Offbeat

APRIL 01, 2014

Indian cricket

An app by a cricketer, for cricketers

Rachna Shetty

The list of engineers in Indian cricket is a long and illustrious one and while Mumbai pacer Saurabh Netravalkar is a rank newbie on that list, he has already combined his academic focus with his knowledge of the game to develop a cricket-based application.

Called CricDeCode, the application is designed to help cricketers analyse their game and can be used across platforms. The inspiration behind it was simple enough. "I didn't want the hours of engineering studies to go to waste," Netravalkar told Hindustan Times. "That's how I thought of developing the mobile app."

In the 2010 Under-19 World Cup, Netravalkar was the leading wicket-taker for India after which the fast bowler decided to split his focus on engineering and cricket. He graduated with a degree in computer science last year and also made his first-class and List A debuts for Mumbai earlier in this season.

FEBRUARY 16, 2014

Under-19 World Cup 2014

Sarfaraz's unique T-shirt tribute to father

One of the most influential figures in the life of Sarfaraz Khan - India's 16-year-old batting allrounder - is his father and coach, Naushad. One of the many things Naushad, a hard taskmaster, did to support and push his son's cricketing ambition was to install a synthetic pitch near their house to ensure Sarfaraz had access to practice facilities at all times. Sarfaraz who hit a half-century, took four catches and a wicket in India's first game of the Under-19 World Cup against Pakistan, found a unique way to thank his father at the tournament.

At the media conference after the game against Pakistan, Sarfaraz was asked why his shirt number had changed from 86 to 97. As it turned out, it was no clerical error but one done purposely, as a mark of respect to his father. In Hindi, '9' and '7' are nau and saat respectively. Said together, it rhymes with 'Naushad'.

JANUARY 16, 2014

Pakistan news

Qamar Ahmed's special quadruple

Sunil Gavaskar's 10,000th run, Richard Hadlee's 400th wicket, Anil Kumble's cleansweep, cricket's 1000th Test in 1984 and its 2000th in 2011 - Qamar Ahmed; has seen them all. The Sharjah Test; between Pakistan and Sri Lanka is his 400th as a reporter, and he has been present at 19% of all Tests played to date.

His favourite is Gavaskar's last innings, a 96 in a losing cause against Pakistan in Bangalore, memorable because even spinners had the ball rearing chest-high on a poor pitch. Michael Holding's furious 14-wicket haul at The Oval in 1976 is Qamar's bowling equivalent.

A first-class left-arm spinner in Pakistan in his youth, Qamar was based out of the UK for most of his reporting career. In addition to having written extensively in English, Urdu and Hindi, he has also been a broadcaster for Test Match Special, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Television New Zealand, among others.

The press in Sharjah missed the chance to perform a guard of honour with their laptops, but the PCB and Pakistan team presented Qamar with mementoes and two signed Test shirts, wishing him many more matches in the press box. It is a sentiment Qamar agrees with heartily - he said: "I am not retiring as long as I'm on my feet."

JANUARY 09, 2014

Murali runs into the Williams sisters

Big-hitting Melbourne Renegades captain Aaron Finch has indicated he wouldn't mind dropping down the order for his team. Why? Because he has come across a couple of mightier hitters of the cricket ball than himself. Who? The Williams sisters.

USA tennis stars Serena and Venus, in Melbourne for the Australian Open, tried their hand at batting on Thursday, and smashed Finch and a certain Muttiah Muralitharan all over the rooftop on which they were playing. "They're more than welcome to bat up the order, I might have to slide down a few spots," Finch joked after the Renegades event.

Yes, a heavy bat might have had something to do with all the carnage. "I just hit it as hard as I could. But the bat was heavy," Venus laughed. "We don't play cricket, it's not our sport, but we were excited to come out and try." A good workout in the lead up to their tennis commitments then? "Think so. Feeling loose," Serena said. "We had a few nerves but we got through it."

NOVEMBER 28, 2013

Cricket, under the world

No, we're not talking about the Ashes. This particular match took place 'down under' in a more literal sense. Down under a mountain, in a slate mine, in Lake District - a mountainous region in northwest England. Two village teams, Threlkeld and Caldbeck, were involved in the game, widely believed to be the first underground cricket match.

