APRIL 24, 2014

Corruption in the IPL

An elephantine mess

ESPNcricinfo staff

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.

APRIL 06, 2014

India v Sri Lanka, World T20, final, Mirpur

Pakistan fan turns Dhoni fan for the day

MS Dhoni has always been a popular cricketer and he added another to the legion of his supporters when he gifted a Pakistan fan a complimentary pass to India's World Twenty20 final against Sri Lanka.

Mohammed Bashir, a Pakistan fan from Chicago, has been a familiar face at most Pakistan games and he was spotted by the Indian captain at India's training session on the eve of the final.

"Dhoni is familiar with my face as he has seen me before the Champions Trophy's Indo-Pak game in Birmingham. I told him that I don't have a ticket to watch the finals," Bashir told PTI. "Dhoni then called some Kaka [India's masseur Ramesh Mane] and told him to arrange for my ticket. Kaka promptly gave me a complimentary pass. I am completely moved by his gesture."

There was one more little gift in store for Bashir, courtesy Dhoni. "He asked about me and I told him that I am settled in Chicago," Bashir said. "[Then], since I was standing there for a long time, he told someone to give me fruits. I am a Pakistan fan but for today, I am a Dhoni fan."

APRIL 01, 2014

Indian cricket

An app by a cricketer, for cricketers

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

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

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

MARCH 27, 2014

Jersey and Guernsey players grounded

Most cricketers will take it for granted that they can get from A to B for their matches, but for the players of Jersey and Guernsey it is not looking that simple this year.

The two Channel Islands have a healthy rivalry in all sports - including cricket - but the transport options between them have now become limited after the airlines which fly the short route, Blue Islands and Aurigny, agreed a codeshare deal which, in effect, means there are half the number of flights now available and the timings mean it will not be possible for the teams to make the trip to either island in a day.

The annual match between the champions of each island - Upton of Guernsey and Cobo of Jersey on April 26 - could be the first fixture to pay the price. Another option may have been the ferry, but the timetable for that has also been changed which leaves the players scuppered unless an agreement can be reached.

"This year the boat option's not available so it's purely flights and we can't get what we want," Mark Latter told BBC Radio Jersey. "Sport is a good proposition, there's a lot of people playing sport in the islands and I would guess there's a huge capacity taken up in the summer. As a long-term passenger proposition we think we're a very good investment."

The chief executive of Condor Ferries, James Fulford, made it clear cricket was not a priority. "Our main job is to get islanders where they want to go and if I was to take a ferry off from taking Jersey people down to St Malo because I wanted to take 20 cricketers somewhere I don't think they'd be happy," he said.

MARCH 20, 2014

England cricket

Giles Clarke v Shane Warne

Giles Clarke is a pretty unloved person these days, whether it be the fall-out to sacking Kevin Pietersen or his role in the 'Big 3' around the ICC board table.

Now Shane Warne, never one shy to share an opinion, has called the ECB chairman "childish" for branding him an "Australian cheerleader." Warne's criticism of Alastair Cook did not go down well during the recent Ashes - to be fair to Warne it was difficult to find much to say from a positive view point - and it was reported that Clarke spoke to Sky Sports about Warne's commentary.

In his column for the Daily Telegraph, Warne responded: "I give the public an insight and it is sad that Giles Clarke has gone to Sky and said I am picking on England. Perhaps instead he could have called me and asked me what I saw. Maybe I could help England.

"Sorry, I am not going to be muzzled. I have nothing against Alastair Cook. He is a good guy. But I am not sure what Giles Clarke is doing to address these problems in his role as chairman of the board."

Now, wouldn't it be fun if Warne applied for the England head coach role.

FEBRUARY 26, 2014

Sri Lankan cricket

Sri Lanka looking to outlaw street cricket

Concrete blocks for stumps, a crudely-cut plank for a bat, and a chewed-up tennis ball, all carried off the pitch for honking motorists waiting to pass, then wheeled out again for a few minutes, until the next four-wheeled intrusion appears. Street cricket has been a centrepiece of the South Asian childhood for generations, but if Sri Lanka's authorities are to have their way, it could soon become extinct on the island.

