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Cricketers spend a huge amount of time away from home and England are just about to embark on their overseas trips as they head to Sri Lanka for the one-day series, which is followed by a long stay in Australia and New Zealand for the world and then a West Indies tour. That's many nights in the same dressing room and same hotels as each other. In the Daily Telegraph, the former England captain Michael Vaughan picks his ideal touring team - and the criteria are far from based on just runs and wickets
Mark Butcher: You need a musician on tour who can sit at the back of the bus and sing a song when you have been hammered in a day's play. It just releases the pressure on everyone. As a player Butch liked a fag and a drink. He loved a night out and I always thought he was in the wrong profession because cricket seemed to get in the way of his rock and roll lifestyle.
Pakistan's unpredictability is renowned. They scale unbelievable highs and slump to inexplicable lows. They haven't played at home in five years, but produce cricketers of rare talent. Their cricket board is in a mess and there is never a shortage of controversy, but their performance on the field is always an event. Andy Bull simply loves them and he says why in the Guardian
What a curious affliction it must be to be a full-time Pakistan fan, to follow a side who go through such giddy swings of form. Does anyone in cricket suffer so much? And is anyone in cricket rewarded for their suffering with such exquisite performances, such paroxysmic peaks of pleasure? In the last week the world watched, ever-more slack jawed, as they destroyed Australia in the first Test at Dubai. The result gave just as much pleasure to cricket-lovers in this corner of the world as Pakistan's 3-0 demolition of England in 2011 must have done to those Down Under. And yet it was only a fortnight ago that Pakistan lost two wickets for no runs at all in the final over of an ODI when they only needed two to win. Off Glenn Maxwell's bowling.
Kevin Pietersen's book has thrown up some damning claims against the England team. He has alleged that Andy Flower ruled by fear and that there was a clique of senior players who practiced in bullying. While Greame Swann has called KP the autobiography a "work of fiction", Pietersen has not been short of support either, especially on twitter. The situation is degenerating fast, but would the ECB take control of it soon? Ted Corbett, in his blog, thinks not
In the third of my life devoted to studying the habits of the men who control this game I long ago ceased to expect quick and decisive action. Frankly, they are responsible for the mess that is the England dressing room but I do not think they will either summon KP for talks, listen to what he has to say and then make the urgent changes that are needed. Urgent! Bah! A snail will win the Derby long before the ECB will get off their underworked backsides and lead the way to a better world.
In an explosive interview with the Daily Telegraph on the eve of the release of his autobiography, Kevin Pietersen lashes out at former England coach Andy Flower for "ruling by fear", and alleges that wicketkeeper Matt Prior - who, along with the bowlers, was a bully - orchestrated a campaign against him.
"I could give you telephone numbers of international players around the world. You ring them and ask them about the way the England team conducted themselves through the last three, four years. Listen to them. Ask the Sri Lankans, ask the Australians. Ask the West Indians, ask the Indians. I got messages from Indians and stuff when they played against them saying: 'I can't believe you could play with these guys.' "
In the Guardian, Barney Ronay tells us about the flotsam in the decaying cricket universe, and why Kevin Pietersen is "such an obvious lightning rod for English cricket's transformation anxieties".
While reviewing Chris Waters' book 10 for 10 - on Hedley Verity's record - for the Guardian, Andy Bull recounts some entertaining stories of superstitions that cricketers have followed.
Others take things further still. Duck seemed so portentous to Steve James that he refused to eat it, and wouldn't even let his children have a rubber one to play with in the bath, until after his career was over. He sympathised with Neil McKenzie, who developed an obsession that meant he would go out to bat only when all the toilet seats were down, and even went through a phase of taping his bat to the ceiling because his team-mates had once done that to him on a day when he scored a century.
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."
The ECB have closed the book on Kevin Pietersen and have been urging the English fans to bid farewell to the talismanic batsman. Ted Corbett, writing in the Hindu, prefers to walk to a different tune and offers examples of previous comebacks from improbable circumstances
I would be happy to see Pietersen walking out to bat for England again -- say in the first Test against India -- and it would also give me pleasure to hear that he had been made captain once again. When Geoff Boycott stepped down from his England spot there were many who thought that at 36 he would not play for England again. Eventually Alec Bedser, chairman of selectors, saw that if England was to be great again Boycott had to return and made it his business to negotiate a way back.
Mushtaq Mohammad takes Aditya Iyer of the Indian Express on a trip down memory lane, reflecting on how it felt to become Test cricket's youngest centurion, his admiration for brother Hanif, and his exploits during club matches in England.
"In one such match, I was up against a Middlesex club with the great Fred Titmus in it. We were chasing a rather large target and Freddie, a giant of an off spinner, was bowling. I couldn't get a run. I looked around and realised that the only gap was at third man. My shot was pre-meditated, but it connected and went for four," he says. "But Titmus appealed!"
Appealed? "Yes, poor old Freddie. He went wild and pulled his hair out. This was 1964, you see. The umpire told Freddie, 'You got a ball in your hand, he has a bat. He can do whatever he wants with it'. And there, the reverse hit was invented."