Honister Slate Mine hosted the game, a fundraiser, amid a network of underground tunnels inside the mountain Fleetwith Pike. And if everyone on hand had to wear hard hats it was because of the 2000ft of rock and slate above their heads, not because a flurry of sixes were expected - there were no designated boundaries in the match and the batsmen had to run all their runs, resulting in a middling target of 28 from six overs for Caldbeck to chase. The team made light work of it, winning with 10 balls to spare.

OCTOBER 19, 2013

The Vatican Cricket Club

The cricket team that shoulders a billion hopes? No, we're not talking about India, but cricket's new converts - the Vatican. With ecclesiastical records numbering members of the Catholic church at around 1.2 billion worldwide, the ICC, in their bid to expand the game, would sure welcome the news of the Vatican being interested in cricket.

And that's what it seems to be, with the Pontifical Council for Culture announcing plans to form cricket teams - one for men, made up of priests from around the world, and a women's XI comprising nuns. Australia's ambassador to the Vatican, John McCarthy, a former SCG Trust member, is helping to put the teams together, and hopes to organise a match against a Church of England XI.

Cricket, McCarthy said, was already popular in Rome, with priests and religious arriving there from around the world, and the Vatican's teams would draw on talent from everywhere cricket is played. "Internationally one would have a team representing the Vatican drawn from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Australia, England, New Zealand, South Africa and the West Indies," McCarthy told Vatican Radio. "We are looking for Sri Lankan, Indian or Pakistani sisters who have played cricket and if they are found, they certainly will be invited to join the [women's] cricket team."

OCTOBER 07, 2013

All the moves like Bravo

The next time he gets a wicket or finds himself on a winning team, Dwayne Bravo could well break into the same dance moves that he's been busy learning on movie sets these days. The West Indies allrounder, who plays for Chennai Super Kings, will be appearing in a promotional song for the Tamil film Ulla.

On Monday, he tweeted pictures of himself getting makeup touch-ups and posing in his costume, looking the part of "Chennai's newest film star", as he calls himself.

According to Rajan Madhav, the film's director, Bravo agreed as soon as he was offered the chance to shake a leg under the arclights. "Our producer approached him through a common friend. He is known for his freestyle dancing and we want to capitalise on it. Show him the way the audiences would love to see him on screen," Madhav told IANS.

Now there's an off-the-field PR opportunity the IPL franchises never dreamed of.

SEPTEMBER 18, 2013

Zimbabwe cricket

Guy Whittall's close encounter of the reptilian kind

Guy Whittall, the former Zimbabwe allrounder, put up an uninvited guest for a night earlier this week. The house guest followed the rules of etiquette too, remaining quiet, not putting the family out, not even snapping at the feet dangling invitingly in front of its nose ... A well-behaved, eight-foot, 165kg Nile crocodile, it was, which spent the night inches away from Whittall at the Humani Ranch, the Whittall's game reserve in southeastern Zimbabwe.

The crocodile had made its way into Whittall's house from a nearby river and, presumably, spent the night under his bed. It was only discovered by a housemaid in the morning, who understandably screamed bloody murder as Whittall breakfasted in the kitchen. "The really disconcerting thing about the whole episode is the fact that I was sitting on the edge of the bed that morning, bare foot and just centimetres away from the croc," Whittall said later. "It came from the Turgwe River, which is a couple of kilometres from the house. They often wander about the bush, especially when it's cold and raining. I think he liked it under the bed because it was warm."

Whittall called in his co-workers at the reserve and the croc, after a bit of wrestling, was returned unharmed to the wild.

JULY 23, 2013

Indian cricket

Cricket administrator borrows Ganguly's face

Assam Cricket Association secretary Bikash Baruah has discovered just how difficult it is to step into former India captain Sourav Ganguly's shoes. Baruah had reportedly distributed a picture of himself sharing a dais with Bollywood stars Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone. Newspapers in Guwahati had run the picture with a caption that quoted Baruah as saying he had asked the actors to set up an IPL team to represent India's northeast.

Upon further investigation, though, it was revealed that Baruah had doctored the picture. The original had featured Ganguly with the two actors, and Baruah had had his face superimposed on Ganguly's. For his canniness - or that of his Photoshop expert - all Baruah ended up with was an FIR, filed against him by India's Freelance Journalists' Association.

