September 1, 2008

Bradmania, cards for cads, and the missing ball

Celebrating The Don's centenary, comparing Symonds to Bolt, excluding KP from England's best, and red-carding foul-mouths

One hundred Australian school children form '100' on The Bradman Oval to mark Don Bradman's centenary © Getty Images

Don patrol
Even if you didn't know anything about the greatest batsman to grace a cricket field, you could have become an authority on Sir Don Bradman by reading the multitude of articles during his centenary week. The festivities marking the anniversary were widespread as well. Children from the Bowral Public School took part in celebrations at the Bradman Oval, where the great man's ashes were scattered after his death in 2001. The Royal Australian Mint issued a commemorative $5 coin, which features Bradman holding his bat aloft after scoring a century, to mark the occasion. There was Bradmania even in India, a country he never visited. A sports shop in Mumbai was hoping to cash in on the occasion by selling a bat autographed by Bradman for Rs 350,000 (approximately US$ 8000).

The Don of fielding
Andrew Symonds has fallen out of favour with the Australian team management after missing a compulsory meeting because of a wee-hours fishing trip, but a day before that transgression he was compared to the world's fastest man by Mike Young, Australia's fielding coach. "When you talk about Andrew Symonds, it's like talking about Bradman as a batsman or Ponting as a batsman," Young told AAP. "He's in a place of his own; he's that good an athlete, like [Usain] Bolt. Jonty [Rhodes] was good, real good, Ricky Ponting is real good, Michael Clarke is real good, but none of those guys have the flat out, brute athletic power and strength Symonds has." Symonds, however, isn't going to be showing off his fielding prowess during the series against Bangladesh, and only time will tell if Australia consider him to be indispensable for the tour of India in October.

What, no KP?
While England has been going gaga over their new captain's attitude, the way his batting has been unaffected by having to lead, and his ability to get the best out of Steve Harmison and Andrew Flintoff, Geoffrey Boycott had the temerity to leave Kevin Pietersen out of his best ever England Test XI. Boycott released a book, The Best XI, in which he selects an all-time XI from each country, and Ian Botham is the most recent player in the England team to make the cut. Boycott did tell the Sun that he thought Pietersen had what it takes to make it eventually. "I can only see one player in the current England side who could join the greats and that's Pietersen," Boycs said. Incidentally, he didn't pick himself in England's XI either.

Africa rising
Did you know they played cricket in Cameroon? Or that a Cameroon Cricket Federation existed? The federation, in collaboration with the Africa Cricket Association and the ICC, recently organised a training camp called "Bringing Cricket to Cameroon, Empowering Young People" after Cameroon did not make it to an ICC tournament in South Africa due to lack of preparation. Olisa Egwuatu, the course instructor, said players had been trained in both the physical and mental aspects of the game. Two players had even been sent to an academy in Abuja, Nigeria, to receive lessons in wicketkeeping and spin bowling. It was Egwuatu's third visit to the country and he felt more people were getting involved with the sport. Victor Agbor-Nso, the president of the federation, said Cameroon would be taking part in a tournament in Nigeria for the first time as a national team.

Take that, you brat © Getty Images

The Mystery of the Missing Ball
On August 31, 1968, Garry Sobers created history by hitting Glamorgan's Malcolm Nash for six sixes in an over, a feat that hadn't been performed until then. The famous ball, that kept disappearing over the boundary at Swansea, was sold at an auction in 2006 for a whopping £26,400 but questions over its authenticity have been raised by a book, Six of the Best - Cricket's Most Famous Over. The ball that was auctioned was made by Duke & Son in Nottingham, but in the book, Glamorgan players, including Nash, claim the ball used in the match was not made by Duke & Son. "It's a fact that the ball we used on that day was a Stuart Surridge ball because Glamorgan never used anything else for home games," Nash said. "There have been various debates and arguments about whether it was changed. I can assure you it wasn't."

Card games
Players in the first and second grade competition on Australia's Gold Coast will have to choose their sledges carefully or else they could be carded, football style. The new disciplinary system, which has received Queensland umpiring coach David Orchard's approval, will dish out red cards for racist comments, while threats of violence will result in a yellow card. "We are issuing the cards to crack down on the behavioural problems we have had in cricket on the Gold Coast the last few seasons," the district's cricket co-ordinator, John Fitzgerald, told the Sydney Morning Herald. "Although acceptable, there are levels of sledging that are not acceptable - like when it gets personal." The system hasn't had the same approval in New South Wales, where the Umpires and Scorers Association believes strong leadership is the real solution to improving conduct.

Catching them young
Pakistan have had more than their fair share of problem children, Mohammad Asif being the latest, and the PCB has begun to try and tackle this issue. It has launched a drive to coach and educate the country's best under-12 players so they are better equipped to handle the fame and fortune an international player receives. "They [players] face problems adjusting to the glamour, fame and money that come automatically for an international cricketer these days," Mudassar Nazar, director of Pakistan's national cricket academy, told Reuters. The board aims to have around 500 children coached in cricket, as well give them as a Cambridge O-level education in five years.

Headline of the Week
"Trescothick mastered art of keeping ball in mint condition."
The Australian on Marcus Trescothick's revelation that he used Murray Mint-induced saliva to shine the ball

George Binoy is a staff writer at Cricinfo