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Wednesday, 7th September There are many strange stories in our great game, but few are stranger than the Legend of the Pink Balls. Long ago, back in the mists of time, men first spoke of cricket balls that were unlike any other. They were spherical, that much is true. They had a stitchy bit around the middle. You could rub them on your trousers. And if you dropped one on your little toe, you hopped around making strange sweary noises for a couple of minutes, just like with normal cricket balls.
But these balls were different. They were pink. Pinker than a fuschia blancmange served in the back of the Pink Panther’s pink Cadillac. No one really knew why they were pink. But the legend was that one day, perhaps before the next ice age, they would be used in a Test match and that when that happened, the night sky would be lit up by floodlights and the people would come in their thousands to marvel. Will the legend ever come true? Or is just a fairy story for schoolchildren and journalists?
Thursday, 8th September Life is full of surprises. Who’d have thought that naming a stadium after a brutal dictator would eventually turn out to be a bit of a PR problem? After all, no one complained when Lahore City Council unveiled the Genghis Khan Equestrian Centre or when they inaugurated the Emperor Nero Leisure Centre. But with the man himself currently hiding somewhere in North Africa, disguised as a cactus, it’s probably time to think about a new name for the Gaddafi Stadium.
The Imran Khan Stadium has a nice ring to it. Or perhaps a senior cricket administrator might be persuaded to retire in exchange for having a venue named after him: the Butt Bowl anyone? Still, I think we can do even better. I am starting a petition to persuade the PCB to rename the place after Pakistan’s greatest cricket export. No, not the doosra. I’m talking about the Jhang Justice himself, the unflappable arbiter with the immaculate coiffure and the steely gaze. Ladies and gentleman, I give you: the Aleem Dar Arena. Let’s make it happen.
Friday, 9th September Lots of people don’t understand John Buchanan. They snigger when he gets out his Big Book Of Thinking or when he reads a Klingon haiku. It is often the fate of the genius to be mocked by his contemporaries. Lots of people criticised General Custer and his “charge headlong in this direction and see what happens” strategy. But 135 years on, guess what? No one remembers them and Custer is a household name.
In appointing 50% of New Zealand’s selection panel, Big J didn’t go just left field. He climbed up onto his imaginary unicorn and rode it right the way across to the other side of the left field, skipped through the magical forest where the leprechauns live and followed the yellow brick road over the hills and far away to pixie land. And what were the pixies doing when he got there? They were playing bowls.
High performance lawn bowls, to be exact. But in case you’re worried, New Zealand fans, be reassured. Kim Littlejohn may not be able to pick Brendon McCullum out of a line-up but he is skilled in “performance focussed management” and “cultural change”. And by picking a squad full of players capable of trundling the ball along the ground slowly, he can help the Black Caps to take sweet revenge. Remember Trevor Chappell? Remember 1981? Well, soon it will be payback time.
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Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. Providing his ransom demands continue to be met, he has promised never to write a whimsical book about village cricket. @hughandrews73