November 17, 2008

You don't mess with Dhoni's fans

Trigger-happy Dhoni fans, eight-ball cricket, monster hits and Yuvraj in a corset

Mahendra Singh Dhoni: If the man wants a gun, its a gun he's gonna get © AFP

Dhoni's got a gun
Mahendra Singh Dhoni is currently the blue-eyed boy of Indian cricket. The World Twenty20 win last year, the eye-popping IPL salary, the victory against world-beating Australia in the recent Test series - it seems he can do no wrong. So when he was asked by the Ranchi District Arms Magistrate to produce a character certificate before he could get a gun licence, a section of his fans were outraged. "A great son of India has been insulted by this demand for a character reference," they said and effigies of the local magistrate were burnt during a demonstration demanding that the licence be issued immediately. Their efforts didn't go in vain; the Ranchi district administration withdrew their request, saying a person of Dhoni's stature needed no reference.

All for a good cause
What is today's cricketer's favourite hobby? "Stripping to raise cancer awareness" seems to be the answer. Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook and James Anderson did it earlier this year for Everyman, the UK's leading campaigner against male cancer, and now it's Australia's cricketers in a calendar to raise funds for the McGrath Foundation for breast cancer. Among the players to feature in the 13-month calendar called Men of Cricket are Michael Clarke, Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Bracken, Shane Watson and Simon Katich. Glenn McGrath, who retired last year, thanked the players for their support but added: "I'm actually quite glad the calendar is happening now rather than a few years ago as I'm not sure how much notice I would have needed to feel comfortable getting my shirt off."

Eight ball
Cricket is a game that can be played in a plethora of formats. Besides the Tests, ODIs and Twenty20s, there's six-a-side, double-wicket cricket, beach cricket, Kwik cricket. A new addition to the list is "octagon cricket", a short, eight-a-side game. It is being promoted by Otago Cricket as part of a bid to encourage more of New Zealand's school children to take up the sport. The format will first be trialled in Dunedin, and an inter-school tournament has been organised with the final to be played during the lunch break on the first day of the Test between New Zealand and West Indies at the University Oval in December.

Double trouble
Kevin Pietersen's switch-hits may have been a spectacular success but Andrew Symonds' attempts to reverse-sweep using the back of the bat were less so. However, if a revolutionary new Gray-Nicolls bat catches on, Symonds' shot could become a staple: a prototype has been developed with a flattened hitting area on the reverse face of the bat. Batmaker Stuart Kranzbuhler told the Age that the bat would conform to ICC specifications and "could be made without reducing hitting power from the front".

Good fences make good neighbours
Powerful modern bats that enable batsmen to hit the ball a long way are a curse for bowlers. Now they could bring a halt to cricket at a ground in Devon, where the poet Rudyard Kipling reputedly played in the late 19th century. The increasing number of deliveries being hit out of the ground is bringing with it an increasing number of claims for damage from nearby establishments. The insurance company of Bideford CC, the club that plays its home games at the ground, has warned that it might not renew their contract unless higher fencing is erected. "No fencing, no cricket. That could be the reality of the situation," said Peter Adams, the club's president. The club has decided to put up netting on two sides as a temporary measure and launched an appeal for the 9000 pounds needed for the fences.

The big hits have been causing havoc over in Australia too. This time it was the Gold Coast Dolphins, the club side through which Andrew Symonds made his return to cricket after being sent home following his infamous fishing trip, that was in the thick of it. Umpires and scorers may have thankless jobs at the best of times; Symonds' team-mates made a tournament in Brisbane a particularly wretched time for the officials. A huge six from the captain, Brad Ipson, cleared the ground and homed in on the rear window of an umpire's car, while Kevin Chapman's shot sailed into the scorers' box and made a mess of a laptop.

Headline of the Week
"Beaten by a man in a corset"
The ever-reliable Sun plays on the fact that Yuvraj Singh wore a back brace during his 78-ball 138 which flattened England in Rajkot

Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo