MARCH 02, 2015

England news

That's Out! Dickie Bird opens his wallet for Yorkshire

ESPNcricinfo staff

Dickie Bird, one the most famous of former Test umpires, has gone beyond the call of duty to help with Yorkshire's development of Headingley by funding a new dressing room balcony out of his own pocket.

Bird, now 81, is revered in his native Yorkshire for his eccentric good nature, and as his largesse is applauded around the county, the jokes that nobody has ever seen his wallet have now become outdated in quite wonderful style.

Bird has been nominated to stand for a second term as Yorkshire president at the AGM in April - an uncommon honour which even passed Geoffrey Boycott by, and which has been proposed in recognition of the support role he played as the county won the Championship for the first time in 13 years.

"These lads have given me so much pleasure over the past 12 months with their magnificent performances in the Championship and I wanted to reward them for their efforts," he said.

"I want to invest in the team and give something back. When they said the players need to have their own external balcony, located directly behind the bowler's arm, I had no hesitation in making it happen. They will benefit from being outside watching the cricket rather than being behind glass in the current viewing area."

Yorkshire's director of cricket Martyn Moxon added: "I can't thank Dickie enough. The players are delighted. Our current viewing gallery can get a little claustrophobic, particularly on warm days. Dickie is well respected in the dressing room and the fact he never misses a game is testament to his passion and love for Yorkshire cricket."

Bird's home town, Barnsley, honoured him some years ago with a statue in the main square where late-night revellers would throw underwear and other items onto his outstretched finger, so much so that the council had to raise the plinth by several feet.

Dickie Bird collects his OBE at Buckingham Palace back in 2012 © Getty Images
FEBRUARY 28, 2015

England news

National anthem leaves Morgan lost for words

National anthems are routinely played at ICC world tournaments, but singing them out loud has never been regarded as obligatory… has it?

Eoin Morgan, England's Dublin-born captain, has enough problems to deal with without being the subject of media debate about why he has never sung the national anthem during his six years of playing for England. As captain, though, it is now deemed to matter.

"I have never sang the national anthem when playing for Ireland or England," he said. "It does not make me any less proud to be an English cricketer. It is a long story. It is a personal thing."

Personal reasons not to offer up a stirring rendition of God Save the Queen deserve respect - millions in Britain view it with discomfort - and, in Morgan's case, there is also the history of the troubles that have bedevilled the history between England and Ireland.

Such complexities have been dismissed, though, by Kevin Jennings, the deputy headmaster at the Catholic University School in Dublin where Morgan was a pupil: he told the Daily Telegraph it was more likely to be down to "shyness".

Predictably the message boards and social media have reverberated with the debate about whether Morgan has inalienable right not to sing an anthem or whether he has now been exposed as an imposter, adopting England as a matter of convenience. The fact several England players choose not to sing has been conveniently overlooked.

Meanwhile, Morgan might take comfort from the picture on this story which suggests that Australia's captain Michael Clarke does not exactly belt out every note.

FEBRUARY 27, 2015

World Cup 2015

Leave your fruit and veg at home

Fans heading to Eden Park on Saturday for the match between New Zealand and Australia in Auckland have been implored to leave their fruit and vegetables at home by the very people who grow them.

That's not bad marketing.

In a full-page advertisement in the New Zealand Herald, the country's commercial fruit and vegetable growers have asked cricket fans to "hit an unwelcome Aussie visitor for six!" And they don't mean the cricketers from across the ditch. They are referring to a "potentially devastating" Australian (Queensland) fruit fly - not Merv Hughes either - which was discovered in Grey Lynn, a suburb of Auckland, last week.

"This is the only time we will ask you not to eat fruit," the ad says. "New Zealand growers appeal to cricket fans - Please don't take any fruit to the big game tomorrow."