On Wednesday, a Sri Lanka Police spokesperson said playing cricket on the roads could lead to arrests, adding that three poor Colombo souls had already been apprehended for this 'offence'. It is a symptom of Sri Lanka's rate of economic progress. In years gone by, cricket had had the critical mass to dominate the streetscape, but since this decade's economic growth kicked in, the tide has turned for traffic.

Though police have deemed cricket the biggest threat to traffic flow, other activities that may block the road - like washing parked cars and mixing concrete - may also lead to trouble. In cricket, though, as in so many other spheres of Sri Lankan life, much-vaunted development has been the death knell for a slice of old-world Sri Lankan charm.

FEBRUARY 26, 2014

County news

Cannabis lamps aid Edgbaston pitch

Warwickshire may, in an indirect way, have cannabis to thank if they go on to win a trophy in the 2014 season.

The club is currently utilising hot lamps confiscated by West Midlands Police from cannabis growers in the area to promote grass growth on their Edgbaston playing surface. The police gave the lamps to the club free of charge, but did warn them that they could become a target for other cannabis growers in the region.

Warwickshire, who have made a conscious effort to improve their relationships with the police, the council and other community groups over recent months, hope the lamps will help them produce wickets with the pace and bounce to assist their impressive seam attack.

Edgbaston's head groundsman, Gary Barwell, first saw hot lamps in action when he worked on the groundstaff at Notts County Football Club and believes their usage in cricket will improve pitch quality and outfield drainage.

While the desperately wet winter might usually be expected to have delayed grass growth and resulted in sluggish surfaces, the club hope the lamps have given them the chance to exploit a seam attack that includes five bowlers - Boyd Rankin, Chris Wright, Chris Woakes, Rikki Clarke and Keith Barker - who have appeared in England or England Lions squads in the last 12 months.

The lights will also help promote grass growth on areas of the outfield habitually overshadowed by the enormous new pavilion and subject to more use than other areas. In recent seasons, Warwickshire have struggled to deal with excessive rainfall in the area and have seen several games abandoned. The extra grass growth will help deal with the excessive use, soak up water and aid quick drainage.

Warwickshire has experienced more than its share of drug-related controversy in the past but on this occasion there will be relief that any connection with the issue is in a purely positive context. You might even call it a legal high.

FEBRUARY 21, 2014

New Zealand cricket

McCullum to be given Keys to Wellington

After becoming the first New Zealand batsman to score a triple-century - an epic, series-clinching 302 at Basin Reserve - Brendon McCullum, who grew up in South Dunedin and lives in Christchurch, has become an honorary Wellingtonian. Celia Wade-Brown, the mayor of Wellington, made this official by offering McCullum the Keys to the City.

McCullum became the first person honoured in this manner since director Peter Jackson, scriptwriter Fran Walsh and Richard Taylor and Tania Rodger of the New Zealand based special effects company Weta Workshop received the Keys to Wellington in 2002 for their work on the Lord of the Rings movies.

"Wellingtonians and the cricket world congratulate Brendon McCullum on his magnificent achievement," Wade-Brown said. "Brendon's magnificent innings will be remembered for decades to come by the thousands of people at the Basin, and the tens of thousands of others who stopped everything in the middle of a working day to witness sports history being made."

McCullum said he was "honoured and humbled". He is expected to receive the keys during a formal ceremony in June.

FEBRUARY 16, 2014

Under-19 World Cup 2014

Sarfaraz's unique T-shirt tribute to father

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

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

JANUARY 23, 2014

Australia news

Australia to expel English media

Australia's tougher immigration laws are set to see three English tabloid journalists expelled and unable to cover the death throes of England's disastrous Ashes tour.

John Etheridge from The Sun, one of English cricket journalism's most experienced operators, has been refused licence to stay, as has Dean Wilson from the Mirror and Paul Newman of the Daily Mail. Etheridge said that Cricket Australia had tried to negotiate on their behalf but that "all avenues have been exhausted".

All three journalists were travelling on visas which had been recommended by the Australian visa department. They are the only three members of England's travelling press pack who had opted to cover the entire tour, so going beyond the 90-day limit. "We had hoped to stay long enough to see England win a match," Etheridge said.

