November 5, 2007

Cooking delights and Shakespearean drama

Cricketers turn chefs, Sajid Mahmood gets fined for smoking, and two famous right hands get some well-deserved recognition

Ian Bell will host a few team-mates on Bell's Kitchen © AFP

Boot camps are passé
Australia set the tone for the upcoming summer with Stuart MacGill and chef Luke Mangan throwing an India v Australia barbeque cook-off as part of a promotional event. MacGill took centrestage, manoeuvring the chicken and garam masala prawns over the grill, and the guests washed down the delicacies with rieslings and sauvignon blancs. It didn't come as much of a surprise, then, when MacGill - forerunner for the spinner's spot for the Brisbane Test - admitted during the week that there was no doubt he was overweight. If it wasn't a problem for Warne, why should it be a problem for him?

Not to be outdone, England followed suit with their own star-studded cook-off, billed as "Bell's Kitchen" ahead of their tour of Sri Lanka. Alastair Cook, Paul Collingwood, and possibly Matthew Hoggard, will wear toques along with Ian Bell and attempt to produce out culinary masterpieces under the supervision of Marco Pierre White.

Not guilty, your honour
Sajid Mahmood, the England fast bowler, has been summoned before a magistrate after he refused to pay fine imposed on him for "depositing litter". The litter in question was a cigarette butt, which Saj allegedly flicked out of his car window in June. The notice for the fine of ₤50 was sent to him by post after he was apparently spotted by an environmental health officer.

Now what is ₤50 to an international cricketer, you might ask. Shahid Mahmood, Sajid's father, says that money is not the issue. The issue is that his son, Sajid, does not smoke. "Sajid does not smoke and has never smoked," Shahid said. "He hates the habit. He is a fit young lad, an international cricketer, and realises that smoking would affect the opportunities open to him in his sport. We will fight to clear Sajid's name." If they don't, Sajid faces a fine of up to ₤2500 if convicted.

Hansie - A True Story
A film by that name based on the life of former South African captain Hansie Cronje is nearing completion - the final takes are being shot in Mumbai. The movie is being made by Cronje's brother Frans. "It is a feature film, not a documentary," Frans told "It looks at Hansie the captain, the hero for his team and country, Hansie, the fallen angel and Hansie, the man of strength, who could after undergoing depression find the strength to come back to remake his life."

Cronje was involved in match-fixing and was banned for life in 2000. He died in a plane crash in 2002. The movie has been shot in South Africa, London, Australia and India. A book about him, The Hansie Cronje Story, An Authorised Biography, sold more than 30,000 copies in South Africa and the interest in the upcoming movie has been huge.

Muttiah Muralitharan's right hand will feature on a new trophy alongside Shane Warne's © AFP

Cast in plaster
Never mind that Muttiah Muralitharan was no-balled for a suspect action twice in Australia, never mind the harsh treatment handed to him from the crowd, and never mind Shane Warne's not-so-slight digs at Murali for taking bucketloads of wickets against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. In a show of bonhomie, Cricket Australia has announced, after a request from the Sri Lankan board, that the two teams will mark the 25th anniversary of Tests against each other by competing for the Warne-Muralitharan trophy, which will feature casts of two of the most magical right hands in cricket - with one of them poised to get the upper hand over the other in terms of Test wickets.

They just can't get enough
Not content with being merely Test and one-day international champions, Australia have greedily won the indoor cricket World Cup as well. Eight players form an indoor-cricket side and all-round skills are a must, for each player is required to bat and bowl. Seven countries contested the World Cup - Australia, South Africa, England, New Zealand, Pakistan, Guernsey and France. (India and Sri Lanka pulled out.) Australia trounced England in the semi-final by 100 runs and beat South Africa in the final, held in Bristol. As if that wasn't enough, their women's team also won the tournament for the sixth time in a row.

Duncan's drama
Duncan Fletcher annoyed many people this week with the no-holds barred admissions in his book Behind the Shades, serialised in the Daily Mail. What received less attention, however, was his description of the scene when he told the England team of his resignation.

"The tears came at the police ground in Bridgetown, Barbados, on April 19 2007," Fletcher wrote. "It was there that I announced to the England team that I had resigned as coach. But I did not really know what to say. So I just told them the bare facts and thanked them very much for their efforts. 'Right, that's it,' I said and prepared to walk away. 'Hold on Fletch, I want to say something,' Michael Vaughan said as tears started to appear in his eyes. I lost it then. But remarkably, despite his overly emotional state, Vaughan continued speaking, even if he was struggling to control his breathing. I looked around and there were other players with tears in their eyes. I lost it a bit more ..." The drama would have made Shakespeare proud.

George Binoy is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo