SEPTEMBER 28, 2014

World Cup 2015

New Zealand's no-no to nudity

ESPNcricinfo staff

Fines, not fun. That's what awaits you should you decide to streak at World Cup matches in New Zealand next year. And that's if you're lucky. Else you might find yourself locked up for three months.

Keen to 'showcase New Zealand in a perfect light', the powers that be have sanctioned penalties for streakers which include fines up to NZ$ 5,000 (US$ 3900 approx) and jail terms of up to three months, the Dominion Post reported. "We will have waited 23 years for the return of what is now one of the world's biggest sporting events," a World Cup spokesman was quoted as saying. "This is not the time to let the side down."

SEPTEMBER 25, 2014

Indian cricket

MS Dhoni, the movie

If it is superheroes in Hollywood, it is sports biopics in India. After the stories of Olympic medal-winning boxer Mary Kom and legendary athlete Milkha Singh hit theatres, it is the turn of India's captain MS Dhoni.

MS Dhoni - the untold story is a biopic produced by Rhiti Sports, the company that manages Dhoni's commercial interests. The film, due to release in 2015, hopes to highlight Dhoni's life prior to becoming one of the most successful cricketers on the international circuit. It will be directed by Neeraj Pandey, who was at the helm of the acclaimed thriller A Wednesday. Sushant Singh Rajput, who is two films old and also has experience on the television circuit, plays the lead.

"MS Dhoni is one of the biggest sporting icons in this world, and his biopic will certainly be an inspiration to those who dare to dream and then go all out to achieve their dreams," said chairman of Rhiti Sports Arun Pandey.

SEPTEMBER 25, 2014

Indian cricket

Tendulkar's South Korean touch

Nasir Khan, a Pakistani-born coach living in South Korea, was searching for a way to motivate South Korea's Asian Games team. His idea: showing clips of Sachin Tendulkar to the local players. Nasir's efforts have led to several local girls slowly shifting disciplines from swimming, golf, tennis and badminton, to a "new sport" called cricket.

Eunjin Lee, a 21-year-old former lifeguard, is one such batsman who has copied Tendulkar's style. "She used to fret over the lack of strength in her arms, and her height. But I motivated her by showing her videos of the great man," Nasir told Daily News and Analysis. 'See, this guy is short in stature, but he's very tall in his achievements'," Nasir tells Lee and her other team-mates during training sessions.

Though South Korea has had a cricket league in place since the early 90s, it mostly consisted of players from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Australia. It wasn't until the 2010 Asian Games that South Korea even formed a men's team, and it took another three years to create one for the women. Nasir was then tasked with finding women who could be trained for these games, and he set out by putting up banners in colleges and universities for the same. He next had to take these women to a cricket-playing country for exposure, and surprisingly, Nasir chose Nepal.

Why? "The girls were not ready to go to Pakistan," he said. "Sri Lanka would be too rainy and Australia too cold. We were also worried that I could be denied an Indian visa because of my Pakistani background.

"It was during our stay in Nepal that the girls watched the IPL. As cricket in Asian Games is a T20 affair, the girls could understand the game better."

SEPTEMBER 24, 2014

Kohli, football team owner

The Indian cricket team loves its football. It plays the game pretty competitively before every training session. Now one of the biggest stars of the team will help pay wages of FC Goa in the upcoming Indian Super League, a franchise-based domestic football tournament.

"Some might think I am pretty young to do something like this or it is a step taken too early, but nothing is never too early," Virat Kohli said. "If you believe in something, you have to put your 100% commitment to it, and I decided to do it because I want football to grow in India.

"Cricket is not going to last forever so, whenever I am done, whenever I retire, I am keeping all my options open. It is something that excited me a lot and I tried to go ahead with it."

Kohli is not just an owner in name. "I was pretty much in touch with FC Goa, figuring out whom to pick," Kohli said. "We have a pretty strong side. Average age of the side is 28." The team will be coached by Brazilian legend Zico, and has in its ranks former French playmaker, Robert Pires.

Kohli might be the first active cricketer to co-own a team in the league, but Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly already own stakes in the Kochi and Kolkata franchises respectively.

