September 29, 2008

Old boys volunteer, new guns wanted

Fifty-nine hours of cricket, home cheerleaders for the ICL, and Bradman's bat breaks a record

Eat fibre, children, else the Internal Organ Bogeyman will get you © Getty Images

Cricket: the marathon version
"Fifty hours of sunshine in England without snow or torrential rain will never happen." So said one of the cricketers from Brisbane who set a record for endurance, playing 50 hours of continuous cricket, back in March, after his team eclipsed the earlier best of 35 hours, set in England. Six months later - now, that is - the Blunham Cricket Club has pushed the mark to 59 hours and 35 minutes. Blunham were not exactly restoring English pride by beating the Aussies: the record they broke, 55 hours, had been set in Auckland.

While the others had had to wait for their efforts to be ratified, there was no such delay for Blunham, who used the record-breaking attempt to raise funds for the club. Officials from the Guinness Book of World Records oversaw proceedings as play went on despite night-time temperatures falling to 5ºC and mist hiding the players' lower bodies in the early hours of the day. The match got underway at 9am on Friday and ended at 8.35pm on Sunday. Mike Gatting dropped in the afternoon, and around 1000 spectators cheered on the tireless bunch.

Spinners, anyone?
Twenty-two years ago Greg Matthews etched his name in cricket folklore as he took the final wicket, that of Maninder Singh, in the tied Test in Madras. Both of Matthews' two career Test five-fors came in that match, and 22 years later he does not mind another run on subcontinent pitches. He is nearing 49 now, but Australia's depleted spin-bowling resources are motivation enough for Matthews, heading into his 31st season in Sydney grade cricket, to make a return. "If somebody said to me, 'You're on a plane to India tomorrow', there's no way I'd embarrass myself," Matthews told Sydney's Daily Telegraph. "I could run in and steel myself for five days and do the business. I was happy with my form last summer, and I'm sure my statistics could have been even better had a few catches not been dropped and lbw appeals not turned down."

Aye aye, Paaji
Meanwhile Kapil Dev, the former India captain, has been commissioned into the Territorial Army (TA) as an honorary lieutenant colonel. General Deepak Kapoor, India's army chief, pinned the badges on Kapil's shouders at a function held at army headquarters in New Delhi. Kapil, 50, joins the 150 TA (Infantry) battalion of the Punjab Regiment, but officials at the ICL need not worry: he's not going to serve full-time, unless a war breaks out. The TA system allows citizens to volunteer for part-time military service on the understanding that they might be summoned to support the full-time forces in emergencies. "This is my second innings. Earlier I fought for the country in my white uniform. Now I will do the same in my olive-green army uniform," Kapil declared.

Eat healthy, says Ramps
Surrey's relegation from Division One of the County Championship would have been painful, but that's not all that's upsetting Mark Ramprakash. "I'm shocked to learn that 80% of the nation aren't eating enough," he said recently. Eating fibre, that is. To spread the message, Ramps shed his clothes and was photographed with his body painted to show the internal organs. He also showed off toned muscles any model would be proud of. A superhero to fight bad food habits? That might be a tall order for one man alone, but who better than Ramps to do it?

A weapon fit for a captain
It's not just visiting teams who are wary of the subcontinent. Mahendra Singh Dhoni, India's limited-over captain, already travels with a security entourage, including women police officers to keep female fans at bay, but indications are that he does not want to keep matters entirely out of his hands. Dhoni, who already possesses a gun, has applied for permission to carry a type of weapon that the government issues only in special circumstances to citizens in strong need of it. Well, Dhoni is a special case, or he wouldn't have been the highest-earning player in the IPL.

No foreign cheer for the ICL? © Getty Images

Church to jail
When Marques Church, a New Zealander who worked as a fitness coach with the ECB, ran up an internet bill of £23,165, he was surely asking for trouble. The telecom company approached the ECB, and when Church returned from England's tour of New Zealand, he could only account for 25% of the charges. What Church was hiding was 13 indecent clips involving children. Church, who later admitted to downloading pornographic files, was convicted by the Leicester Crown Court and sentenced to six months in jail. Church's defence said he was going through a relationship break-up and other personal problems but that didn't earn him much leeway. "That sort of material is wholly unacceptable," Judge Michael Pert, QC, said. "These are disgusting offences and they merit a prison sentence, and a prison sentence you will serve."

Indigenous support
Perhaps more than the players, it was the cheerleaders who brought global appeal to the Indian Twenty20 leagues in the past year. Women were brought in from Eastern Europe, England, Australia, and even the USA (the Washington Redskins were flown down by the Bangalore Royal Challengers). This year, though, the ICL has decided to promote local talent. Bollywood's Rakhi Sawant will lead the ICL Zebras, a group of nine - all Indians, handpicked by her.

Cheerleaders have created a stir in India, but Sawant doesn't foresee a problem. "My cheerleaders will not be banned because none of our dance movements will be vulgar. We will keep in mind the Indian audience while deciding on the choreography," She issued a charitable invitation as well: "On behalf of the ICL, I invite Lalit Modi and Sharad Pawar to watch the series with us."

Bradman breaks another record
A good lesson for anyone starting out in a sports career. After Donald Bradman played his first Test, in which he scored only 18 and 1 and England won by a mammoth 675 runs, he thought he would not be selected for the second Test in Sydney, and passed his bat - a Warren Bardsley "Model de Luxe" - around the Australian and English dressing rooms and got each player to sign it. He signed it too, and when he became a bit more famous a couple of years later, donated it as the prize in a Sydney newspaper competition. George Lethbridge, a schoolboy, won the contest, and 78 years later, his family decided to auction the bat, soon after Bradman's 100th birth anniversary. The bat went for a whopping A$145,000 (approximately US$120,000).

If eagles descend on the MCG, seagulls could be in trouble © Getty Images

Hawks for pigeons
During the Wimbledon Championships, hawks are used to keep the pigeons away: a method that is in use at the Melbourne Cricket Ground as well. The move cut down cleaning costs for the Melbourne Cricket Club during the recent AFL finals week, and the MCC is considering bringing in a different kind of bird to deal with the seagulls during this year's Boxing Day Test. " Clearly the hawk works well for the pigeons," Peter Wearne, the general manager of facilities, said. "For the seagulls it's probably going to be something like an eagle."

Missed the bus, got the wickets
Were Australia taking discipline a bit too far when they sent Andrew Symonds home from Darwin? Well, in Bridgetown, Barbados, Grantley Adams Memorial's 18-year-old medium-pacer Renaldo Holder more than made up for arriving late. Holder had missed his bus, and reached the ground half an hour after the game started. He waited till the first drinks break to get the ball, and went on to take 7 for 27. "I feel good about the performance, seeing that I got there late," Holder told the Nation. "I was not off-set. I knew that the guys were depending on me. When you are off-set, you don't concentrate properly. You cannot look back at what went wrong."

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Mathew Varghese is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo