricket Ground – the final day of the South Africa Test.
* * * * * * *
Into the sheds the team swept, 11 sweaty, sunburned Australians intent on celebration; each one’s lips dry and in dire need of a frosty, well-earned VB.
But the Young Pup was torn. The game had gone slightly longer than expected and, as a result, he’d be stretching it to get the team song in before his dinner date with Lara.
He could just picture his darling’s text right now. Pup, where the Bloody Hell are ya?
He couldn’t risk it. He had to make an escape plan.
I’ll just be upfront, Pup told himself, and maybe they’ll be cool with me leaving early. “Umm guys, I’ve got to bail – got somewhere to be,” he announced.
The boisterous dressing-room turned silent in an instant, ears pricked up, blokes were incredulous. What’s going on here? What’s this bloke on about?!
“Uh, yeah. I’m meeting Lara at Rockpool at 7. Neil Perry’s got us a window seat.”
Before he knew it, he was in a headlock. No, a chokehold. But who was the culprit? Pup couldn’t tell; whoever it was, he was strong, hairy-armed. And angry.
“You’ll pay for this! Don’t you dare disrespect the Baggy Green like that! You will stay and sing this bloody song whether you like it or not, you precocious little mug!”
“Get off him, you bloody animal!” someone shouted, from somewhere. By now the team was divided; some egging Katich – yes, it was Simon Katich! – on, others jumping in to protect Australian cricket’s Golden Boy, Pup.
Loyalties were being tested; the grizzled veteran and the young, brash upstart handpicked to succeed Ricky Ponting for the most important job in the country (according to former Prime Minister John Howard).
A frenzied 10 seconds later and the horrible ordeal was over. No one said a word; but the silence spoke a thousand. Something momentous had just happened and the players were yet to process it…
* * * * * * *
Pup left the dressing sheds in a daze, unlocked his luxury car and began his short journey over to Rockpool to honour his dinner date. He knew that the incident would have ramifications; that the Australian team had been split into two opposing factions: team Pup and team Kat.
The red braised thirlmere goose would never taste so bitter.
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