SEPTEMBER 20, 2014

Indian cricket

Denied biryani, Dhoni shifts hotels

It is not often that MS Dhoni loses his cool, but if reports are to believed, the India captain was upset by a rather trivial matter: home-cooked Hyderabadi biryani sent by his international team-mate Ambati Rayudu.

The day before Chennai Super Kings were handed a three-wicket defeat by Kolkata Knight Riders in the Champions League T20, Dhoni and his Super Kings team-mates were busy shifting hotels from the Grand Kakatiya to the Taj Krishna. The reason: Grand Kakatiya's strict policy against consumption of outside food in the hotel premises.

Though the Grand Kakatiya was willing to relent a bit and allow the players to partake the biryani in their rooms, Dhoni was adamant on using the board room, after which the hotel put its foot down. Dhoni's response was to leave the hotel itself, and take his squad along.

While BCCI and Super Kings officials, as well as the hotel staff, said that the players had abruptly moved out on Tuesday, they refused to give a definite reason.

"We're a five-star deluxe facility and there are five other such hotels in the city. One is free to pick one's place of stay," George Verghese, the general manager of the Grand Kakatiya, said.

SEPTEMBER 07, 2014

Tendulkar meets baseball legend

It may have only been included as a footnote in a wire service report of the New York Yankees late season encounter with the Kansas City Royals, but a meeting between a pair of baseball and cricket titans occurred on the field before Friday night's game at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.

Derek Jeter, the Yankees all-time leader in hits and games played, met with Sachin Tendulkar during batting practice ahead of the game. The Yankees posted a photo on social media of Friday's encounter in which they described Tendulkar as "the god of cricket". The pre-game meet up also included another industry leader, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi.

There's been no word on whether or not Tendulkar was able to convince Jeter to come out to India for a chance to watch the IPL in person.

SEPTEMBER 03, 2014

Usain Bolt seals last-ball victory against Yuvraj XI

Usain Bolt outhits Yuvraj Singh in a six-hitting competition. Yuvraj Singh outruns Usain Bolt in a 100m dash. Both share the honours in a bowl-out, hitting the stumps three times apiece.

That was just some of the 'action' witnessed by the fans who turned up to watch an exhibition match at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore on Tuesday. While some of it was clearly not authentic, the 6000-strong crowd present at the Puma event didn't seem to mind.

The highlight of the day, of course, was the match itself, a four-overs-per-team, seven-a-side affair. There were other big names on show too: Yuvraj's team included Zaheer Khan, while Bolt had Harbhajan Singh.

And it was a thriller: with 10 needed off two balls, Bolt hit a six off the penultimate ball - sent down by full-time keeper, part-time offspinner Aditya Tare - but missed the next one. In keeping with the entertainment-first theme, umpire Ajay Jadeja called no-ball, and Bolt duly smashed the final one for six more to finish 45 not out off 19 (both captains were allowed to bat through the innings, even if dismissed in between). Wonder if Royal Challengers' scouts were around?

AUGUST 27, 2014

Bolt versus Yuvraj

Usain Bolt isn't a stranger to cricket. He played during his early years, did a number on Chris Gayle's stumps in a charity match in Jamaica in 2009 and almost turned out for Melbourne Stars during the 2012 Big Bash League. And he will be at it again when he squares up with Yuvraj Singh during an event at Bangalore's Chinnaswamy Stadium, on September 2.

Though Bolt's abilities on the open track are considerably more impressive, Gayle had a word of warning about Bolt the cricketer: "In a charity game he [Bolt] played against me, he almost knocked my head off with a good, competitive bouncer."

Bolt's trademark celebrations have been copied by cricketers, but here is a chance for catching the original one on a cricket field. Look out, Yuvraj.

AUGUST 12, 2014

Offbeat

Cricket no laughing matter

More than 130 years after a riotous cricket match in Dundee was abandoned after a team of clown cricketers was attacked by a spectator, the city will stage a similar and hopefully more sedate version of the event on August 24.

On September 27, 1879, Dundee, not really accustomed to cricket, was treated to a game featuring a team of clowns from a travelling circus, who had promised to play in their outfits. An estimated 15,000 to 20,000 people turned up at Baxter Park, but as the huge crowd surged dangerously close to the wickets, a man took exception to the clowns' "grotesque appearance" and tried to hit two of them. The ensuing chaos caused the match to be called off.

