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One fan and his bike

By Oliver Brett

Oli Broom
Oli Broom, 29, was at school with Andrew Strauss

When the Barmy Army assembles in the stands at The Gabba for the next Ashes Test in November 2010, they will be joined by one 29-year-old fan whose journey will have taken rather longer than most.

Oli Broom, who thinks he once played in the same team at school as Andrew Strauss ("maybe in house cricket") will set off on 10 October - this year - from Lord's on a bike.

His goal is to get to Brisbane in time to see Strauss open England's defence of the magic little urn 13 months later, raising £100,000 for charity along the way.

The former chartered surveyor - he had to jack in his job to plan and ultimately take part in this cycling marathon - will be coaching cricket to youngsters and playing as many games as possible.

Indoor games in Brussels and southern Germany are already planned following painstaking approaches to various national cricket boards, and the first outdoor match could take place in Jordan.

"The first place where it's a recognised sport that I'll be playing is Kenya, and I've got some pretty good contacts there," he tells BBC Sport during a break from hitting the phones trying to get hold of sponsors, which has been tough work.

"I still need a bike, I still need a few items of kit, I've just been bought a top-of-the-range saddle by a media group who I'm going to be writing for while I'm away. But I'm looking for corporate sponsors still.

"Budgets are tight so it's a struggle but I'm going to keep on trying."

Oli Broom
A former Berkshire under-19s captain, Broom is still a keen player

The cash raised will be split between the British Neurological Research Trust and the Lord's Taverners, and his main inspiration is his friend James Taylor, who became paralysed from the chest down after hitting his head on a sand bank while ducking a wave on holiday in 2005.

The BNRT is critically short of funds.

Broom, an all-rounder who bowls left-arm spin, is much more of a cricketer than a cyclist. Growing up, he remembers playing "a hell of a lot of cricket" - perhaps the highlight coming when he captained Berkshire's under-19s in 1998.

Strauss was captain of the Radley first XI in Broom's first summer, a team which also featured former Middlesex captain Ben Hutton, while Sussex regular Robin Martin-Jenkins had only left the summer before.

Broom's memories of Strauss as a schoolboy cricketer are patchy, though he recalls the day when the current England captain came back to the Oxfordshire school for a match.

"By then he was playing for the MCC against the school and I was in the first XI. I seem to remember him and Ben Hutton smacking hundreds against us.

"He [Strauss] was head of house, captain of cricket, and a decent all-round sportsman really. He was a seriously good rugby player and a really good wicketkeeper when he was younger, but I think he's got bad knees. He had the stumpings record at prep school.

"I don't know him very well these days, I've seen him twice or possibly three times since he left Radley - he's pretty level-headed and was always really friendly and very popular."

Andrew Strauss
I've known Oli since our school days and can vouch for his sanity! I wish him the very best of luck and look forward to seeing him on his bike in Brisbane

Andrew Strauss

Broom is a keen cricket watcher, but will have to make do with his portable shortwave radio to keep up with the international action on his journey - though he hopes to coincide the India leg of his trip with the next Indian Premier League season.

Another vital part of his equipment will be a bat, of course.

"The Lord's Taverners have given me one of their grips but I'll take a cricket bat with me. It might be my Duncan Fearnley Match from my youth because weight's an issue.

"One company have given me a bat but it's a bit heavy. I'm quite keen to take a small one from when I was younger so I can play street cricket with the kids in India."

Slovenia, Syria and Sudan will all be behind him by the time Broom reaches India, and from that point his route is not set in stone. But he plans at some point to be on a boat from Indonesia to Darwin, with his 16,000-mile bike ride approaching its end.

He already has a warm welcome to look forward to at a small club around 30 miles away from the Gabba.

"I've had an e-mail from a guy just outside Brisbane. He was one of the first people to get in touch with me and is organising a cricket day in aid of my two charities.

"There'll be a celebrity speaker along, an eight-a-side match, and I think I'll be able to have a few beers."

Perhaps his old house captain might even be on hand to buy a very thirsty cyclist a drink or two.

Find out more about Oli Broom's trip and support him here



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