• The Ashes

England insist on Ashes cookbook

David Hopps
November 8, 2013
Alastair Cook's team has some extensive demands when it comes to what emerges from the kitchen © Chance to Shine

Australia still idly likes to imagine England as a depressing culinary backwater of fish and chips and bacon butties, but if they serve that up for the England cricket team in the forthcoming Test series it could create the greatest Ashes stand-off since Bodyline.

The Bodyline controversy in the 1930s was all about potential damage to the body because of deliberate short-pitched bowling, but Bodyline II is more obsessed with the attainment of physical perfection as England have issued detailed instructions about the health foods they expect to receive during the Ashes series.

England's culinary requirements, which have been leaked to the Sydney Morning Herald, are outlined in a glossy 70-page cookbook plus accompanying instructions and include exact instructions for preparing nearly 200 different types of meals and drinks. Beware, Australia, if your muffins are not wholewheat or if your cranberries are not poached until soft.

Superfoods such as kale, agave nectar and yogurt (probiotic, naturally) are present in abundance and, as for the main courses, expect heavy demand for the mungbean and spinach curry.

Most international sides issue dietary requirements - Australia among them - but it is a safe bet that there has never been anything as detailed as this. If you are reading this while reheating last night's pizza, you may wish to feel ashamed.

England's methodology is based upon micro-planning every aspect of their performance, all supervised by the largest backroom staff in cricket history. This even extended to organising a pre-tour dinner for the team director, Andy Flower, with the players' wives and girlfriends to advise about their responsibilities (no menus are available, sadly).

They never miss an opportunity to discuss with other elite sports coaches and competitors how to gain minute advantages. These prescriptive demands for Australia to prepare healthy meals to their requirements will only strengthen their growing reputation for unashamed professionalism.

Chris Rosimus, the ECB's performance nutritionist, has backed up the cookbook with a further 12-page file titled, Test Catering Requirements. Rosimus used to work as a nutritionist for Manchester United Soccer Schools in Abu Dhabi before he joined the ECB more than two years ago.

He provides guidance to England players, men and women, at all levels and is tasked with identifying potential problem players. Gary Ballance, who some feel carries a little extra poundage, could find Rosimus on his shoulder at any moment.

Rosimus' secret? Well, England guard such information closely, but after intense research, we can reveal this mantra: "At the end of play, have a good meal that provides one-third carbohydrate, one-third lean protein and one-third vegetables or salad. This will help your body recovery to do it all again the next day."

It is all a world away from England's three-month tour of India in 1993 when the tour manager, Bob Bennett, kept spirits up by occasionally running what became known as Bob's Kitchen, with birthday cakes for the players a speciality.

By the end of the century, England's physiotherapist, Wayne Morton, part of a backroom staff that was tiny by comparison with today, would insist on checking the hygiene of hotel kitchens and was not averse to brandishing bottles of anti-bacterial liquid and suggesting that the staff attended to their cleaning rota.

What Ben Stokes, one of the least experienced members of England's Ashes tour party, makes of it, heaven knows. When Durham won a decisive late-season Championship match against their closest challengers, Yorkshire, at Scarborough, Stokes gleefully tweeted a picture of the boys tucking in with a celebratory Chinese takeaway. Now, as he wonders if he will make his Test debut in the Ashes series, he must learn to love butternut squash and falafel coronation. Be warned, Australia: it must only be made with low-calorie mayonnaise.

Even now, Nancy, the much-loved Middlesex cook during their glory years, who claimed to prepare for a day's work at 8am with "a cup of tea and a fag", must be looking askance from whatever celestial cloud she has alighted upon.

It was Nancy, whose lunchtime apple crumble could famously slow a bowler's approach in the post-lunch session, who once responded to the gentle concern of the former Middlesex and England captain Mike Brearley (and you can insert your own swear words, because there were plenty) by raging: "You take care of the cricket, Michael, and I'll take care of the cooking."

Times have changed, but when England have a captain, Alastair Cook, who goes by the nickname of Chef, what did you expect?

Cook even took part in a fund-raiser for the Chance to Shine cricket charity in September, judged by the TV chef Ainsley Harriott. His own delicacy, a chocolate brownie recipe which he borrowed from his wife, would presumably be on England's banned list.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

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