Newman tweeted disconsolately: "Cricket Australia and the ECB have done all they can to help us but I guess, in Australia particularly, rules are rules..."

Seven England players plus members of the support staff will also go beyond 90 days. They are travelling on a different visa. Australia has yet to evict them.

JANUARY 16, 2014

Pakistan news

Qamar Ahmed's special quadruple

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

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

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

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

JANUARY 09, 2014

Murali runs into the Williams sisters

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

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

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

JANUARY 08, 2014

The Sunil-Rohan Gavaskar partnership

We've all heard or read about the pressure on famous cricketing sons to live up to their family names on the field. But what happens when a son finds himself in same commentary box as his famous father? If you happen to be Rohan Gavaskar, be ready for a bit of ribbing. Sitting in on his first television commentary stint with father Sunil, at the Ranji Trophy quarter-final between Mumbai and Maharashtra, Rohan was asked about his lack of Ranji titles - he played for Bengal, while his father used turn out for Ranji giants Bombay back in the day.

Speaking about the experience, Sunil joked: "For a change I could actually pull someone's legs and get away with it. Generally when I am doing it at the international level, my fellow commentator can come back at me. Over here that was the big plus. I started by saying that he has not been a part of the Ranji Trophy winning team, but thankfully he didn't come back to me saying he has scored more runs at Eden Gardens [Bengal's home ground] than I have."

Batting tips apart, Rohan also gets commentary advice from his father. "Sometimes we do talk about little things, like the things I have learnt from Richie Benaud and by observing other commentators," Sunil said. "I haven't heard much of him [commentating] because of my travels, but the feedback that I get, generally, has been pretty good. That is good to hear."

DECEMBER 27, 2013

The Ashes

Brett Lee 6 Piers Morgan 0

Anyone looking for a tasty Ashes subplot needed to be at the MCG nets at tea time on the second day of the Boxing Day Test. Brett Lee, retired but no less lethal, ran in to bowl a fiery over to Piers Morgan, the television host and former editor of the Sun tabloid. Never shy of rustling a few feathers on Twitter, Morgan - frustrated at England's no-show after three Tests in the Ashes - claimed that he was good enough to face Mitchell Johnson. Lee then challenged him to a duel in the nets and Morgan didn't shy away. After several exchanges between the two on Twitter, including one Morgan tweet requesting fielders on the roof and in the street, the stage was set. Watched by spectators, Channel 9's commentators and a television crew, Morgan took guard. To everyone's surprise, Lee wasn't being charitable as he ran in in full throttle.

The verbal barbs began when Morgan told the commentator Mark Nicholas: "I'm about to ruin a great Australian career and legend." An unfussed Lee replied, "I want one six." Here's how our ball-by-ball commentary would have recorded it:

0.1 Lee to Morgan, no run, hit on the body. Morgan has the guts to give Lee the charge first ball! Who cares for reputations? Lee bangs it in, too quick for Morgan to react. Morgan fails to show his bat to ball but instead points it towards the run-up. "Where's the pain? asks a concerned Nicholas. "I don't feel it," says Morgan. Michael Vaughan offers his tips: "Stay at the crease!"

0.2 Lee to Morgan, no run, the 48-year-old is felled! An unplayable bouncer from Lee and a hapless Morgan tumbles backwards. Morgan steps forward, tells the bowler to bring it on and wants him to "try pitching it in his half." Shane Warne is a fan of Morgan already: "What about the 'come on, come on'. He's showing some courage!"

0.3 Lee to Morgan, no run, a snorter from Lee fizzes past Morgan. Nicholas walks over and asks if he needs the Australian team doctor. Morgan's having none of it

0.4 Lee to Morgan, no run, a bouncer down the leg side! Morgan can't get bat on ball to save his life. Vaughany obliges with tips: "He needs to go deeper in the crease. 'Stay in line Piers, get inside it!" Warnie can't stop gushing: "Tell you what, this is serious toughness and courage. This is 150 kmh stuff!"

0.5 Lee to Morgan, OUT, timber! For a change, Lee actually targets the stumps, Morgan takes Vaughan's advice but exposes all the woodwork. The leg stump gets a hammering. Lee charges forward and punches the air, shows Morgan the way to the changeroom

0.6 Lee to Morgan, no run, down the track is the way to go but Morgan still can't connect! Another nasty bouncer fizzes past him! So it's Lee 6 Morgan 0. "Hats off mate", says Lee.