The pest, if not controlled and eradicated, could impact New Zealand's fruit, vegetable and horticulture industries. "Eden Park, the venue for Saturday's World Cup Cricket clash between Australia and New Zealand, is right on the border of the controlled area. This means no fruit and vegetable material can be taken out of the stadium," Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Peter Silcock said. "We are asking cricket fans to leave their fruit and vegetables at home when they head to the stadium. You know it must be a serious situation if we are asking people NOT to have fruit and vegetables."

Carbs and fat it is then.

FEBRUARY 23, 2015

World Cup 2015

Federer apologises for #BleedBlue marketing stunt

Roger Federer has issued a public apology - doesn't everyone these days? - after ill-advisedly agreeing to a Facebook marketing stunt showing him drooling over India's World Cup shirt.

Federer's display of loyalty was to his sponsor, Nike, rather than any affinity with the Indian cricket team, but his comment "Dressing up for a gentleman's game today #BleedBlue" brought such a hostile reaction from some fans that as a non-cricket lover he could never have imagined.

Federer, a 17-times Grand Slam winner, explained: "It was more of a Nike thing to be quite honest. I met some of the Indian players and I had just spent some time in India so they presented the shirt to me. I support South Africa, and everybody knows that. The idea wasn't to spark any fire and I'm sorry if it did that."

Federer's mother Lynette is from South Africa and the Roger Federer Foundation has raised money for disadvantaged South African children.

One Pakistan supporter, a student at Cambridge University, told Pakistan's Express Tribune that he had deleted all his photos of Federer and also claimed to have taken a rudimentary opinion poll "in which ten out of 12 Pakistanis felt hurt or betrayed".

Federer's commitment to cricket sounds distinctly hit and miss. "It really depends where you are," he said. "When I'm in America definitely not. When I'm in Europe definitely not. But then when I'm in Australia and here in the UAE a little bit sometimes."

Even now, cricket fans in the United States and England (which Federer might have briefly forgotten is in Europe) are preparing to be offended.

FEBRUARY 18, 2015

Afghanistan news

US Embassy mistakenly hails great Afghan victory

Cricket history will forever relate that Afghanistan's World Cup bow ended with defeat against Bangladesh, but there was a point in the match when at least one observer saw it rather differently.

An Afghanistan victory was prematurely pronounced by the United States embassy in Kabul which seemed under the illusion that they had won the match even though at that stage it was midway through the first innings.

"Congratulations to #Afghanistan for their win over #Bangladesh in the #CWC15 #AFGvsBAN# the US Embassy's official Twitter account pronounced in a tweet that was more impressive for its liberal use of hashtags than the accuracy of its information.

With millions in Afghanistan estimated to be watching the biggest match in their history, the breakdown in American intelligence brought a rush of amused responses, causing the Embassy to apologise for prematurely announcing a victory that never quite came and to wish them good luck in their next match.

FEBRUARY 17, 2015

Australia cricket

Watson has 3.6m reasons to smile

Shane Watson may have one of the saddest faces in cricket, latterly on show when he made a duck against England in the opening match of the World Cup, but at last he is smiling all the way to the bank according to the latest Rich List for Australian sports stars.

Watson's 2014 earnings are estimated at USD $3.6m, leaving him eighth among Australian sports stars and the top cricketer on the list, ahead of Mitchell Johnson (10th), Michael Clarke (11th) and David Warner (12th).

Australian sportsmen and women rely heavily on overseas earnings in the United States and India to achieve such wealth. Salaries for Watson, Johnson and Warner all topped $1m in 2014. Australia's women do not fare well in the latest survey with only two named in the top 50.

Watson's earnings fall well below the top Indian cricketer, however: MS Dhoni's annual earnings are estimated at around $30m a year. He was also dwarfed - in more ways than one - by Australia's No 1 earner: Andrew Bogut, a 7ft basketball centre in the United States, turned in estimated earnings of $12m.

Perhaps that accounts for Watson's sad face after all.

FEBRUARY 09, 2015

England cricket

Harmison switches sports to take charge of Ashington

He made his name as a fearsome fast bowler but now Steve Harmison hopes to build his reputation in a different sport - as manager of Ashington football club.

Harmison, who rose to become the No.1-ranked bowler in the world and was part of the England attack that won the 2005 Ashes, will now hope to steer his hometown football club to success.

Ashington play in the Northern League Division One - the ninth tier of English football - and have a history with the Harmison family. Steve played for them briefly as a teenager, his older brother James is a former club captain and their father Jimmy was once assistant manager.

The club trains twice a week and Harmison will manage them for a "token wage". His immediate task was a home match against Bishop Auckland on February 10. He began well, too, with a 1-0 victory.

Harmison told the Daily Telegraph: ""This is not a publicity stunt; this is not a short-term ploy to get Ashington some media attention. I'm serious about this. I don't know where it will take me, I'm not trying to become a league manager, I just want to do a good job for Ashington.

"I used to say, tongue in cheek, that I would have rather have played number nine for Newcastle, than play cricket for England, but football has always been a huge part of my life. When I look back at my cricket career, there were times when I should have challenged myself more, when I should have taken opportunities to do something different, and when Ian Lavery [Ashington chairman] asked me if I was interested, I thought: 'Why not, let's have a go.'"

FEBRUARY 06, 2015

Bangladesh cricket

Bangladesh schoolboy scores 325 in 50-over match

There have been the odd double-hundreds in Bangladesh's school cricket, one of which was scored by current Bangladesh batsman Soumya Sarkar. Now Mostafizur Rahman Lipu has gone past all and scored the first triple-hundred in the Young Tigers national schools cricket tournament.

A student of Lalmonirhat Government High School, Lipu scored 325 in a 50-over match on Friday against Giasuddin High School. He struck 35 fours and 19 sixes at the Sheikh Kamal Stadium, situated in the northwestern town which is about 354kms from Dhaka.

Giasuddin High School were later bowled out for 117 runs, losing the game by 398 runs.

With the World Cup looming and the Bangladeshi batsmen still finding their feet in Australia, wouldn't Mashrafe Mortaza want Lipu in his side?

JANUARY 27, 2015

Pakistan cricket

Sohail spooked by hotel 'ghost'

Haris Sohail has had a frightful experience in New Zealand. The Pakistan allrounder was spooked in his Christchurch hotel room, convinced he had felt a "supernatural" presence.

Naveed Akram Cheeva, the Pakistan team manager, said Sohail phoned a member of the coaching team to say he had been woken by his bed at the Rydges Latimer hotel being rattled.

Sohail was found shaken and feverish and would not accept the suggestion that it was the fever that had caused the experience. A quick examination by team doctor found nothing to be concerned about. He then moved to the coach's room.

"He's OK and he's concentrating on cricket as he should be," Cheeva said. "He had a fever. We think it was the fever that caused it but the player still believes his bed was shaken by something and it was a supernatural something."

A spokesman for the hotel said they knew of "no active ghost" on the premises.

Some reports in the Pakistan media suggest it was his 'encounter' that led to him missing Pakistan's first warm-up match, although he did play the second game where he scored 6 and bowled four overs.

Sohail is not the first international cricketer to feel an unworldly presence in a hotel. In 2005, Shane Watson hunkered down with Brett Lee after being scared out of his room in Lumley Castle near Durham's Chester-le-Street ground. Darren Gough didn't miss a chance to remind him during the one-day international.

And last year Stuart Broad had enough of his room at the Langham Hotel in London after being woken in the night with all the taps running. "I turned the lights on and the taps turned themselves off. Then when I turned the lights off again, the taps came on. It was very weird," he said.

JANUARY 17, 2015

World Cup 2015

Tiger Shoaib appeals to the Prime Minister

Shoaib Ali Bukhari is the Bangladesh fan who paints his body like a tiger, attends most home matches and screams all day from the grandstand at the Shere Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur. He has traveled to India, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe over the last nine years following the Bangladesh team.

