‘To this day, the loudest fart I’ve heard’
ENGLAND'S all-time leading bowler also provides a fascinating assessment of teammates Graeme Swann, Stuart Broad and Alastair Cook in his new book Bowl. Sleep. Repeat.
These are his thoughts on the star trio, in his own words.
GRAEME SWANN: 'THE LOUDEST FART I'VE EVER HEARD'
In 1999-2000 England were aiming to reboot their DNA with disciplined and dedicated cricketers. God knows what they saw in Graeme Swann.
New disciplinarian coach Duncan Fletcher had a rule the bus would not wait if players hadn't arrived a minute before departure time.
On the morning of the Centurion Test, having already been late once, the coach left without him.
Suddenly, in a state of blind panic, he blagged a lift to the ground with the photographers.
While the bus was stuck in traffic, they drove along the hard shoulder, passed us and Swanny gleefully double-arm waved the team.
Michael Vaughan laughed. But Fletcher and his captain Nasser Hussain were not amused.
Swanny was first at the ground and, when the others arrived, he was tapping his watch saying: "What took you so long, lads?"
When he finally played Test cricket, Swann dismissed Gautam Gambhir and Rahul Dravid in his first over. That immediate success instilled a confidence that never wavered.
The coaches who followed Fletcher sometimes felt he had a point about Swanny. I remember when Andy Flower had taken over and we were having a team talk.
Flower required a respectful silence when he was speaking.
Halfway through, Swanny farted. It was loud. To this day, the loudest fart I've ever heard. Flower looked at him, in borderline shock, then paused. Swanny apologised.
Flower continued but then reconsidered, stopped and turned back to Swanny, pointing his finger in his face: "Actually, that is out of order."
Swanny held his ground. He said: "I've said sorry once, I'm not doing it again." That's how stubborn he was. That's how it works, I guess. That stubbornness so lauded on the field can't be turned on and off.
STUART BROAD: 'MY GOD, SHE'S BEAUTIFUL'
The first time Stuart Broad walked into the dressing room, with his flowing blonde hair, striking blue eyes and perfect figure, I thought: "My God, she's beautiful."
It's surreal we've taken more than 1000 wickets between us.
We've never been in competition as bowlers because our skills are different.
Stuart has been under pressure at times from bowlers who get steep bounce and move the ball off the seam and I have from the skiddier ones who swing the ball. It's never been me or him in selection.
Part of our evolution as a partnership has been talking a lot.
We've always had the attitude that fast bowling is something you do in partnerships. The conversation has really helped us.
"Shall I try this?" "No, stick to the plan." We'll be checking each other all the time.
Stuart found that, when he was walking back to his mark, it was useful to look above the stand, taking himself out of the ground for a minute.
It was almost as if the perspective calmed him down and helped him find his rhythm.
It's not something that works for me. I try to keep a song in my head. You're just giving yourself a break from being too tense. I've sat in many post-match disciplinary hearings with Stuart.
I've watched, partly in awe, as he is shown film of his dissent. Without exception, he'll say: "Yeah, but it's out, though."
The game will be done. Everyone will have gone home. The decision will be not out. He's being fined for his reaction. And he still wants it reviewed.
You've got to respect that.
Stuart can produce moments of brilliance from nowhere and change a game in a short spell.
I missed the game when he bowled out Australia with 8-15 in 2015. Their scorecard fitted on a tweet. Trent Bridge was in a genuine state of shock.
In that famous picture with his hands over his mouth, face frozen in disbelief, when Ben Stokes held a diving catch to dismiss Adam Voges, he looked like a little boy who had been given the best birthday present ever.
It was a very rare and totally unguarded reaction. I think it connected because it was how everyone thinks playing for their country would be like.
These days, he can sense the simmering magic and will say: "I feel good here, one wicket might set me off."
I've never had that. Feeling good? Nah.
After he was hit in the face by a bouncer against India at Old Trafford in 2014, he had dreams in which he imagined cricket balls flying at him, waking up bolt upright in bed.
I empathised because I have those all the time. I always wake up when the ball is inches from my nose.
I really respected the way Stuart responded to being left out in favour of Sam Curran in the West Indies in 2019.
He trained hard, practised hard and mucked in. I can remember being left out of teams and I wish I'd reacted the way he did.
A common initial misconception of Stuart in the early days was that he was a bit of a show pony. He's not. He works so hard.
We share a car to grounds now. He's really into R'n'B, rap and grime. I've always wondered how a gangly, geeky guy from public school has found such an affinity with that sort of music.
He'll hear the first bars of Oasis' Cigarettes & Alcohol and ask, in all sincerity: "What's this?" I despair.
We have one vital shared interest. Everyone else wants to get in early to start practising. Broady and I would rather have another half-hour in bed. We try to get there at the last possible moment.
ALASTAIR COOK: 'KNOWS HIS WAY AROUND A SHEEP'
I remember my first meeting with Alastair Cook clearly.
The entire Lancashire side, some of them pretty mild-mannered, really laid into him.
He'd just scored a double-hundred for Essex against Australia in a warm-up match before the 2005 Ashes. For some reason, we all assumed he must be really arrogant.
This was before he gathered a reputation as the most decent, even-mannered man in cricket.
The battle plan was to let him know what we thought of him. I got him out. I'd love to say it was a great ball that he nicked, but it was a long hop.
Later, once fielding sides got to know Cooky's temperament, they hardly ever sledged him. There was no point, he would give nothing back.
He'd stand there, marking his guard in typically gawkish fashion, totally sweat free (he has a biological make-up that means he never sweats) while bowlers toiled.
It must have been maddening. I'm glad I didn't bowl at him competitively too often after that day.
Not long after, I flew out with him from an England A tour in West Indies to the seniors in India. It was a two-day journey.
I think he was concerned I might behave the same way off the field as I had on it.
We were about to take off and he said: "The last time we spoke, you called me a c***." I knew from that moment we were going to be fine.
He scored a hundred on his Test debut. For the next 12 years, that was me - sleeping in the dressing room while he batted and glaring at him when he dropped something off me at slip.
We became very close. He's godfather to my eldest, Lola, and our family gets down to his farm when we can.
Cooky has replaced parts of his banister with stumps from landmark Tests. My interest was piqued as I've been wondering what to do with my balls and stumps.
I have two pictures of me with the Queen by the bathroom, but other than that nothing on display.
Cooky is a proper, real-life farmer. He certainly knows his way around a sheep.
I dreaded the end of his career. I was concerned it might be a bit emotional and I nearly did crack at the post-match interview.
The Oval 2018 was one of the most extraordinary Tests I've been involved with. The reception when he reached his century was like the longest encore at a concert.
There is a video of me snoring at the back of the dressing room. Cooky knows I'm prone to the odd nap. It wouldn't have been a send-off for him otherwise.
This article was originally published by The Sun and reproduced with permission