April 28, 2008

Curtly's comeback and a new cap

Amby's back, leaders wear orange, and no sixes please

Red and white Roses anyone? Only from the florists if early reaction to merging counties is anything to go by © Getty Images

One more time from the top
Batsmen beware: Curtly Ambrose is returning to the cricket field. He will pull on his kit after being named in a West Indies Players' Association (WIPA) Masters XI for the WIPA Twenty20 Club championships. Curtly hasn't played since 2000 and is now more often seen with a guitar in hand performing alongside Richie Richardson in the group The Big Bad Dread and the Baldhead. In his heyday Ambrose could make batsmen dance to his tune - often the limbo - and it would still be a brave person who took any liberties. Maybe the opposition should offer him a rum and a guitar before play starts.

If the cap fits
The Tour de France has its yellow jersey for the cyclist who leads the race after each stage, and not wanting to miss a trick, the IPL has brought out its own version - the orange cap. It will be worn by the batsman who is the highest cumulative run-scorer. The official press release said: "[The cap] is traditional in style and will stand out from any other headgear in the tournament," which is saying something after the gold helmets that the Kolkata Knight Riders have been wearing. That isn't all. At the end of the event the person holding the cap will be crowned (or should that be capped) "Winner of the Orange Cap 2008". Don't let it be said the IPL doesn't come up with catchy titles.

(Un)wanted distraction
The IPL is all about the cricket, honest. However, a few of the off-field attractions do have their moments. The cheerleaders at each venue have certainly been earning their match fees (unlikely to be quite as high as the players'), considering the amount of fours and sixes that have flown around. One Brendon McCullum innings could supply a year's-worth of star-jumps. But they aren't to everyone's liking. Shahid Afridi, for one, isn't impressed: "The girls in skimpy dresses should be removed from the ground as this is distracting the batsman," he told the News. "Cricket itself is an entertainment. It does not require such cheerleaders to entertain." They didn't seem to distract McCullum, Hussey and Co. too much.

Don't drink to that
On the theme of keeping the punters entertained, St Cross Symondians Cricket Club in Hampshire is having a few problems trying to increase the amusements beyond the boundary. They want to be able to sell alcohol and play live music, but the application has prompted 30 objections from nearby residents. John Baskwell, of Grange Road, told the Southern Daily Echo: "The intention seems to be to turn the club into a social club."

Meanwhile, at Harrogate Cricket Club in North Yorkshire, players have been told not to hit sixes into the neighbouring gardens. "Most of them just throw the balls straight back, but some of the residents, the ones who have concerns, keep them," said chairman Mike Rawlings. Clearly not everyone is getting into the Twenty20 spirit.

A bunch of mixed Roses
The English game is slowly formulating its response to the changing cricket landscape - some might say it is only catching up - with Allen Stanford featuring prominently during the past week. But the talk that has really stirred emotions, especially in the area either side of the Pennines, is the idea that counties might merge to become regions in a new Twenty20 format. That would mean Lancashire and Yorkshire joining forces, an unthinkable prospect for supporters of either side, even in these days of free movement between Manchester and Leeds. "I don't think Yorkshire and Lancashire would play as a merged side," Stewart Regan, the Yorkshire chief executive, spelt out very clearly. "That wouldn't appeal to me, I don't think it would appeal to our fans, and it certainly wouldn't appeal to our players."

Running into trouble
Being run-out once in a match could be classed as unfortunate, doing it twice when you are an opening batsman is just careless. Carl Hopkinson, the Sussex batsman, was dismissed in both innings against Kent without the involvement of the bowler. To add insult to the injured average, the first-innings dismissal came when he was coming back for an overthrow after the ball had ricocheted away to third man. Second time around he decided to chance a single to short midwicket. He lost the race, and probably didn't speak to his captain for a while.

"I've probably bowled the worst last over in Twenty20 history. Twenty20 is good for the game but not for the ego."
Andrew Symonds reflects on conceding 17 runs off the last over, at the hand of former team-mate Shane Warne, as the Rajasthan Royals complete a terrific run-chase. It kind of took the gloss of Symonds' earlier 53-ball 117

Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer at Cricinfo