JULY 17, 2013

Rwanda cricket

Batting for a Rwanda playing field

At the end of it all, 22-year-old Alby Shale simply collapsed out of exhaustion. He had batted non-stop for 26 hours at The Oval to break a batting world record, and even had the British prime minister David Cameron line up to bowl at him.

Shale, who broke the previous record of 25 hours held by Australian batsman Jade Child, was raising awareness and funds for the Rwanda Cricket Stadium Foundation, which is planning to build a cricket ground in Kigali, Rwanda.

The existing cricket field in Kigali had been the site of a massacre in 1994 and remains were found when the tall grass was mowed to create a pitch in 2002. The idea to raise funds for the cause came from Shale's father, Christopher, who died in July 2011.

An exhausted Shale said: "We've seen first-hand what cricket can bring to a country and we decided. He [his father] said to me there, 'Listen, we need to build a new cricket pitch for Rwanda.'"

JUNE 21, 2013

Australia cricket

Ricky Ponting the second

One Ricky Ponting might just have retired, but another is only beginning his Australian journey. Last year, a couple named Udaya and Radha fled Sri Lanka on a boat bound for Indonesia and in October they arrived on Christmas Island with 186 more asylum seekers.

Radha was heavily pregnant at the time and gave birth to a baby boy once the couple was in South Australia, waiting on their asylum claim. As cricket fans, the given names they chose for their Australian-born boy were "Ricky Ponting".

"We would love to work here and bring up Ricky," Udaya said. "I love cricket in Sri Lanka and I watch it here."

Young Ricky is now six months old and is living in the Adelaide suburb of Glenalta while the family awaits their refugee status being approved by the government.

MAY 23, 2013

IPL fixing allegations

PETA's plea to Sreesanth

Sreesanth is currently in the headlines for all the wrong reasons - his shopping list, romantic gestures and dance moves - but People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have zeroed in on an idea they think could bring him some goodwill.

"Star in a PETA ad promoting a different kind of 'fixing' - sterilising dogs and cats. No one would call you 'out' about that," said a statement from the organisation, who want Sreesanth - who was PETA's Sexiest Vegetarian Alive in 2009 - and the other cricketers, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan, to participate in a campaign against "unchecked breeding".

All three players are currently back in police custody, until May 26, after a Delhi court remanded them without bail on Tuesday. So they might just be a while answering.

APRIL 27, 2013

Indian cricket

Tussauds hands Tendulkar wrong t-shirt

Sachin Tendulkar has the honour of having a wax model of himself on display at Madame Tussauds in London. It doesn't need telling that his contributions to cricket have elevated him to 'godlike' status, not only in India, but across the world. So it is not very often that a goof up regarding him is made. Such was the case though, when his second wax likeness - this one at the SCG in Sydney - was unveiled by the iconic wax museum; the jersey that the figure sported was India's kit from the 2012 World T20, a tournament Tendulkar wasn't part of, Mid-Day reported. It has been almost seven years since Tendulkar suited up for a T20 international, his only such game being India's maiden T20I, against South Africa in December 2006. Madame Tussauds has admitted to the rather embarrassing gaff and will change the figure's kit to reflect Tendulkar's crowning glory with a 2011 World Cup India jersey.

APRIL 11, 2013

Indian cricket

Tendulkar set for PITCH debut

Sachin Tendulkar has been on TV screens around the world for over two decades but he's now set to make his debut in animated form - as part of a new series called 'Master Blasters.' Tendulkar will travel the world in his "spaceship cum stadium", playing cricket matches with and against some of the best cricketing talent on offer. He even has his own arch rival, Peter, who looks to humiliate the hero at every turn.

In the series, Tendulkar is appointed by the Programme for International Training of Cricket Heroes (PITCH) to run a training camp for the finest young cricketers around the world. Tendulkar will feature along with an assortment of twelve kids, with the series promising elements of comedy, life coaching, and of course, cricket. Tendulkar says he was a Superman fan in his youth; here's his chance to live yet another dream.

APRIL 09, 2013

IPL 2013

CSK pay tribute to 'Sir Jadeja'

Most of you have probably heard several jokes about 'Sir' Ravindra Jadeja, in the Chuck Norris/Rajnikanth template, floating around. How about his one? "Sir Jadeja once wanted to make a silt mountain to play as a kid, now we all call it Mt Everest." That one's courtesy Jadeja's India and Chennai Super Kings' captain, MS Dhoni.