This time, however, the organisers are leaving no stone unturned to ensure a trouble-free event.

"We loved the idea that so many people in Dundee wanted to see a cricket match, when Dundee is not well known for its love of cricket," chairwoman Irene Shearer told the Courier. "We've been able to get Norwood and Dundee High and one of the teams will be wearing cricketing whites and the other will come in elements of clown fancy dress.

"However, as soon as they admitted they wanted 11 full clown outfits to play cricket, they were turned down by the fancy dress shops. Maybe somebody reading this will be able to help out."

AUGUST 08, 2014

Caribbean Premier League

US customs busts Simmons' 'drug bat'

Lendl Simmons*, the West Indies batsman, has been left looking for a new bat after a brush with overzealous customs officials in the USA.

Simmons was travelling through the country between games for Guyana Amazon Warriors in the Caribbean Premier League when his bat attracted the interest of customs officials. In a sure sign that cricket remains a mysterious and largely unknown sport in the USA, the officials feared that the bat could be used to transport illegal drugs so drilled several holes into it to enable closer inspection.

Initially it was thought that it was New Zealand and Amazon Warriors allrounder Jimmy Neesham's bat that was under scrutiny after he tweeted a picture of the ruined bat, saying: "Imagine if your cricket gear went through America and they drilled holes in your bat to look for drugs..."

Neesham later clarified that it was Simmons' bat. "Just to clarify again, the bat belongs to Lendl Simmons. Pretty happy I managed to dodge that bullet!"

The first tweet spawned an amusing raft of puns on Twitter using the hashtag #drugbat. Among the more imaginative suggestions were Richard Hadl-E, Co-Kane Williamson, Whispering Meth and Arul Supplier. Malcolm Speed was not asked to comment.

* August 9, 4.00am GMT: This story was updated to reflect that it was Simmons' bat that was inspected, and not Neesham's.

AUGUST 01, 2014

Cricket

When Malala met Brian Lara

At 17, Malala Yousafzai is among the most influential people in the world. The Pakistani teenage activist has addressed the United Nations, met with US president Barack Obama, the Queen of England, and among other things, she has twice been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She also travels around the world campaigning for women and child education around the world.

Being from Pakistan, Yousafzai also loves cricket. So when she landed in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, as part of an engagement with National Academy for the Performing Arts to speak to students about her campaign, she couldn't miss the opportunity to meet one of the game's greats.

"I met an amazing person yesterday [July 28] who I thought I would never meet in my life. I met Brian Lara," Yousafzai said.

While giving some cricketing tips to Yousafzai's brother, Lara, Yousafzai said, explained that in cricket, one needs to learn step-by-step. Speaking to the Trinidadian students, she said that like in cricket, one also needs to take education step-by-step.

JULY 31, 2014

Australia cricket

Langer breaks Flintoff's world record

Justin Langer signed off from his Test career as part of the team that crushed Andrew Flintoff's men 5-0 in 2006-07. Now, Langer has one more thing over Flintoff, having broken his world record for the most deliveries faced in a minute. Flintoff set the record of 19 balls back in 2012, but Langer has now set a new mark of 23 in a minute.

"It's good to get one over Freddie actually," Langer said. "He gave me more bruises and headaches than most fast bowlers, especially towards the end of my career."

Langer was raising money for charity SolarisCare as part of his role as a Dry July ambassador, and Flintoff's record was one of two Guinness World Records he broke on the same day. Langer also claimed the world record for the fastest time to put on a full cricket kit of two pads, two gloves, arm guard, helmet and sweater, achieving it in 38.81 seconds.

"It's for a great cause in Dry July and SolarisCare so today has been good fun. Having been brought up as a professional sportsman and now a coach, trying to encourage guys to be as professional as possible, actually giving alcohol up wasn't as hard as I thought it would be.

"Particularly with the great cause it's going to, it's a very, very small sacrifice for what is an awesome foundation and charity like Dry July."

JULY 28, 2014

Australia cricket

Which brother will rule House Starc?

There is no cricket at the Commonwealth Games this year, but Mitchell Starc's attention is firmly on the Glasgow event all the same. His 20-year-old brother Brandon Starc is competing for Australia in the high jump. And his personal best of 2.28 metres makes him a medal contender.

"He keeps telling me he is jumping against guys who are a lot older and a lot taller than him and he still has a few years of growing left so it's exciting for him, and exciting for me as his brother to watch on and watch someone else do something," Mitchell Starc said. "I think he is definitely confident that if he can jump a personal best he should medal, which is exciting for him."

Starc's qualifying rounds begin on Monday and if he progresses, he will jump for a medal in the final on Wednesday. His big brother is not in Glasgow but will be watching closely from home in Australia.

"I think it's only fair," Mitchell Starc said of Brandon being the centre of attention. "He keeps whinging about copping all of that, being 'my brother', but he's representing Australia at a Commonwealth Games so I'm more than happy to be known as Brandon Starc's brother at the moment."

JULY 20, 2014

England cricket

Paranormal Activity: The London files

If the England team management's word is anything to go by, it turns out there is, in fact, a valid reason why several players over the last few days have looked as if they had just seen a ghost.

According to the Daily Mail, England are convinced that their five-star central London hotel, the Langham, is haunted, with Stuart Broad openly admitting to moving rooms because he was "freaked out".

"It was so hot in my room I just couldn't sleep. All of a sudden, the taps in the bathroom came on for no reason," he said. "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.

"It really freaked me out. I ended up asking to move rooms. Bealey (Broad's girlfriend) was pretty spooked, too, and I know Moeen Ali's other half won't stay there because she's so frightened of the ghosts.

"Ben Stokes has had some problems sleeping as well. He's on the third floor, which is where a lot of the issues are. I'm telling you, something weird is going on."

Room 333 is believed to be the most haunted room with the hotel's own website stating: 'In 1973 a BBC radio announcer James Alexander-Gordon awoke suddenly in the night to see a fluorescent ball which slowly took on the shape of a man wearing Victorian evening wear. The announcer asked the ghost what it wanted and it began to float towards him, with its legs cut off some two feet below the ground, arms outstretched, eyes staring emptily. At this point the announcer got up and fled.'

This, however, is not the first instance of international cricketers being spooked during a tour. In 2005, Shane Watson had to famously share a room with Brett Lee as he was frightened of ghostly activities at the Lumley Castle Hotel near Durham.

Worse yet for Watson, former England seamer Darren Gough made sure that the Australia allrounder did not forget about his scary experience soon enough.

JULY 15, 2014

July 15, 2014

Venkatesh Prasad the actor

Venkatesh Prasad has ventured into cricket coaching since retiring from competitive cricket, but for a change, the cameras will be on him.

The former India seamer makes his acting debut in in the Kannada film Sachin, Tendulkar Alla (Sachin, not Tendulkar), as coach to the protagonist Sachin, an autistic boy who is mad about cricket and idolises some record-breaking India batsman he was named after.

Prasad had initially been reluctant to jump ship but the opportunity to work with Suhasini Maniratnam, a veteran of South Indian cinema, had been the clincher. His former new-ball partner Javagal Srinath is also part of the film.

"At first, I told him [the director] that I would not be interested, but as I listened to the story and my character narration, I was intrigued," he told Times of India. "Add to that the fact that Suhasini was in the film, and I was hooked. Suhasini is a dear friend of the family, and, as an actress who has done hundreds of films, we have sort of grown up on her work. I took up the film only for her."

Even if his inspiration had caused some nerves to flare.

"The camera didn't bother me at all, until, of course, I had to share screen space with Suhasini. I literally had butterflies in my stomach each time I had to emote or say a dialogue."

The movie had released on July 11 and has received warm reviews.

JUNE 24, 2014

June 24, 2014

Aquaphobic Clarke to sail for charity

Michael Clarke was man enough to admit that being around water gives him the shivers, but he has decided to face his fears - for a good cause. Clarke is set to join a yachting crew in the Sydney to Gold Coast ocean race in July to raise money for medical equipment to help ill children. Clarke will be part of the Investec Loyal team in the 384 nautical mile race and the fundraising also includes a lunch hosted by the Australia captain on July 24. The aquaphobic Clarke said he was driven by an example within his own family to make a contribution to the cause.

