England hire team chef amid concerns about Test tour catering

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The England Test side has been shedding support staff during the early stages of Brendon McCullum‘s tenure as head coach. However a new addition has been made for their upcoming tour of Pakistan – a chef.
The appointment comes following a debrief of the limited-overs side’s experiences in the country during their seven-match T20I series. The feedback from players and support staff was that the food on offer, particularly at match venues, was not quite up to scratch, with a handful suffering from upset stomachs at certain parts of the tour.

The issues encountered were far from drastic: no-one was ill for an extended period of time, and England went on to win 4-3 in an exciting series. However, given the demands of a Test match, not least the back-to-back nature of the three-match series across 21 days in three different locations (Rawalpindi, Multan and Karachi), having someone to oversee food preparation and tailor menus according to specific requirements and tastes throughout felt a necessary controllable to control. Indeed one of Cricket Australia’s few regrets from their successful tour of Pakistan earlier this year was not taking a chef with them.

The topic of local cuisine came up during the T20 tour when Moeen Ali, as stand-in captain, waded into the food culture war between Lahore and Karachi, tongue very much in cheek: “Food-wise, I have been a little bit disappointed in Lahore. Karachi was really nice.” With Lahore not on the agenda this time around and Karachi hosting the third Test, those who wish to sample the local delicacies can rest easy.

ESPNcricinfo understands Omar Meziane, who worked with the England men’s football team in a similar role during the 2018 World Cup and Euro 2020, will assume the role.

While the Test team’s move will cater for fussy eaters, it will also make Jack Leach feel more at ease. The left-arm spinner suffers from Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel disease, and takes immunosuppressant medication to manage the illness while being strict about what he eats.

On a tour of New Zealand in November 2019, Leach was struck down so severely by food poisoning he ended up being hospitalised and contracted sepsis. Though he was able to make it onto the subsequent Test tour to South Africa, the effects of the previous illness meant he was unable to play any part in proceedings and ended up leaving the tour early.

Though this is perhaps the first time the ECB has specifically employed a chef for a tour, they have previous when it comes to food away from home. Ahead of their disastrous 2013-14 Ashes, the Sydney Morning Herald got hold of a dossier entitled “Test catering requirements” which was distributed to all hosting venues.

The 82 pages contained 194 recipes ranging from “Moroccan spiced griddled chicken fillets with lime and coriander mayo” to protein-based “banana and peanut bars”, and was described by the Herald as “modern pretentious”. It did England no favours in a crushing 5-0 whitewash.

Expect pasta dishes to be a prominent part of the Pakistan menus.

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