Slaps, shoves and Black cats
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'Shoaib' the musical
So what's the latest dope on Shoaib Akhtar? Not nandrolone, but an alleged bust up with his coach Bob Woolmer in the team bus in Jaipur during the Champions Trophy. And this had absolutely nothing to do with who gets first use of the red cherry. Colonel Anil Kaul, Pakistan's liaison officer for the series, told an Indian news channel that it was an argument over something so trivial as the choice of music. Here's Kaul's version of the story: Hindi tunes stream off the stereo, Woolmer pulls out an iPod and switches to English, Shoaib promptly switches it back, Woolmer pokes fun at the music, blood rushes to Shoaib's hand and he unleashes a tight slap. The world stops spinning. Or did it?
Both Shoaib and Woolmer dismissed the allegations as pure hogwash and a bunch of "concocted stories." Woolmer said, " I don't have an iPod and anyway it was a cellphone with music on it. I didn't have any way of changing the song. We joked about the music but at no stage did Shoaib slap me. We were just having a laugh. He was sent back because of the doping issue and nothing else." Oh, and in case that wasn't enough, Kaul alleged that Shoaib misbehaved with girls in a discotheque and caused disturbance at the team hotel. And the denials continued. A seething Shoaib said that he would never think of misbehaving with elders and it was an attempt to gain cheap publicity. The Pakistan Cricket Board has promised that appropriate action would be taken against these allegations. Who's facing the "music" now?
From slaps, we move to shoves - this time caught on global television. After Australia's elusive Champions Trophy title clincher in Mumbai, captain Ricky Ponting couldn't wait to get his hands on the silverware and displayed an urgency seen in relay races. While Sharad Pawar, the Indian board president, handed the trophy, Damien Martyn, obviously caught up with the moment, shoved Pawar out of the way, which he stressed was unintentional. Pawar described Australia's behaviour as "totally uncivilised". A concerned Ponting made several attempts to make peace with Pawar, which he eventually did, and Pawar graciously accepted the apology.
Two can play the same game
The Aussies are on song this summer, literally, and we're not talking of dressing-room renditions of Southern Cross here. If on-field banter isn't enough to win back the Ashes, Cricket Australia has strategised a new weapon - singing. The Barmy Army, or Australia-taunting army, can expect some series competition this time around, in the same terrain where the Army was born, during the 1994-95 Ashes. Cricket Australia has commissioned songwriters to come up with 'politically correct pro-Aussie Pommie-bashing' themes to stir up the emotions in the stands. One of the songs will be modeled on YMCA, imitating various umpiring actions, and another on The Beatles popular hit Yellow Submarine. Sample this: "We all live in a convict colony, convict colony, convict colony."
Black Cat commandos for the Prince
Sourav Ganguly's presence in any corner in Kolkata is enough to stop traffic and bring life to a standstill. In Guwahati, the venue for East Zone's Duleep Trophy match against North, it was hardly any different. Two bomb blasts on the eve of the match cast a shadow on the possibility of play, and the local association and police assured the players of their safety. However, the East players were reluctant to take the field. Why? Because Ganguly was not provided with Z-Level security, which required Black Cat commandos to protect him. Their arrival delayed the start of play by 45 minutes, and the president of the Assam Cricket Association, Bikash Barua, was naturally irked at why the East players had to make such a fuss. Ganguly then went on to score 118. Perhaps having commandos watch over him wasn't such a bad idea after all.
We need to pray just to make it today
Back to music. The lunch interval on the first day of the Lahore Test between Pakistan and West Indies was devoid of any, because the Pakistan players requested that the music be turned off to allow them to pray in peace. The event management company in charge of the entertainment were obviously not prepared for this, being reduced to mere spectators during lengthy breaks. They had to settle for the occasional drinks break and fall of wicket to hit the play button. Sorry gentlemen. Noises off.
The Indian board's decision to introduce the Kookaburra ball in Indian domestic cricket, starting with the Duleep Trophy, was almost like heralding a new era. Unfortunately, the execution of the plan wasn't quite professional, as the players weren't provided with any during practice. That threw them into the deep end during the matches, with the bowlers struggling to come to grips with the Kookaburra ball. A few players knew what to expect and had the presence of mind to bring their own.
"What Indian farmers could not do to Sharad Pawar, Australian cricketers did"
TJS George, a leading Indian columnist, takes a dig at the nudging incident at the Champions Trophy. Pawar is also the Union Agriculture Minister.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is editorial assistant of Cricinfo