Usually he is financially supported by corporate houses, current and former players, board officials and a supporters group for his travels. But this time he has struggled to find sufficient funds in his quest to travel to Australia and New Zealand for the World Cup.

As a result, he has appealed to the country's Prime Minister to help him. In a press conference arranged by a supporters group called BCSA, Shoaib said that he is itching to watch the World Cup in person, and knows that his support is what the team requires. The BCB has assured that he will get match tickets.

A motor mechanic by profession, Shoaib has gained following even among the Bangladesh players who call him "Tiger". Taskin Ahmed and Al-Amin Hossain, speaking at a press conference in Mirpur, said that he inspires them.

Al-Amin said: "We always see him in Bangladesh, so we will surely get inspired by his presence when we will see him in Australia."

JANUARY 15, 2015

Kevin's world

Born in South Africa, England's leading international run-scorer, a star in the IPL and Big Bash: Kevin Pietersen has always been a man of the world. And now he has had his own version inked on to his body. KP's world is, perhaps not surpisingly, KP-centric, with a star denoting all the locations where he has scored international hundreds.

Pietersen tweeted a photo of his new body artwork, helpfully pointing out: "It isn't the wrong way around. It's just the reflection!" Eagle-eyed readers will note that while Pietersen has 32 Test and ODI hundreds, there are only 14 stars on show - possibly due to a lack of space meaning he could only fit one on England. But then, KP was always too big for one country to contain.

During the Big Bash, he has restated his intentions to play for England again. But, for now, the likelihood is that Pietersen won't have to update his tattoo in the near future.

#tattoo #globalcitizen #stars It isn't the wrong way around. It's just the reflection!

A photo posted by KP (@kp24) on

DECEMBER 10, 2014

Indian cricket

Punjab's English-speaking Sundays

Like a lot of Indian cricketers, Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh improved dramatically as English speakers over the course of their careers. Halting and diffident when they first started playing for India, they were well on their way to mastering the nuances of "process" and "right areas" when they became established internationals.

Naturally, whenever they found time to play domestic cricket, Yuvraj and Harbhajan tried to pass on their English-speaking prowess to their juniors in the Punjab dressing room, where they instituted 'English-speaking Sundays'.

"Hardcore Punjabis that we are, the first few Sundays were hilarious, as the players would run into the dressing rooms or washrooms or reply with sign language just to avoid the agony of speaking in English," Yuvraj said, during a recent promotional event. "At times, we would end up having marathon runs on the field just to chase the shy players to hear the much-awaited one-liner reply in English.

"We even imposed a fine for every line of Hindi uttered. Some players would give us the fine amount right at the beginning of the day."

DECEMBER 04, 2014

Phillip Hughes 1988-2014

The #putoutyourbats man

It was the hashtag that captured the cricketing world. But where did the #putoutyourbats idea originate? The answer: with Paul Taylor, a Sydney man with just a few hundred Twitter followers. When he heard the news of Phillip Hughes' death, Taylor walked through his lounge room, picked up his cricket bat and cap and placed them at the front door.

"[I was] overcome with sadness, knowing that there were a whole lot of cricketers feeling the same way," Taylor said on ETFM radio. "How do we convey our emotions? So I took a photo and placed it on Twitter with the hashtag. It was just a simple thing to say, this is a sad day, this is how I'm feeling."

Taylor shared his image on the ABC 702 radio Facebook page and tweeted it to media outlets, and the rest is history. From Sachin Tendulkar to Adam Gilchrist, from the New Zealand and Pakistan teams in the UAE to the Indian men's hockey team, Taylor's gesture was repeated around the world. Even the Google doodle in Australia was turned into a "put out your bats" icon.

"At no point did I ever think that this would happen," Taylor said. "I just took a photo in sadness and used a hashtag -- much the same as many others have done on a daily basis. It wasn't until bed time that I saw the numerous Facebook and Twitters alerts. I said to my partner, I think something is happening with what I did.

"I hope this outpouring of support for the [Hughes] family gives them some comfort in knowing that the wider cricket community is there with them at this time."

