January 7, 2008

Langer the ancient philosopher

Boycott rolls out his mum's pinny, Symonds makes a verbal blunder, and New Zealanders are banned from Bollywood

India's favourite double act, Benson and Edges © Getty Images

Banned from Bollywood
There was a time in the recent past when cricketers' off-season pursuits attracted no more than a sympathetic nod. The ridiculously talented played football (Denis Compton), others gave their home grounds a lick of paint (Andrew Caddick). Some even mined coal and tin (Dickie Bird, probably), but the modern player has more important things on his mind: namely fame and fast cash. Saj Mahmood and a host of others have been lured by Bollywood's billions and are to appear in a film called Victory. Counties swooned over their new-found Brad Pitts, proclaiming each of them is to "star" in this epic masterpiece. "I don't have a big role in the movie," Mahmood modestly admitted. "I play myself and bowl - that can't be too difficult to do!" Well, steady on, Saj.

Mahmood was to be joined by three New Zealanders, Nathan Astle, Daryl Tuffey and Craig McMillan, but their film careers are on hold after their roles were cut after the autocratic BCCI objected due to their involvement in the Indian Cricket League. "To me it's a bit farcical, really; they're just being silly," Astle said. "It is out-and-out wrong." The trio will lose an estimated $40,000, but surely, retaining their dignity is worth its weight in gold.

Roy Roy Roy your boat
In an era where Australians are untouchable on the field, the news of Andrew Symonds' recent verbal gaffe comes as a pleasant surprise. Symonds, or Roy as he is known by his team-mates, is no stranger to the verbal banana skin and, according to the Age, produced a corker last week. Reading an article on relationship breakdowns in a women's magazine, Symonds exclaimed to his colleagues: "What a stupid question: 'When was the last time you had a row with your partner?"' After his team-mates picked themselves up from the floor, it was explained to Symonds that the question referred to an argument, not the boating activity.

Clarke does a Beckham
Is there anything quite as lily-livered as a sportsman wearing a tattoo of a foreign, mystical motif in a language he doesn't understand? The answer, for those still wondering, is a palpable no, and yet they're all at it these days. David Beckham kicked things off - his arm is basically a testing ground for blind artists the world over - with such sickly, sanctimonious claptrap as "Let them hate (me) as long as they fear (me) (sic)", "Perfectio In Spiritu" and "Ut Amem et Foveam". Michael Clarke is the latest cricketer to proclaim his spiritual side with the following desultory Arabic, that apparently reads: "The pain of discipline is nothing like the pain of disappointment." But which ancient philosopher - which wizened, grey-bearded owl - whispered this pearl? Clarke's former team-mate, Justin Langer.

Martyn confounds the media again
"Damien Martyn has done a lot since quitting cricket 384 days ago. The problem is getting him to tell you about it," screams the opening paragraph in Australia's Herald Sun. Australia are obsessed with Martyn, but not solely for his decision to retire during the last Ashes series. No, they're more interested in his choice to remain silent and live a rather suburban existence away from the media's glare. Hounding his friends and former team-mates, the media are gaining absolutely no ground. Martyn 1, media 0.

Boycott's mum smacks Rawl Lewis
Listening to Geoff Boycott commentate is one of life's genuine pleasures, and he was in terrific form in Cape Town for South Africa's seven-wicket win over West Indies. In the dying moments of the game, as West Indies' bowlers rather lost the plot, Boycott's old favourites - his mother, his mother's pinny, and the catering trolley - were all wheeled out in a five-minute burst of brilliance. "You'd think this were a charity game! A benefit match!" he screeched, as Rawl Lewis turned his arm over. "My mum wouldn't worry about this bowling." But would she read Lewis's googly, Geoff? "Read it?" Boycott asked. "Read it? She'd run down the pitch before he'd bowl it. She'd be working in the kitchen with her pinny on and smack it!"

Symonds is gagged; newspaper gaffes
Sydney's Daily Telegraph ran a holding piece on Sunday, informing its readers that Symonds' regular column will not be ghosted in light of his gagging by Cricket Australia. Which was nice of them. How unfortunate, though, that an advert on the right-hand-side should show a primate in an advert for Sydney's Zoo...

Bucknor's big bucks
Steve Bucknor is in the eye of an almighty storm, following a spate of contentious (and truly horrific) decisions made by him and his colleague, Mark Benson, in the Sydney Test. The pair were brilliantly nicknamed "Benson and Edges" by one Australian tabloid. However, it's a great shame that one of the most respected figures in cricket should be ending his career (one presumes retirement isn't far off) in such controversy, and further highlights the need for younger eyes and ears in the fierce intensity of a modern Test match.

Bucknor, 61, is absolutely raking in the cash in his autumn years, though: it was revealed on Saturday that in the past 12 months he earned $120,000 - the flat rate paid to Elite umpires. That equates to a finger-raising $440/hour for his on-field duties, in a year that has seen him embroiled in controversy after controversy. These include the cock-up of the World Cup final, which led to his suspension; forgetting to fill in his visa, preventing him from officiating in the first Test between Australia and Sri Lanka; his howling decision not to give Symonds out on 30 to a regulation caught-behind, and a few others. Time to retire gracefully, Steve, with dignity intact.

Will Luke is a staff writer at Cricinfo