Super(fluous) Series, and sex changes
Every Sunday, we'll take a look at the week that was, highlighting the star performers, the flops, and the stories that sent headline writers into a tizzy. We'll feature the usual suspects, the bright young things, spells for a lifetime, and bizarre slices from the farthest outposts of the cricketing world
Super chatter: Not too many people refrained from comment ahead of the Super Series in Australia, with debates surrounding the captaincy and official status leading the way. Allan Border felt that awarding Test and ODI status to the Super Series was a "slap in the face" for all former cricketers and Adam Gilchrist thought that a Test should be a country versus country affair. Ian Chappell didn't understand why Graeme Smith was appointed captain of the Test side while Nasser Hussain, the former English captain, emphatically stated that the World XI was incomplete without Sachin Tendulkar. Should we just call them `XI', Nass? As if all this wasn't enough, Freddie rocked Australia with a frenzy not seen, according to the `Barmy Army', since The Beatles, and Shaun Pollock lamented South Africa's player exodus at the sight of Kevin Pietersen's hairdo. "If we knew how good he was going to be," said Pollock, "we would have done everything to try to hold onto him ... I'd much rather have him on my side than the other."
Rising from the Ashes: What does a team do when they have just been floored in the Ashes and have to take on the best XI in the world? Rout them. Australia shredded all the obituaries to bits with a fantastic allround display in the opening two games of the Super Series one-dayers and showed that they were anything but finished. Adam Gilchrist returned to producing blitzkriegs while Shane Watson showed a number of signs of his coming of age. Kumar Sangakkara was often fighting a lost battle, and a galaxy of superstars failed to dance on the big nights.
Marlar arrives ... with a bang: Hardly 24 hours into his role as the president of the MCC, and Robin Marlar had already managed to make it to the front page of a national newspaper. "Girls! I think it's absolutely outrageous," he said when told of England captain Clare Connor's suggestion of mixed-sex teams. "The MCC's view is that mixed cricket at adult level doesn't happen. If there's an 18-year-old fast bowler who can bowl at 80mph and he's been brought up properly then he shouldn't want to hurt a lady at any cost." He went on to apply the final flourish when asked about a girl bowling at 80mph: "Then, I'd be asking some serious questions about whether she's had a sex change." The media await more juicy headlines.
Ban? What ban?: Hardly 12 hours after the Indian board president, Ranbir Singh Mahendra, banned the players, captain and coach from speaking to the media about the infamous Ganguly-Chappell spat, Ganguly announced that he had "been vindicated". So what did Mahendra do? Give an interview to BBC Hindi and say, "You should give some time to the selection committee and the players, particularly Sourav himself." Meanwhile Ian Frazer, the team biomechanics expert, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the wicketkeeper, and Yuvraj Singh back Chappell's methods. Chappell himself pops in at the Karnail Singh Stadium to watch the Irani Trophy, where the country's batting bench-strength spend more time on the bench than in the middle as Murali Kartik engineers a crushing Railways win.
Coach corner: Chappell's not the only coach in the news these days. Dipak Patel was appointed the New Zealand Under-19 coach; Mark Davis landed the job with Sussex; Jonty Rhodes was recruited by Scotland to help them with their World Cup preparations; and Mike Young, the American baseball coach, was called upon to sharpen Australia's fielding skills. Wonder what Young made of those Aussies dropping four sitters in the first two games of the Super Series. Time for some `tools of ignorance'?
Caribbean thrillers: Crisis after crisis had given the Windies supporters several nervy moments,but this time the players did their bit to trigger palpitations. The curtain raiser in Caribbean domestic cricket turned into a series of nail-biters as the President's Cup, soon changed into the KFC Cup, produced some cracking contests. Seven out of the first 12 games had the following margins - 3 runs, 14 runs, tied, four wickets, 1 run, 7 runs, 2 runs, 17 runs. Ramnaresh Sarwan's batting heroics - two hundreds and two fifties - put Guyana on top of the table, while Corey Collymore, the West Indian fast bowler, put Barbados in second place.
Outside the amphitheatres Japan pocketed their first ICC title by beating the Cook Islands in the final of the East Asia-Pacific (EAP) Cricket Cup tournament in Vanuatu. Meanwhile in the first-ever women's cricket series between the two countries, India's Under-21 team whitewashed their Pakistani counterparts. But only around a 100 people were present at the Gadaffi Stadium in Lahore to witness the historic moment. Reason? The Pakistan Women's Cricket Association issued directives that only families were allowed to the match in deference to cultural restrictions in Pakistan and unaccompanied male spectators were barred from entering the venues.
Quote-hanger: "Kevin Pietersen is larger than life but there are a few guys trying to compete with him on that scale. It's a good battle."
Daniel Vettori reports from a dressing-room of superstars.
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of Cricinfo