Revolving captaincy, hair issues, and board games
"I don't want to be a dummy captain and the reason why I have refused the captaincy will be revealed afterward." Thus spoke Younis Khan, Pakistan's stand-in captain, at the start of a two-day period of such twists, turns and drama that it could easily be reworked into a Bollywood potboiler. Over 48 hours, Younis refused to lead Pakistan, was replaced by Mohammad Yousuf - who became captain for all of one day and a bit - and then took over the reins again. Shaharyar Khan, the PCB chairman, was so hurt by Younis's resignation that he himself put in his papers, only for Younis to return later to the top job, and claim that he had in fact been offered the captaincy of Yorkshire for the 2007 English season. Subsequently, on arriving in India for the Champions Trophy, Younis, in typical fashion, rubbished the notion that all of this would in any way impact Pakistan's on-field performance. The truth is that given their mercurial propensities the events of the last few days could well make Pakistan the firm favourites to lift the Champions Trophy on November 5.
Struggles of a prince
Thirty-nine players took part in the tournament, but for most cricket fans in India, the Challenger Trophy was all about the performance or non-performance of one man. When Sourav Ganguly caressed two typically effortless fours through the off side early in his innings against India Blues, there were hopes - ever so briefly - of a return to the glory days. Then he tamely slapped a ball to point, failed in his next match, and found himself out of the Rest of India squad for the Irani Trophy. The Hindustan Times reckoned it was the final farewell: "The Chennai stadium has seen another momentous occasion -- Sourav Ganguly walking into oblivion." As if that wasn't bad enough, his restaurant in Kolkata - Sourav's Food Pavilion - was robbed of Rs 80,000 (approx US$1780) on Monday. These aren't the best of times for the Prince...
The Darrell Hair controversy finally reached its denouement last week, but there were more hair-raising issues to contend with this week, with Harbhajan Singh being at the receiving end for featuring in an ad for Royal Stag with his tresses uncovered. Members of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC), the premier religious body of the Sikh community, took serious offence and asked him to take inspiration from Monty Panesar, who, they said, strictly followed the tenets of Sikhism despite being brought up in England. A contrite apology was immediately issued, but Harbhajan being Harbhajan, the apology was coupled with a rejoinder: "They compare me with Panesar, which is wrong. Comparisons should not be made in the first place, but if they have to, why doesn't SGPC compare me with Yuvraj Singh and Gurdas Mann [both Sikhs who don't cover their head]?" Wonder what SGPC will have to say to that.
Meanwhile, there has been more bonhomie reported between the ICC and the Indian board. The ICC couldn't understand the BCCI's reservations in signing the Members' Participation Agreement (MPA), while the Indian board was going to have nothing to do with the legislation unless "certain basic minimum changes" were incorporated. Meanwhile, the BCCI and the Indian players weren't exactly exchanging pleasantries either, with each party at loggerheads with the other over the manner in which personal endorsement deals and clothing contracts have been handled. Clearly, the last hasn't been heard on either matter.
Who's the crackpot?
The pre-Ashes mind games are well and truly on, and the latest soundbites come from Stuart Law, an extremely talented Australian whose international career was unfortunately restricted to a solitary Test, but that didn't stop him from laying into Marcus Trescothick, his chosen one to crack at crunch time during the Ashes. "He's a bit of a crackpot isn't he?" Law enquired sympathetically. "You could feel a bit sorry for him if he came out and said what was going on. But his story keeps changing. One minute he's got a runny nose, then he's got a sore leg, then he's got personal problems. You don't know what to believe. There has to be a big question mark over him and his mental fatigue. When push comes to shove in Australia this summer he looks like one bloke who won't handle it." Add all the bluster to some real numbers - no centuries in 15 Tests against Australia, only one fifty in ten innings in Australia (and a miserable average of 26.10) - and Trescothick will have plenty to prove come November. All this should at least ensure that the mental fatigue stays away. Or will it?
Henry Olonga's career as an international cricketer ended more than three years ago thanks to the political climate in Zimbabwe, but since then he has been pursuing his other interests, most notably singing. He has recently completed his debut album, called Aurelia - which, incidentally, can only be downloaded from his website, www.henryolonga.net - and has qualified for the final round of England's All Star Talent Show. Here's to more lung power to Olonga the crooner.
Cricket on the silver screen ... in the Caribbean
'Hit for a Six!' We aren't talking about Ganguly's comeback hopes, but about a Caribbean movie which is likely to be released to coincide with the World Cup there next year. The movie is about a young cricketer striving to get back into the West Indian team after a layoff. "It's a movie with a cricket theme," says Allison Saunders-Franklyn, the producer and director, "but it also deals with social and other wide-ranging elements of West Indian society."
Click here to see a selection of the best pictures of week.
"All irrelevant staff will be purged within 45 days. There is no place for politics in cricket and transparency is needed. Cricket will be run by cricketers and the board by good administrators."
Naseem Ashraf, the new head of the Pakistan Cricket Board, makes all the right noises after taking over. Let's see what the PCB looks like on November 21.
Click here to see a selection of the best pictures of the week.
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo.