Somewhere amongst Simon Katich's pads and boxes there's a long poem that the top NSW bat and vice-captain wrote on the 2001 Ashes Tour of England. But the poem's contents, like the ancient mariner's albatross, remain a mystery.
“It can't be repeated – Some of the stuff is probably best kept to what the boys heard – But I think Steve Waugh reproduced a little bit in one of his tour diaries.”
I caught up with Simon Katich over summer, when he was in between cricketing duties for NSW and the Prime Minister's XI.
The story goes that during the 2001 Ashes tour, Katich didn't make the team for the Lords Test. So instead of letting him hang around and play those nasty video games, coach John Buchanan decided Simon should motivate his team-mates by writing a poem about their exploits.
“He's always looking for creative ideas,” said Simon, “and this was something different. It was a rhyming poem and I had to make sure there was humour in it for the boys. It acknowledged some of the performances out on the field, whether it was a catch or a wicket or a great shot . . . the poem seemed to flow because there was a fair bit happening out on the field.”
(No ideas but in things, as they say!)
Simon wasn't the tour's poet-in-residence but he'd written limericks at school. His effort with the pen got a laugh out of his team-mates when he read it to them before the warm-ups on the morning of the fifth day at Lords. His team-mates were even a bit surprised by his skill.
“It covered four days of cricket. It was probably more than – you call them stanzas, don't you? – more than 20 stanzas because it went to three or four pages.”
Katich finished the poem on the fifth day and then, after Australia won the test, Ricky Ponting invited him to read the rest of the poem before they sang the victory song, “Beneath the Southern Cross”.
The poetry continued to flow from his pen like runs from the bat, but when he made his test debut at Leeds the verses dried up.
“I didn't think it would be appropriate to be sitting down and doing that [writing a poem] while I was watching,” he said.
Paul Mitchell is a contributing editor of Cordite. Image by Michael Farrell.