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Last Updated: Sunday, 26 December 2004, 14:06 GMT
Dream Christmas turns into nightmare
Justin Langer
By Justin Langer
Australian Test batsman

Justin Langer
Thanks to the magic hands of our physiotherapist Errol Alcott, I thankfully took my place in the team

Experiences this year have shown me just how fragile life can be.

During 2004, three of my close friends have died from various forms of cancer, proving that regardless of what we have, there is nothing more important in this life than your health.

You may have all the fame or fortune in the world but unless you have your health then these count for little.

Over the last few days, I have experienced this misery and disappointment first hand.

After feeling on top of the world following knocks of 191 and 97 in the first Test, I was reduced to an agonizing regime of recuperation after injuring my back at training on Wednesday.

After bending down to pick up a ball, an MRI scan revealed a bulging disc in the left lumbar region of my back.

Such a simple act has turned what was supposed to be a dream Christmas into a nightmare as my time has been spent on a physio bench and in the pool rather than in the practice nets and with my wife, kids and Santa Claus.

When the accident occurred, it felt like I would never play cricket again, let alone be ready for the second Test against Pakistan.

Australia celebrate a wicket at the MCG
Steeped in tradition, much of Australian cricket folklore has been written during Boxing Day Tests

But thanks to the magic hands of our physiotherapist Errol Alcott, I thankfully took my place in the team.

I would have been devastated to miss the match because any Boxing Day Test is one of the great events on the Australian sporting calendar.

Steeped in tradition, much of Australian cricket folklore has been written during Boxing Day Tests.

This year's event isn't proving to be any different, and while Pakistan seemed down and out after the drubbing in Perth we fully expected a loud roar from the wounded tiger.

And it proved to be so with Yousuf Youhana's excellent century leading them to a 300-plus score on the opening day for the loss of six wickets.

A great deal was made of Pakistan's poor showing in the first Test, but we haven't forgotten that they had us struggling on the first morning of that match.

And we were also conscious that these conditions in Melbourne should suit their batsmen, more than the extra pace and bounce in Perth.

Regardless of what happened last week, all of our batsman recognize the danger of Shoaib Akthar and Mohammad Sami, and we have taken considerable notes on Danish Kaniera, who looks set to become a world-class leg-spinner.

Even in Perth last week he showed an enormous talent and ability to spin the ball both ways, while executing his skills with great control.

None of or guys have played against him a lot, and we will be very watchful of him when it is our turn to bat on this MCG wicket which looks like it will take some turn as the game progresses.

In a lot of ways it is a miracle the game went ahead, because only a week or so ago the outfield was nothing more than a field of water and mud.

Thanks to some incredible technology and man power, the ground looks in as good a condition as ever.

I hope you all enjoyed a very Merry Christmas, and hope you have the best New Year of your life.

When my back settles down I intend to do both.

From Melbourne

Happy to wear badges of honour
20 Dec 04 |  International Teams

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