"My old man used to own a fishing charter and I was hopeless," Clarke said. "I'm so nervous around water I check the bath for sharks.

"This is obviously something that's way out of my comfort zone, but it's for such a good cause. There have been three kids close to me who have needed special treatment in the last little while, including my niece who was just born ten weeks premature and is in intensive care at the moment. Anything I can do to raise money for these kids is worth it."

When asked whether he would prefer fighting the ocean to facing Morne Morkel with an injured arm, Clarke didn't need time to think: "Give me Morkel any day," he said.

JUNE 23, 2014

24-carat Tendulkar

The London-based East India Company has released a limited-edition legal tender coin commemorating the career of Sachin Tendulkar. The 24-carat gold coin weighs precisely 200g - to mark the 200 Test matches that Tendulkar played - has the number 187 on it - to mark his Test cap number - and only 210 of them - for unspecified reasons - will go on sale for £12,000 each.

"We had been talking to Tendulkar since last December as we thought it would be the best way to immortalise an exceptional career spanning over 24 years," said Sanjiv Mehta, CEO of the East India Company, speaking to Gulf News. "There were some delays in the way as we had to secure the rights for producing it from the Commonwealth currency issuing authority but it was worth the wait."

Mehta added that the company would also mint coins in "one ounce, one-fourth ounce gold and half-an-ounce silver".

Apart from an autographed bat and a helmet, the coin face also features the Gateway of India to symbolise his hometown Mumbai.

"All my life, I have had a dream of playing cricket for India," Tendulkar said. "I am very fortunate to have lived this dream for the last 24 years. I am honoured to be recognised with the issue of these special coins, which have been impressively designed with a lot of thought."

JUNE 19, 2014

New Zealand cricket

Chris Martin, the grocer

Chris Martin, the retired New Zealand pacer, has found his new calling. He is going into the grocery store business. He, with his family, moved from Christchurch to Palmerston North to take charge of a Four Square - a mini-market chain in New Zealand, which offers groceries, fresh produce, meat and drinks, all with "a friendly smile". Clients who visit this particular outlet, will probably be offered that smile by Martin himself, as he plans to be quite hands-on.

"[Wife] Jane and I were quite keen to have our own business," Martin said, according to stuff.co.nz. "We wanted to have something we could own and operate and have ourselves.

"We also have a passion for food, which I suppose translated well to a Four Square. I might get a few aspiring cricketers coming and buying drinks."

Cricket, Martin said, left him well prepared to go into business. "I think with the cricket side of things you have to get out of bed every day and kind of do it all for yourself ... I think owning your own business is similar."

JUNE 16, 2014

Schoolboy takes 10 for 2

On the day England's bowlers fell a wicket short of a remarkable Test win at Lord's, a 13-year old bowler took astonishing figures of 5-3-2-10 to bowl Sexey's School to victory in an Under-14 match in Somerset. Tommy Stewart skittled the Gryphon School for 24, successfully defending the target of 104. He bowled nine batsmen, and caught and bowled the other one. The only runs he conceded were off wides.

"I was disappointed to have got out to a poor shot when I batted and (teacher) Mr Balch told me to channel my frustration into my bowling," Stewart told Western Morning News. "I was just trying to bowl in good areas but the ball was swinging a bit and the wickets just kept falling. I think I'm the first Sexey's player ever to take ten wickets and I'm very proud of that."

JUNE 16, 2014

The new, ancient language of commentary

The Chinmaya Mission in Chennai is planning to use cricket commentary for a highly unusual purpose - to promote the ancient language of Sanskrit. "Speak Sanskrit Through Cricket" is an elocution contest for students, in which they get to commentate on cricket clips in Sanskrit.

"In India, the way cricket has seeped into living room and dining table conversations shows how significant the game has become in the country's collective mindset," states the press release promoting the event. "Taking this excitement a notch higher, Speak Sanskrit Through Cricket will garnish these conversations with a liberal dose of Sanskrit terms."

The Mission has roped in Kris Srikkanth to inaugurate the event, which promises the winner a trip to Melbourne to watch next year's World Cup final. What's the Sanskrit term for tracer bullet?

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