Ganguly, Shoaib and a Waugh salvo
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.
Not dark yet: The captaincy may have gone, perhaps for good, and the coach may have called into question his fitness and attitude, but Sourav Ganguly certainly isn't ready to run up the white flag. Almost a decade ago, he responded to ridicule over his selection for the tour of England with magnificent centuries at Lord's and Trent Bridge, and those who traipsed to Rajkot expecting a chance to pen his cricketing obituary were left similarly red-faced by a splendid 117 that inspired East Zone's nine-wicket romp over North in the Duleep Trophy. Now, if he could only get along with the coach ...
Declining stock: Shoaib Akhtar fails to report to the national team coaching camp on Friday, a couple of days after Bob Woolmer, Pakistan's coach says: 'I want to try and help Shoaib Akhtar'. Walloped all over the park in the Super Series ODIs, dropped from the Super Test after a plethora of jokes about his weight and lamentable lack of fitness and also asked to can it by the usually mild-mannered John Wright - just an average fortnight in the life of a man who the Guardian's Gideon Haigh called a pantomime fast bowler.
Mints and a whine: If Nathan Bracken's comments on a radio show were to be believed, England's Ashes heroics were inspired by fresh breath. Having seen a ninth successive triumph over the old enemy blow away in the face of controlled reverse swing, Bracken was moved to comment: "It's just a breath mint you put in your mouth but it makes your saliva very sugary ... When I was playing at Gloucester a couple of years ago, as soon as we needed the ball to go 'Irish', the captain would call and they would bring out some of these mints and it would work." You know the Ashes have changed hands when Aussies start to go on like the Poms. And now we know how Kevin Pietersen managed to get so close to Caprice.
David Who?: After the official accolade from the ICC, it was the turn of England's kids to anoint Andrew Flintoff the flavour of the month. Well, almost. In a study undertaking by Tesco, a supermarket chain, Flintoff was the third-most popular sporting figure, behind Frank Lampard, the Chelsea midfielder, and marathon runner Paula Radcliffe. The man he pushed into fourth place? Some bloke with an Alice Band going by the name of Beckham.
Weighty matters: Australia's Courier Mail revealed that the rabble otherwise known as the World XI weren't quite singing from the same hymn sheet. After John Wright had told Shoaib Akhtar: "This is not a joke, so just shut up" during a team meeting, Graeme Smith and Inzamam-ul-Haq had a bit of a to-do over who would field at first slip. And during the game, Smith's attempts to gee-up the side reportedly met with giggles from Inzamam and Virender Sehwag. As Robert Craddock wrote, "Had it been in the environment of a national side they would have got a swift kick behind, but in the fragile team environment of the World XI it was difficult for the young captain to throw his weight around." Surely not a recommended course of action anyway, not where Inzi and Sehwag are concerned.
A Tale of Few Pints: In Out Of My Comfort Zone, Steve Waugh has a swipe at Ian Chappell, one of the few Australians to be openly critical of both his batting and captaincy. "It might have been that I praised the work of Bob Simpson, who was his sworn enemy, or that I didn't spend hours in the bar drinking and regurgitating old cricket stories," wrote Waugh. Expect a colourful riposte from Chappell, who has the bar at the Adelaide Oval named after him.
Outside the amphitheatres: The Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) will host the Asian Cricket Council's U-19 Cup in Kathmandu from November 8 to 19. Four grounds will be used, two of them brand new, and state TV will beam the semi-final and final live and carry highlights of each day's play.
Quote-hanger: "It's funny with Michael ... in his first book I was his mentor and in the second I had become his tormentor. You can read into that what you like. I put more time and effort into Michael than anyone else at the time, except perhaps his wife." - Waugh's book also offers insight into the dropping of Michael Slater.
Dileep Premachandran is features editor of Cricinfo