Taylor received plenty of media requests over the past week but said he decided against speaking until after Hughes was laid to rest on Wednesday. "I did not want to take away focus from what is a terribly tragic accident," he said.

NOVEMBER 12, 2014

England cricket

From fast bowler to bodybuilder

David Lawrence, the former Gloucestershire and England fast bowler, is remembered for the horrific knee injury that all but ended his career in 1992. But, aged 50, he appears to be stronger than ever, having reinvented himself as a champion bodybuilder.

When Lawrence fractured his knee bowling in a Test at Wellington's Basin Reserve, the crack was heard around the ground. He attempted a brief comeback with Gloucestershire in 1997 but, after suffering "a bout of depression", embarked upon a career as a nighclub owner and restaurateur in Bristol. Then came a new chapter, which led to him being named the National Amateur Body Building Association's West of England champion for the over-40s.

"I went to a competition in my mid-forties with a friend of mine who was competing and I looked at the people on the stage and I thought, 'I can do this'," he told the Mirror newspaper. "But after turning my hand to it, I discovered the hardest part wasn't the weights and training in the gym, by far the toughest part was the 14 weeks of dieting before competition.

"It is the toughest thing I've done mentally and physically and that is the difference between guys who want to get big and look good, and guys who are serious body-builders and want to compete."

A powerfully built quick during his playing days, Lawrence has had to get used to a different regime as a weightlifter, describing the strict diet as "torture". Still, those long days of toil in the field during a career that earned him more than 500 first-class wickets have prepared him for the hard yards - and his goal is to now qualify for the over-50 world championships.

"Before this, fast bowling was the most physically demanding thing I had done," he said. "I have worked as a labourer, I've worked on building sites in Australia in the heat and put in a hard shift. But it is not the same as fast bowling.

"Bowling on a hot summer's day is seriously tough, and at 5.30 when Goochie comes up to you and says, 'Syd, give me three more' and you're ­dehydrated, you've got cramp... but you've got to muster up something and that is physically demanding."

OCTOBER 31, 2014

Pakistan cricket

Malala trophy for Pakistan U-21 women

The Pakistan Cricket Board has named the country's Under-21 women's tournament after activist and 2014 Nobel Peace Prize co-recipient Malala Yousafzai in an effort to encourage girls to take up the game.

"PCB has decided to honour Malala, Pakistan's young Nobel laureate for peace 2014, by naming its inaugural Under-21 national women cricket championship 2014-2015 after her," a PCB release said.

PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan said he hoped the move would give female cricketers "inspiration and stimulus to excel".

"Our women cricketers have gradually picked up and only last month the women's team has retained the Asian Games gold at Incheon," he was quoted as saying by AFP.

The tournament is scheduled to be held in December with 12 regional teams taking part.

OCTOBER 15, 2014

Pakistan cricket

Mohammad Amir, movie star

With close to a year still left to serve of his ban from cricket, Mohammad Amir has found a novel way of keeping himself occupied - he is all set to play the lead role in Blind Love, a film by the Pakistani director Faisal Bukhari.

"I am the hero of the film and my heroine will be an Indian. Don't you think Pakistani people will like this combination? I am excited," Amir said, speaking to the Hindustan Times. "Of course, you have to try different ways to clean your image in the public. I want to be loved by Pakistani people again and hope this film will improve my image."

Amir is serving a five-year ban for his part in the spot-fixing controversy during the 2010 Lord's Test against England. His ban is set to end in September 2015.

"Amir's bad phase is going to end soon. If he performs well, people will love him," said Bukhari, who is in India to scout for a female lead to star opposite Amir. "He is young. He wants to reform. He also deserves a chance like everybody. I find an amazing protagonist in him because he himself is a story."

OCTOBER 09, 2014

Mo' Johnson set for summer return

Does Mitchell Johnson make more of an impact on the batsman's psyche when he is sporting a moustache? He certainly seems to think so, and says the mo' will be back to intensify his stare at batsmen this summer. Johnson is presently wearing a goatee in the UAE, but the handlebar will make a return in time for Movember and South Africa's visit down under.

"I think it does give you that little bit of extra agro as well when you have the stare going on," Johnson told News Corp Australia. "I've looked back at some footage when I've been clean shaven and it doesn't really have the same effect.

"When you look at all the (great) fast bowlers in the history of the game … Dennis Lillee had a mo', Merv Hughes … (there have been) all different shapes and sizes and it definitely adds an effect to being a fast bowler. I will be doing Movember again this year so I'll have to start from scratch and we'll have to see. I'll probably do the full mo' again."

Did Johnson's mo' have anything to do with England losing the Ashes 5-0 last summer? Maybe KP's book will have the answer.

OCTOBER 07, 2014

Dhoni's other Chennai franchise

With Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Virat Kohli already on board as co-owners of franchises in the Indian Super League, it isn't a surprise that MS Dhoni, who famously began his sporting life as a goalkeeper, has claimed a space for himself in the IPL-style football tournament. It's even less of a surprise that the team he has a stake in is the Chennai franchise, Chennaiyin FC.

"I am fortunate to get associated with the team," Dhoni said, when he was unveiled as one of the team's co-owners. "I have played seven years of Indian Premier League from this city. It would have been emotionally difficult if I had been associated with other teams like Mumbai or Kolkata. So I am glad to be a part of it."

Like the IPL, Dhoni said the ISL would allow Indian players to interact with and learn from foreign players.

"The sport is different. But the format is quite similar," Dhoni said. "When CSK was formed, we also had foreign players. It helped us understand different cultures. I feel our Indian footballers should look up to these international stars and learn from the different footballing styles that they bring in."

OCTOBER 02, 2014

Curtains on the pig saga

Remember Ash the pig? He was the one smuggled into the Gabba on a steaming summer's day during the last Ashes and later found to be dehydrated and in fairly sorry condition. Well, the update is that David Gunn, accused of smuggling him in wrapped in a blanket, his snout taped shut and ensconced in a baby harness, no longer faces charges of animal cruelty. The charges were reportedly dropped by Brisbane's prosecuting authorities because they couldn't prove that Gunn was the same person who'd smuggled in the pig. And Ash? Well, he was adopted soon after his ordeal and spent his recuperation eating liver and swimming in his own pool. He's now reported to be in good health.

OCTOBER 02, 2014

Asian Games 2014-15

Kuwait's feelgood father-son achievement

Forty-year-old Shivnarine Chanderpaul and his son Tagenarine playing together for Guyana is one thing, but imagine a 58-year-old father joining his son in a national side. That was the case at the Asian Games this week, when Bastaki Mahmoud and his son Bastaki Fahad turned out for Kuwait in matches against Nepal and Bangladesh.

It is fair to say that Kuwait are not exactly a powerhouse in the cricket competition at the games - they were bowled out for 20 by Nepal and for 21 by Bangladesh - but they certainly provided one of the tournament's feelgood moments. That occurred when Fahad, a spinner, managed to claim the wicket of Tamim Iqbal, one of the top 40 batsmen in Twenty20 internationals, according to the ICC's rankings.

"Though it was a bad delivery, it gave me a lot of pleasure, especially because my father took the catch," Fahad told the Daily Star. "As I'm also a wicketkeeper, I have taken many catches off my father's bowling, but it was the first time today that the reverse happened. I will remember this moment for the rest of my life.

"I have seen these players on TV only. This is the first time I am seeing them in person and talking to them. It is a dream come true."

Not only did Fahad take three wickets, his father Mahmoud also claimed two, including that of opener Anamul Haque. Quite an achievement for a 58-year-old whose day job is heading the credit finance department of a Kuwaiti bank.

"By the grace of Allah, I am very happy and I thank the Kuwait cricket board for giving us such an opportunity to represent the national team," Mahmoud said. "I want to keep playing cricket for as long as I am fit."