August 25, 2008

Lee's jocks, Bolt shocks

An Australian batsman's high-profile fan, the world's highest cricket venue, and Bradman's pet-shop connection

Brett Lee: 'I've done a billion photo shoots, but it's always with my clothes on' © Getty Images

Hayden's Bolt from the blue
A worrying lack of athletic gold had Australian journalists desperately searching for local angles last week. As he did through the Olympics, Usain Bolt delivered. Shortly after breaking Michael Johnson's 200m world record, Bolt told reporters he couldn't wait to visit Australia. "One of my favourite cricketers in the world is from your way," Bolt said. "I am a huge fan of Matty Hayden and he's a cool customer out in the middle and I like his style."

Like Bolt, Hayden knows what it's like to break a world record: his 380 was for a time the highest score in Tests. "It's pretty humbling, isn't it, for an old fisherman and surfer in Queensland who now and then plays a bit of cricket," Hayden said when told of Bolt's comments. "It's an amazing achievement and to be mentioned is something I'm very proud about and I can't believe he even said that." And the mutual admiration society has its two newest inductees.

Taking the high ground
After a fortnight of freak talent from Bolt and Michael Phelps, an outbreak of world-record fever was probably inevitable. Not entirely surprising, then, to read of plans for a charity cricket match near Mount Everest Base Camp at an altitude of more than 5100 metres. Nearly 50 people will make the journey, including players, medics and cameramen. There will also be umpires, and if they want a high - no pun intended - standard of decision-making, the ultra-fit Simon Taufel could probably make the trek, though some of his fuller-figured colleagues on the ICC Elite Panel may struggle. The match will take place next April and the British organisers say it will be the highest game of organised sport ever played - although Diego Maradona may have some claim to that title.

Brett Lee's underpants! Now that I've got your attention...
A story about, well, Brett Lee's underpants. On a cold Sydney night, Lee, with help from designer Bruno Schiavi, launched his own line of underwear. Although he has posed in the AceStar range for a series of ads, there was no chance the fast bowler was getting his gear off again. "I've done my hard work," Lee said. "I've done a billion photo shoots, but it's always with my clothes on. To think that the whole emphasis was on my underwear - but Bruno and everyone at the whole shoot made it so comfortable." Unfortunately the week went downhill rather quickly for Lee, who a few days later announced he was separating from his wife Liz.

Are you happy, Geeves?
Lee's marriage problems ruled him out of Australia's one-day series against Bangladesh in Darwin and thus gave Brett Geeves his first call-up into Australia's squad. It meant Geeves could once and for all forget about looking for another job. A year ago he was scouring the employment section of the Saturday newspapers as he feared being dumped by Tasmania following a disappointing 2006-07. "I wasn't far off maybe losing my state contract and having to pursue other areas," Geeves said last week. With a name like that there would have to be a future in butler work, if his cricket career comes a cropper.

Jeers for cheers
Not for the first time in the past 12 months, cheerleaders have made an appearance at international cricket but have not been universally embraced. A squad of 24 Eastern European cheerleaders were enlisted for Sri Lanka's opening ODI against India in Dambulla, a match that the home team won convincingly. But Sri Lanka's cultural minister Yapa Abeywardena asked that the women be removed for the remaining games. "It is not in keeping with our tradition," Abeywardena said. "I have asked the cricket board to drop this item immediately." Much to the disappointment of some fans, the board agreed to get rid of the cheerleaders.

Pet shop collars Bradman memento
The 100th anniversary of Don Bradman's birth is coming up on August 27 and it seems everyone wants a piece of the celebration. Even a pet shop in Bowral, the New South Wales town where Bradman was raised. For the next fortnight the store will be displaying a dog collar signed by Bradman and sold at a charity auction. Not exactly a rival to the town's Bradman Museum, but at least they're getting into the spirit of the occasion. If ever the collar is used for its intended purpose, surely the lucky canine must be given the name Dog Bradman.

Headline of the Week
"Hair is pulling out"
The Daily Mirror's headline writers make the most of the outgoing umpire Darrell Hair's infinitely punnable name, while they still can

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo