Cash, camels and streakers
The price of fame
Last February, Darren Gough's decision to eschew the tours of India and Pakistan to take part in BBC TV's celebrity talent show Strictly Come Dancing seemed to have paid off as he and partner Lilia Kopylova won the contest. But the sequins have faded and the taffeta looks rather sorry, and Gough is now bellyaching that his participation in the show has cost him his England place as it put the selectors noses out of joint. That's hardly surprising, but it seems inconceivable that he was unaware of the risk he was taking when he took the decision to stay at home.
It's a rich man's world
If the West Indies Cricket Board - under fire on several fronts, mainly from its players and bankers - thought that it might see off American billionaire Allan Stanford and his 20/20 tournament, then consider this. Each Man of the Match during the recent one-day series between West Indies and India got a cheque for $1500. In the Stanford 20/20 the lucky winner received $25,000. The WICB is reported to be some $25-30 million in debt, while Stanford has chucked $28 million into a one-year competition, including a minimum of $250,000 for every island participating. And while Stanford is media savvy, the WICB's approach to requests for information is fast becoming the same as that adopted by another US billionaire - Howard Hughes. There can only be one winner.
The average county follower is a hardy sort, used to all the elements can throw at them. But while rain, wind and cold might be laughed off, not so the heat it seems. The last week in England saw records broken, and on Wednesday at Wisley in Surrey the temperature was almost 37°C, the highest ever recorded in July. A few miles to the west, it was the first day of Surrey's Guildford festival, but late arrivers, used to capacity crowds at the ground, found instead banks of empty seats. It seems that it was fairly full at 11am, but by lunch many found the sweltering temperatures too much and retired never to return. Somerset's Justin Langer was untroubled, however, lapping up a flat pitch and fast outfield to make his maiden triple hundred.
The heat got to one chap in Prestbury in Cheshire. He stripped off before the club's six-a-side match, streaked across the pitch and calmly re-dressed and proceeded to watch the game as if nothing had happened. However, not everyone was amused, and because he spent the rest of the day with Prestbury supporters, the league organisers assumed he was one of them and promptly kicked the club out of the competition. Prestbury officials were dumbfounded. "Our supporters are a bit noisy, but there's no harm in it," one said. "A couple of years ago a girl bowled topless for the whole game and nothing was said or done about that."
People either love or hate Navjot Sidhu's pontifications on life, and while they seem to be off-the-cuff whiticisms, there is a suspicion that they are a little too smart not to have had a little pre-uttering polishing. It is claimed that he has a notebook with them written down in which is whisked out when the occasion demands. The news that the Indian board has finally decided to come to the Twenty20 party found Sidhu in full flow. "If one-day cricket was pyjama cricket, then Twenty20 is underwear cricket," he said with an ever-present eye on the pithy one liner. "This cricket is like a burger, you can have it once a week but for a whole meal, you need to return to Test cricket. More than once a week, and it will give you a tummy ache"
Closer to home, our own Jenny Thompson found that fame has its price. One of the perks of being a ball-by-ball commentator for Cricinfo is that offers to send drinks and edibles are frequent. At the height of the Lord's Test, however, one reader offered to swap Jenny for a camel. Even though we had not seen the beast, we readily agreed (the query as to whether it could type better than her was a little uncalled for) only to be over-ruled by senior management on Health & Safety grounds. We are still receptive to offers. And Jenny also received a couple of marriage proposals and dozens of offers of a date. One reader, who we met at Cardiff at the Under-19 ODI on Friday, explained that while he had no idea what Jenny looked like, "you've got to give it a go, haven't you?".
On the 'ead
Anyone who sat through the recent football World Cup can not have failed to notice the levels of gamesmanship ... oh, what the heck, cheating ... among many of the overpaid prima donnas participating. The amount of acting was more Hollywood than Highbury, but Gordon Taylor, the boss of the England players' association, has compared the abuse of players which led to Zinedine Zidane's sending off to the behaviour prevalent in cricket. "I know that these things are happening in football and in boxing and cricket and in other sports, but that doesn't make it right," he said. While sledging can sometimes get fairly personal, it's not usually in the same class as was the case with Zidane, who was allegedly subjected to some foul stuff. And cricket is certainly not riddled with corruption as football seems to be, and the behaviour on and off the field of players is not even comparable.
Sweet talking guys
One man who might have caused even footballers to blush was Merv Hughes, the man nicknamed Fruitfly after another great Australian pest and a bowler who sledged in his sleep. But he's worried that it's all got a bit soft, singling out last summer's Ashes in particular. "It was all too matey for me," he snarled. "Imagine if Shane Warne and Kevin Pietersen didn't have that friendship. Who knows what would have happened? We lost the attitude towards the English that we once had, the attitude that was introduced by Allan Border." In fact, that attitude goes back to Ian Chappell, but history suggests that the best Aussie sledging comes when they are on top. So whoever is eventually fit enough to make England's squad this winter better be sure to take plenty of ear plugs.
Martin Williamson is managing editor of Cricinfo