Beaten, bruised but still upbeat, Morgan takes off his helmet but doesn't stop the verbal war: "He's a bit quicker than I thought he'd be to be honest. Boys (looking at his sons), you still have a father and I don't know if it makes you happy or not, I'm alive!"

"The warm-up guy hurt me more than he did," he added before reminding the selectors: "I am not quitting this tour and I'm available till the end of this tour."

Morgan didn't lose his sense of humour though with the follow-up tweet

DECEMBER 09, 2013

Next time, we take the bus

The West Indies squad was given an early taste of Wellington's famous wind as they landed into the city on Sunday and it left some of them joking that they'll take the bus next time.

The flight from Dunedin needed two attempts to land into gale-force winds leading Darren Sammy to tweet a picture of himself looking distinctly uncomfortable. "#neveragain do I want to land at Wellington airport..so scary," was his accompanying message.

By all accounts he was not the only one a little unsteady as they left the aircraft. Even some New Zealanders on the same flight commented that it was one of the roughest they had known.

"I don't suppose anything can prepare you for that," Ottis Gibson said. "It was a little bit scary, I've experienced it before myself in South Africa but a lot of us haven't. There were a few finger nails chewed down to the bitter end. But the pilots do every day so they know what they are doing. It was experience."

And although it would be a six-hour road trip to Hamilton it has already been suggested. "It has been mentioned," Gibson said. "But we've recovered from it now. For some it was good fun, for some a bit terrifying."

NOVEMBER 28, 2013

Cricket, under the world

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

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

NOVEMBER 28, 2013

The Ashes 2013-14

Ashes computer game crashes spectacularly

With England and Australia contesting the second of back-to-back Ashes series, the action on the field has become increasingly heated. For different reasons, controversy has also enveloped the official computer game, Ashes Cricket 2013, which was handed a thrashing by consumers comparable with England's defeat at the Gabba and has since been withdrawn from sale.

Licensed by the ECB and Cricket Australia, the simulation produced by 505 Games was originally planned to coincide with the Ashes series in England. Despite a five-month delay in production, the publishers were able to launch Ashes Cricket 2013 in conjunction with the return series Down Under, only for severe problems to be revealed.

Released last Friday, initially for PC, gamers have reported numerous glitches, with videos being uploaded to YouTube showing incompetent fielding, batsmen making unlimited runs, shots disappearing at bizarre angles and mysteriously claimed catches.

A 505 Games statement said: "The development of Ashes Cricket 2013 has been fraught with challenges almost from the outset. The chosen developer, even with their many years of cricket game development experience, was unable to overcome the unexpected challenges that the chosen game engine threw up, even with multiple extensions to the development schedule.

"As the licensee and publisher of name for Ashes Cricket 2013, 505 Games would like to apologise publicly and sincerely to our licensors, the ECB and Cricket Australia, and their respective partners/sponsors, who have been nothing but patient and supportive of us throughout the challenges this project has presented, and who, ultimately, we have let down. Our deepest apologies, however, are reserved for the fans of cricket and cricket games worldwide."

The ECB also released a statement, telling the BBC that it was "extremely disappointed". Those who bought the game will be offered refunds.

In a further twist to the age-old rivalry, the developer blamed for the problems, Trickstar Games, is an Australian company - but it seems both sides dropped the ball on this occasion. Oh, for the days of Brian Lara Cricket.

NOVEMBER 23, 2013

The Ashes 2013-14

Thou shalt not pass the beach ball

What do you do if a beach ball flops onto the field next to you at an international cricket match? Nothing. Photographer Patrick Hamilton learnt that the hard way at the Ashes Brisbane Test, when he was escorted from his spot on the boundary by security for tapping a beach ball that fell onto the ground back to the crowd a few too many times.

An award-winning local photographer, Hamilton eventually earned the right to continue to take his photos from the stands after a bit of negotiation with security. The security personnel, of course, earned their fair share of boos from the fans for being party spoilers. And the fans, it is likely, lost a beach ball in due course.