Jadeja had to put up with some serious ribbing from Dhoni and his Super Kings' team-mates on Tuesday, prior to their evening practice session in Mohali. Dhoni, Suresh Raina, R Ashwin, and even franchise official Gurunath Meiyappan, all got into the act, tweeting joke after joke about "Sir Jadeja". Among other things, Jadeja was credited with inventing something new every time he made an error, making the road move whenever he sat in his jeep with the intention of going for a drive, and making the ball come to him instead of running to claim a catch.

Jadeja's response? He tweeted Dhoni and Raina confirming he had no intention of being the next Rajnikanth, and went on to pose for photos in the team bus with Raina.

MARCH 14, 2013

Pakistan cricket

Naveed breaks the speed limit

Pakistan cricketer Rana Naveed can be a big hitter when needed - and now he's shown he can be a fast bat too. He faced 45 balls in one minute at an event in Lahore on Wednesday, taking him into the Guinness Book of World Records for the most number of deliveries faced in a minute after easily overhauling Andrew Flintoff's record of 19.

Of the 50 bowlers who lined up to have a bowl at Naveed at the Lahore City Cricket Association Ground, only 48 managed to hit the deck. Naveed missed three of those balls. Incidentally, he would have faced the remaining two bowlers had the eager crowd not run on to the pitch to celebrate the record.

FEBRUARY 19, 2013

England cricket

Swann's costly trick shot

Many of England's players are known to enjoy a round of golf on a day off and there a plenty of wonderful courses for them to take advantage of in New Zealand.

However, Stuart Broad may have second thoughts about playing alongside Graeme Swann again after the offspinner did some serious damage to Broad's driver while attempting to show off a trick shot. Put it this, way Broad won't be making many fairways with it any more. Check out Broad's Youtube video for the full picture.

FEBRUARY 14, 2013

Indian cricket

Sehwag cheers at prison game

Virender Sehwag and his opening partner for the forthcoming Australia series, Shikhar Dhawan, took some time off to encourage cricketers on a different playing field. The duo visited Tihar Jail, the largest prison complex in South Asia, to cheer on inmates at a cricket match. The match was organised as a part of sporting competition organised for inmates.

FEBRUARY 05, 2013

England cricket

Storm in a tea break

A whiz move by the ECB's marketing department to liven up the innocuous Test-match tea break could set off a fresh round of sniping across the Pennines. For the next three seasons, the time between 3:40 and 4pm during Tests in England will be called the Yorkshire Tea Break. Every tea break would now be made "fun and engaging for the many fans of the game", a Yorkshire Tea representative said. Not, perhaps, the fans in traditional rivals Lancashire. On hearing the news, the Manchester Evening News' cricket writers, true Lancashire loyalists, snapped back on Twitter: Yorkshire Tea have just signed deal with ECB to be the "Official Brew of England Cricket"! Not at Old Trafford it isn't!" Old Trafford stages the 3rd Ashes Test in August and a Lancs CCC's spokesman said politely of the new development, "Of course we will be selling Yorkshire tea, but we would expect sales of coffee to go through the roof as a consequence."

JANUARY 21, 2013

Australian cricket

'Longest beer snake' spotted at SCG

The abandonment of Sunday's ODI between Australia and Sri Lanka in Sydney due to rain left many dissatisfied but some in the crowd, it seems, channelled their frustration in a productive way. Well, at least if you consider setting a new world record for the longest 'beer snake' productive.

Several Australian outlets, including the Sydney Morning Herald and Big Pond Sport, reported on the feat, which was apparently assisted by a public-spirited security guard. The snake - made of empty beer cups stacked in a long, winding line - was said to have stretched the length of the Victor Trumper stand and cheers went up around the SCG when a notice flashed up on the big screen declaring it a new world record.

The beer snake was estimated at being up to 175m long in some reports and apparently exceeded the mark set at the WACA in 2007. While it isn't possible to accurately measure such constructions, there have already been dark whispers that the Sydney snake would quite easily have been swallowed up by some of the bigger beasts to be occasionally found lurking on Headingley's notorious Western Terrace...

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