September 8, 2008

Metal Bruce, fishy Roy

Pop stars, heavy rockers, and the new Sobers

Jessica and Kevin's nightclub days are long behind them © Getty Images

Jessica, KP's unofficial vice-captain
Kevin Pietersen's brotherly-love style of captaincy has drawn many fans, not least the players themselves, all of whom have received frequent bum-tapping and matey hugging from their new father figure. And continuing the theme of love, Pietersen has applauded his wife - Jessica, a former member of the pop group Liberty X - for her advice in the early stages of his tenure. "I'm very fortunate that I have a wife who has been in the spotlight for a lot longer than I have," Pietersen admitted. "She had seven or eight years of a very successful music career, and I can go home and she can talk to me about stuff and we can chuck ideas around together, and I know Colly didn't have that." At least he didn't have to listen to manufactured Britpop morning, noon and night.

Australia unearth goldmine of talent
Eddie Gilbert may be remembered as one of only 15 bowlers to dismiss Sir Donald Bradman for a duck , but his status as a renowned Aboriginal cricketer arguably carries more weight. Unlike Bradman, however, Gilbert never played a Test, in spite of his sheer pace, produced by a whippy action and strong wrists that were developed from years of boomerang throwing. He was unfortunate to be born when he was, in the uncompromisingly prejudiced society of the early 20th century, but there is hope for his Aboriginal descendants. Two Australia players visited an outback region of the Northern Territory's Kakadu and Arnhem Land regions last week, and were suitably impressed at the natural ability of the indigenous, barefoot youngsters they met there. "So many young kids here are seriously talented athletes, two out of three are talented athletes," Moises Henriques, the Portugese-born allrounder, told The Age. It is too simplistic to slam Australia for never having fielded an indigenous Test cricketer, so complicated is the politics and history behind European settlement in the country. But judging by the goldmine they have found in the dusty outback this past week, the fondly remembered team of 1868 might soon have a modern descendant pulling on the baggy green.

Metallic cricket
Cricket and rock are not obviously natural bosom buddies, yet the gentle game has attracted serious sweaties in its time. Mick Jagger often lurks at Lord's, as has Elton John (a contentious choice as a rocker, we admit). And Oasis' Noel Gallagher admitted on BBC Radio 2 recently that he finds cricket a calming influence. But never in our wildest, rockiest dreams did we imagine the lead singer of Iron Maiden, Bruce Dickinson, would court the great game. Happily for all of society - indeed mankind - we can confirm this is not mere fiction in our rockabilly heads but absolute fact. Andrew Miller, Cricinfo's intrepid UK editor and peerless Maiden fanboy, happened to sit opposite the man on the Piccadilly Line last week, and like any cricket writer worth his head-bang would, rudely interrupted Dickinson's anonymous journey. "I must say, I'm very impressed with that Mr Pietersen," Dickinson said, with journalist-pleasing knowledge. "His life story is like Henry IV, V and VI all rolled into one." All we need now is for him to do a Cliff Richard, stun the MCC members into a rendition of "Two Minutes to Midnight", and alleviate the next Lord's rain break. Well, if one dream can come true...

The Don's first blade
The first bat to be used by Bradman is to be auctioned in Melbourne later this month, with a pre-sale estimate of AUS$90,000-$120,000 (£43,000). "This remarkable bat is 'ground zero' of Bradman's Test career," said auctioneer Charles Leski. Bradman only managed 18 and 1 with the bat on debut, but returned later in the series to begin the greatest career in the history of the game. A few hundred grand is a small sum to pay for cricketing heritage of this magnitude.

Pretty in pink
Pink is cricket's new black, apparently. Garishly adorned handles to promote awareness of breast cancer were the first bold sign of a new pinkish regime, before Middlesex unveiled their own candyfloss-coloured kit for Twenty20. Pink balls are next on the agenda. Childish tittering aside, there is science behind the idea: MCC trialled the use of a pink ball earlier this season, with mixed success, in an attempt to overcome the quick discolouring that often afflicts the white balls used in one-day cricket. A pink number was used for the first time last week, between Hampshire and Essex under floodlights, but the verdict wasn't altogether encouraging. "I found it a bit difficult to follow when it was hit along the ground," Graham Napier said. "When it got above head height, it was better." A novel idea, certainly, but that's hardly the most ringing of endorsements.

Andrew Symonds pictured in a promo for the 'Rod, Reel & Roy' competition in which winners can win a fishing trip with the Australia allrounder ©

Gone fishin'
Andrew Symonds' fishing-gate scandal hasn't wriggled its way off the journalists' hook just yet. Symonds was sent home from Darwin last week after deciding to go fishing instead of attending a compulsory team meeting, but that didn't stop a soft-drink manufacturer from selling bottles containing details of the "Rod, Reel & Roy'' competition. That's right: one lucky winner will have the chance to go fishing with Australia's favourite scoundrel. The contest website inadvertently speaks on behalf of Cricket Australia when it warns entrants that "Andrew Symonds' participation (during Sep - Nov 08 only) is subject to his availability".

A tribute to Sobers
August 31 is famed for many things. Princess Diana's death, Henry VI beginning his reign at the tender age of nine months, and Mary Ann Nichols becoming the first of Jack the Ripper's many victims. These all spring readily to one's Wiki-mind, but Garry Sobers' six sixes in 1968 surely stands out. And remarkably, another West Indian, Floyd Reifer, paid a fitting tribute to Sobers' feat by hitting six sixes of his own in an over, on the 40th anniversary of the event last week. "The third ball was a lovely hit over midwicket, the next went over long-off, fifth over 'cow corner', and the last went straight and far," cooed Reifer. "I played good cricket shots - there was no swiping." And he shares Sobers' confidence too.

Headlines of the Week
"Angler Symo cast off by Oz"
The Sun on Symonds' angling exploits

"Bangers boss mashes Ash"
Australian Associated Press has breakfast on its mind as it reports on Bangladesh coach Jamie Siddons criticising his captain, Mohammad Ashraful

Will Luke is a staff writer at Cricinfo