JULY 20, 2014

England cricket

Paranormal Activity: The London files

ESPNcricinfo staff

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?

JUNE 06, 2014

West Indies cricket

Serving the community with Chris Gayle's Big Six Club

Chris Gayle is looking to give something back to Jamaican society, through cricket. He has opened an academy in Kingston, at the Lucas Cricket Club, for "underprivileged youngsters". The academy, which also has a branch in England, will have two programmes: the Chris Gayle Academy team, and the Chris Gayle Big Six Club.

The academy team will cater to 16 young players on an annual basis, aged between 16 and 21, and - the plan is - give them the opportunity to play other Jamaican teams and touring youth squads. The Big Six Club is a 12-week programme targeted at kids from troubled communities (think low school-attendance rates, high crime levels, and rising drugs abuse).

An emotional Gayle, at the academy's launch, remembered how he was attracted to the game when he was a kid. "Being here brings back memories of me as a youngster, who used to jump the walls of Lucas from my house across the street, just wanting the opportunity to learn the sport of cricket and become a better person," Gayle said, according to the Jamaica Gleaner. "To have come from that far, and being here now, is quite moving, and the hope is that this academy will similarly open doors and opportunities for youngsters."

MAY 27, 2014

Indian cricket

Mantri's goodwill Pakistan tour

On a day the governments of India and Pakistan resumed talks, and the possibility of a cricket series lingered in the background, there emerged this story of an Indian tour of Pakistan in 1961. Not a Test tour but one by a corporate team led by the late Madhav Mantri and including at least five other Test players. The tour itself was born out of a series of coincidences, as Mantri explained in a book brought out by ACC Limited, where he was employed for 30-odd years. ''We were accumulating all the money in Pakistan and could not bring it to India," Mantri wrote. "In 1961, ACC's manager in Pakistan, an Englishman named Banks, wrote to our MD, suggesting that we send over a cricket team to Pakistan and use the money accumulated to fund the visit. Now Banks used to follow cricket and was aware that the ACC had a very good cricket team. There were many players in the company's team who had represented the country both in India and abroad - Polly Umrigar, Bapu Nadkarni, Ramakant Desai, Rusi Modi, Dilip Sardesai, among others. Banks also knew that cricket was keenly followed in Pakistan and a team that had well-known Indian players would be widely welcomed."

Mantri wrote that he was called by the MD and asked to take a team over to Pakistan. "He said, 'Go and spend the money.'" The team spent a month in Pakistan playing matches against teams comprising Test players, at their Test centres - Karachi, Lahore, Sialkot, Rawalpindi, and even Dhaka, right across India in what was then East Pakistan. "Everywhere, there were large crowds cheering the teams," Mantri wrote. "The newspapers too would cover the matches in detail because so many Test-level players were playing on both sides…The goodwill and publicity that was generated for the company by this tour was much more than we could have ever achieved if we had spent the money on advertisements and publicity.'' An early, if informal, version of cricket diplomacy, it seems.

MAY 22, 2014

West Indies cricket

Lara's return to Caribbean cricket

Cricket fans in the Caribbean can expect a treat in the coming months, as Brian Lara and Ian Botham are both expected to take to the field for a charity match in the lead up to the Caribbean Premier League final in August.

'Beefy's Bash', an all-star charity T20 game involving Botham, Lara and television personality Piers Morgan, is set to take place in St.Kitts on August 12 and will bring together a host of celebrities, cricketing legends and current stars.

"I've always believed in the importance of giving back to the Caribbean, and this match will be a great way to do that," Lara said. "It's going to be fun to play with and against some old friends and reignite some old rivalries, and I've already been contacted by plenty of fast bowlers keen to have a bowl at Piers."

Morgan, who famously survived an over against Brett Lee in December, said that he had already called the former Australia seamer to join in, though this time, he took the time and effort to make sure that he would not be on the receiving end of Lee's deliveries.

"As soon as I got the call from Beefy, I knew this was something I wanted to be involved in," Morgan said. "I'm a huge fan of cricket and I love the Caribbean, so a chance to play in this special game and get involved with the biggest party in sport was too good an opportunity to miss. I've already asked Brett Lee to join in, but this time playing with me - not breaking my ribs!"

MAY 19, 2014

West Indies cricket

Trinidad schoolboy hits quadruple ton

He shares a name synonymous with West Indies cricket and 14-year-old Kirstan Kallicharan matched a number also indelibly linked to the game when he scored an astonishing 404 in a schools match in Trinidad.

The mammoth innings came for Vishnu Boys Hindu College in the PowerGen Secondary Schools Cricket League (SSCL) play-off quarter-final. It was only a 35-over contest, but that did not stop Kallicharan - who captains Trinidad & Tobago's U-15 side - ripping up the record books with an innings that included 44 fours and 31 sixes.

However, he is no stranger to setting new landmarks - even if this one did go to a greater level. Last year he had set a new mark for the highest score in SSCL cricket, overtaking a record previously held by a certain BC Lara.

Speaking about his quadruple hundred - a feat Lara achieved in the 2004 Test against England in Antigua to set a new world record - Kallicharan said: "At the beginning I was just batting normal, just aiming to make a hundred but when I got to my century I realised I could score more and more and I just continued to bat," he told the Trinidad and Tobago Express

"I am not over-reacting about it. I am just feeling happy I reached there. I am staying focused."

MAY 16, 2014

English cricket

The cricket ball goes to space … almost

The ECB has sent the cricket ball "where no cricket ball has gone before": to the "edge of space".

A white ball was sent up from Edgbaston, Birmingham, strapped to a helium balloon, to an altitude of 110,000 feet (or three times the height at which commercial aircraft fly), where it is said to have experienced temperatures of -54C and reached speeds of 500mph while freefalling back to earth. It landed in Newbury, Hertfordshire, in "near-perfect condition".

The stunt was organised as part of the launch of the ECB's revamped T20 competition, the NatWest t20 Blast, and required the input of "a team of aeronautical engineers", according to the ECB site. For the video of the ball on its way to the upper layers of the earth's atmosphere, click here.

MAY 13, 2014

Bradman's first Test bat for sale

The first bat ever used by Sir Donald Bradman in a Test match is set to be auctioned in Melbourne next week. Used by Bradman on debut at the Brisbane Exhibition Ground against England in 1928, the bat did not provide Bradman with the finest start to a Test career - he scored 18 and 1.

The bat, described as a full-size "Duke and Son - Warren Bardsley", was later used by Bradman in scoring twin centuries for New South Wales. He donated the bat to a competition run by the Sun newspaper in Sydney in 1930 to raise money to endow a Don Bradman Cot for the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children.

For more than 70 years, the bat was owned by the same family who won the competition. It sold at auction in 2008 for A$145,000, when an Australian collector made the purchase and put the bat on display at the National Sports Museum at the MCG. The bat was signed by Bradman as "DGB", believed to be because he had not yet become accustomed to signing his name for autograph-hunters.

"He hasn't sort of become himself yet and been asked to sign a lot of autographs since he's not totally in the public eye," sports memorabilia historian Tom Thompson said. "It's a good example of the man before he's about to go on a meteoric ride."

There are another 46 signatures on the bat, including 19 members of the 1928-29 England team and the entire Australian team. The bat will go to auction on May 21.

MAY 04, 2014

English club bans sixes

Britwell Salome Cricket Club in Oxfordshire has been forced to ban the hitting of sixes after an angry neighbour threatened to take it to court. Diana Attenborough, 69, complained that it was dangerous if the cricket balls fell within the grounds of her home at the end of the club's grounds.

The club is now enforcing a "local rule" after consulting the Oxfordshire Cricket Association. The new rule means that if a player hits a six, no runs will be scored. The club, which survives on donations and fundraising events, has also had to spend over £4,000 on installing a 50ft high net. After using up all its savings, the club discovered that Attenborough had put her home up for sale.

"We play on average two games a week for five months a year and have been in the village for over 85 years, in all that time we have not had any complaints other than those from Diana," Nigel Joyner, the club chairman, told the Daily Mail. "It means we've had to use up all of our funds, money we had hoped to use to replace our tractor so we can cut our grass and build a new shed as the old one is falling down. We understand she is concerned and a ball has gone over and smashed a pane once before which we covered the cost for but it is odd that she has now put her house on sale."

"Cricket is a way for many people to keep fit and socialise, it's a shame how one person can ruin that for the others," said Ross Joyner, the club captain. "There seems to be a lot of health and safety cases being taken to the extreme across the board and it's a bit worrying if that continues in this way."

The club initially installed a 15ft high net after first receiving the complaint but balls continued to land in Attenborough's garden. Attenborough, whose son is a barrister, has given the club a month to demonstrate that the problem has been solved by the new measures.

MAY 01, 2014

Indian cricket

Drama, dance and Sreesanth

One of Sreesanth's trademarks, both on and off the field, is theatricality. Now, with cricket off the agenda for him, he seems to have turned his attention more firmly to acting, dancing and song-writing. He is set to score music for Anbulla Azagae a Tamil-Telugu film his brother Dipu Shanthan is producing, as well as play a cameo role in it. He is also likely to take part in dance-based television show Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa, next season.

"Sree will be composing all songs in the movie, a love story laced with suspense and drama," Dipu Shanthan told Hindustan Times. "The main cast of the film hasn't been finalised yet, but it will have the best in the industry." Sreesanth, who was banned last year after being found guilty of being involved in the IPL spot-fixing scandal, has already produced and directed two music albums.

APRIL 27, 2014

England club side bowled out for 3

#WeNeedit was the hashtag under which Wirral, a cricket club in north-west England, sent out pleas to cricketers Michael Vaughan and Andrew Flintoff for a "few hours coaching" after they were bowled out for just three runs. Out of those three, only one run came off the bat, that too from the No. 11, as the first ten batsmen remarkably ended up earning ducks.

APRIL 26, 2014

County cricket

Football fans sponsor Yorkshire batsman

A group of football fans have dipped into their pockets to sponsor a county cricketer for the 2014 season.

A number of York City supporters, known as the Derwent Reds, are backing Yorkshire batsman Jack Leaning in his first season as a full professional having gone to school with him or having played alongside him at club level.

Fourteen of the friends have contributed with the rest coming from the landlady of their local pub the Derwent Arms, Sue King.

One of those involved, Andrew Hay, told The Press: "We thought it would be a nice gesture to sponsor Jack in his first capped season as we all know him."

APRIL 24, 2014

Corruption in the IPL

An elephantine mess

February 9, 2014, the day before the Mudgal Committee submits its report on the IPL mess to the Supreme Court. An elephant is donated to the Padmanabha Swamy temple in Kerala, one of India's holiest shrines. The donor's name was kept secret by the temple authorities - until a court-appointed amicus curiae sniffed around and found that the elephant violated temple laws. Only elephants brought into Kerala before 2007 can be considered as gifts; Thunuki, the elephant in question, was brought in earlier this year and its sale to the donor, who in turn offered it to the temple, was illegal. It was then that the donor's name was revealed: N Srinivasan, whose son-in-law and cricket team were both central figures in the Mudgal report. Incidentally, the amicus curiae, Gopal Subramaniam, is also the Mudgal committee's counsel in the IPL case.

APRIL 17, 2014

Wedding crashers

Umar Akmal's troubles with the law pops up at all the wrong times. The latest infraction happened on the day of his wedding, when he was found to be in breach of a law in Lahore that stipulated that only one dish could be served at the function, which had to end at 10.pm. The restrictions were intended to discourage people from splurging on lavish weddings.

"There were violations of marriage act and a case has been registered and four people were arrested," police official Rana Imtiaz said.

Akmal was not among those named in the report and had already left the premises by the time the authorities visited but he could still be in danger of reprimand. This after a very public encounter with a traffic policeman in February. Not the best way, perhaps, to impress your new father-in-law, especially when he is one Mr Abdul Qadir.

APRIL 13, 2014

Tendulkar, Ganguly bag football franchises

Months after ending his 24-year international career, Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar has made a foray into Indian football, winning the bid to own the Kochi-based franchise of the Indian Super League. Tendulkar won the bid along with Prasad V Potluri of PVP Ventures.

Tendulkar wasn't the only high-profile Indian cricketer to bag a franchise. Sourav Ganguly, the former India captain and a football fan himself, won the bid to own the Kolkata franchise, along with a consortium including Spanish League giants Atletico Madrid and businessmen Harshavardhan Neotia, Sanjeev Goenka and Utsav Parekh.

"I will always remain a sportsman at heart who is keen to positively impact the sporting fabric of the nation. The Indian Super League presents a great opportunity to develop a platform for the youngsters to learn and enhance their talent to develop into outstanding player," Tendulkar said in a statement. "Based on the various insights shared by the team, the opportunity of the Kochi club seemed like a compelling and challenging proposition. With the Kochi club, we will strive to 'score our goals' and play a part in developing the game of football across the country."

The Indian Super League, an eight-team event run by IMG-Reliance, is expected to begin its inaugural season this September and end in November. Reliance also owns Mumbai Indians, the most expensive IPL franchise.