‘Paul’, I said. ‘Dont worry’, I said, for worry had gripped his consternated visage. His eyes glazed in the expression only a soon-to-be-terminated pet could ever know. ‘Dont worry about this. It changes nothing. You will always be Lucky Paul.’

Our superstition had endured over a year. The Lucky Handshake prior to the start of every day’s play. We shook hands out of friendly courtesy but soon realised just how important our curious little custom had become to the fortunes of our national team.

It had brought us success in India and it had rescued us in New Zealand. Over the course of last summer, when things looked a bit dicey for our lads at certain stages during the English leg of this Ashes marathon, the odd Proxy Lucky Handshake had been sent, in a flux, via text or email.

We recommenced the ritual with gusto on Boxing Day, the first Test we’d attended together since the Matt Prior-led miracle of Eden Park. We’d been buried in the first three Test Matches and, like unlikely knights on white chargers, we thought, hoped, nay, expected the Lucky Handshake would salvage something from what had been thus far a sorry time for our beloved England team.

After Day One, where late England wickets had destabilised their quest to make slow-but-steady progress to anything approaching a decent total, we questioned the continued validity of our routine. At the close of Day Two, England’s best of the series, we questioned our questioning.
The afternoon of Day Three, where England, through another nineties-esque batting collapse, effectively surrendered to Australia, had us thinking again. Our position in the match was perilous. We would gather the next morning to shake hands regardless, but we knew the game was up.

Both for England. And our Lucky Handshake.

And so, at our usual MCG meeting place on Day Four beneath the statue of the iconic Australian quick D.K.Lillee, while the swelling ranks of home fans strode up Jolimont Street like green and gold gloating Revolutionaries towards the scene of this most public of executions, the air thick with Bogan bloodlust, we knew the end had come. This cherished, compulsive, yet slightly eccentric, shibboleth had run its course.

The Lucky Handshake would be stood down graciously. On reflection, maybe others connected to this hiding Down Under should do likewise.

Unlucky Paul? Never. To Lucky Paul and to the Lucky Handshake, we’ll always have Mumbai, Calcutta and Auckland. Great days.

There will be more greatness to come on tours in the future. As there will, doubtless, be more silly superstitions.

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