JANUARY 27, 2015

Pakistan cricket

Sohail spooked by hotel 'ghost'

ESPNcricinfo staff

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.

Haris Sohail was not feeling at his best after a rough night's sleep © AFP
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."

SEPTEMBER 28, 2014

World Cup 2015

New Zealand's no-no to nudity

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.