October 13, 2008

Wild ducks, fried chicken, and Bengali No. 1

Harbhajan outrages Sikhs, Cricket Australia "promotes" obesity, and a team loses its balls

Harbhajan Singh's Ravana act upset a Sikh religious body © Getty Images

Bhajji gets demonic
Harbhajan Singh has outraged the Akal Takht, one of the seats of temporal religious authority for Sikhs, by appearing in a television dance reality show dressed as Ravana, a Hindu mythological demon. "To wear a tilak [vermilion] on the forehead and to dress like Ravana and dance with a woman publicly is highly disgusting," Jathedar Gyani Gurbhachan Singh, the head of the Takht, said. He demanded Harbhajan apologise and abide by Sikh tenets in future. "At the international level everybody knows Harbhajan as a Sikh and whatever he does reflects on our community." Though Harbhajan is not a baptised Sikh, the Jathedar said action could be taken against him if someone filed a complaint.

Bengali No. 1
Harbhajan may have angered his community, but Sourav Ganguly couldn't be more popular with the people of his state, beating Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, sitar maestro Ravi Shankar and actor Rani Mukherjee to be voted the No. 1 Bengali by viewers of a television channel. In a recent poll of CNN-IBN viewers, Ganguly got 59% of the votes and Mukherjee 38%, while the remaining eight on the shortlist shared the last 3%. And if sports marketers are to be believed, you may also see more of him on TV in future, even though he has announced his retirement from cricket. "Ganguly's brand value is set to go up," Anirban Das, chief executive of Globosport, a player management firm, told the Economic Times. "By announcing his retirement he has towered over all controversies, emerged as a statesman of the game. Twelve months ago he was not sought after, but now brands that wish to show qualities of leadership and national pride could sign him on."

The fat's in the fryer
If you were a fat kid in school, always picked last in the XI, this new study may sound ironic to you. According to researchers at the University of Sydney, Cricket Australia is indirectly contributing to an obesity epidemic by using Kentucky Fried Chicken as a tournament sponsor. KFC sponsors Australia's international and domestic Twenty20 matches and Ricky Ponting and other national players feature in KFC ads. The researchers said CA should "consider its responsibilities" in fighting weight gain among youth. Obesity rates have gone up in Australia in the recent years; the National Health Survey recorded a 3.1% increase in levels of overweight from 1995 to 2004-05. "We think it is unhelpful and even irresponsible in this climate of increasing obesity and overweight in children, adolescents and young adults in Australia to be heavily promoting through our sporting icons fast foods and unhealthy eating habits," Stephen Colagiuri, a professor at the university's Institute of Obesity Nutrition and Exercise, said. However CA spokesman Peter Young said the board will not terminate KFC's sponsorship. "The important thing is to take a balanced approach to nutrition, to physical activity, and to treat things like KFC as an occasional treat."

Missing referee, missing balls
As if umpires don't have enough on their plates already. The Under-22 CK Nayudu Trophy match between Railways and UP at the Karnail Singh Stadium in Delhi had no match referee and the umpires were forced to substitute for him. "We asked the umpires about the match referee and they told us that they would stand in for him," UP coach Rohit Talwar told the Hindustan Times. "We made sure to avoid a situation that would warrant the presence of a match referee." Ratnakar Shetty, the BCCI's chief administrative officer, said a match referee could not be appointed for the fixture because the board was yet to finalise the list. There was more bewilderment in store for UP after a box of their cricket balls went missing from the ground. The chief groundsman said if his staff had found the box, it would have been returned to the team. "We should be a bit more careful," said UP captain Ravikant Shukla. Fortunately for UP, it all ended well: they won the match by six wickets.

Fried chicken, anyone? © Getty Images

A duck on the pitch
The Hayfield Cricket Club is unhappy with the ducks that may have cost it the Derbyshire and Cheshire league title this season. Not the sort of ducks batsmen dread but of the quack-quack sort: the birds apparently invaded the pitch and left it a soggy-feathery mess. As a result many home league games had to be cancelled and points forfeited. The club complained to the Hayfield Parish Council, which gave them duck-feed to counter the problem. "We were told to make sure the ducks fed elsewhere by putting feed elsewhere," Bill Higginbottom, the club's chairman, told the Buxton Advertiser. "The truth of the matter is that there are just too many ducks now - probably around 50 of them - and we need to cull a few. The ducks see water standing and sit in it, causing a slurry, and then take out nutrients from the soil which then loses its quality and our pitch is ruined." Mike Crompton, clerk to the council, said it had no control over the ducks since they were wild and the council didn't own the river. Surely it's not just ducking the issue?

Cricket in the time of suspicion
Residents of an Uttar Pradesh village are getting set to play a match against a team from the district police and civil administration. Sanjarpur, a village in UP's Azamgarh district, was recently in the news after two residents were shot dead in Delhi following their alleged involvement in the serial bomb blasts in the city. UP's anti-terrorist squad, along with the Delhi police, raided the village looking for others involved in the blasts and since then there has been an uneasy and suspicious relationship between the villagers and the police. "We thought that this [match] would be the best way to pacify the residents and to ward off the negative image they have developed about us," Ramit Sharma, the Azamgarh superintendent of police, said. "We came to know that the Sanjarpur team is famous for its fast bowlers and has never lost a local cricket tournament in the last few years." The villagers appreciated the police's effort and Sharma, clearly overawed by Sajnapur's cricket reputation, said it would take time to organise a team to match up to the village's standards. Wonder how many quicks the cops have in their artillery and how good they are at policing the boundaries?

Headline of the Week
"Our Ron is blooming marvellous"
Lancashire County Cricket Club congratulates its gardener Ron Jackson for winning the 'North West in Bloom' Award.

Nishi Narayanan is a staff writer at Cricinfo