December 15, 2008

Warne's worries, and cat litter on a cricket field

Jane McGrath day, 60 hours of continuous cricket for almost no gain, and a commentator with a difference

The ground staff used a helicopter and then cat litter to dry the outfield in Dunedin © Getty Images

Pretty in pink
Matthew Hayden and Andrew Symonds used pink grips on Boxing Day in 2006, and Adam Gilchrist wore pink wicketkeeping gloves at the MCG in 2007, but efforts to raise awareness and funds for the McGrath Foundation will be far more widespread during the third Test against South Africa at the SCG in 2009. The stumps, parts of the outfield, and players' shirts will carry the foundation's pink logo, and Glenn McGrath has also urged fans to wear pink to the game. The third day, usually known as Ladies' Day, has been renamed Jane McGrath Day, after the former Australian fast bowler's late wife. "I thank the SCG Trust for naming the Ladies Day after Jane. Who would have thought they would name something here after her and not me!" McGrath said. "It will be amazing to walk out there and see everything is pink, and I am not sure how I will feel on that first day of play. Jane would have been so proud." Also, though he may not be causing whitewashes himself anymore, true to form, McGrath predicted Australia would beat South Africa 3-0.

Warne on Warne
Could a musical make Shane Warne more nervous than he was when facing Shoaib Akhtar on a green, seaming pitch? Apparently Warne had all sorts of misgivings about Eddie Perfect's 'Shane Warne, The Musical, primarily about how his ex-wife Simone, and mother Brigitte would be portrayed. "See it or not see it? What's it like? Is it full of cheap gags?" wondered Warne in his column for the Herald Sun. Eventually, after some convincing from his manager and a couple of beers, Warne was in the theatre for the premiere. Two hours and several chuckles later it was over and Warne had enjoyed it enough to invite the lead actor, Perfect, over for a snack. "What he has done is absolutely fantastic, he and all his cast," said Warne, before adding, "I think I was better in my jocks than Eddie."

Eating humble pie
Harbhajan Singh has been involved in so many high-profile controversies that his potshots at England at the end of the first day in Chennai went largely unnoticed. England finished the day on 229 for 5, and Harbhajan said, "If we [India] had been batting, we'd have got more than 300". He did not stop there: "We've done well against Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan and everyone, so Monty [Panesar] and the other spinners are not a threat to us." As it turned out, India were bowled out for 241 and the most serious damage had been inflicted by the "other spinner", Graeme Swann, who dismissed Gautam Gambhir and Rahul Dravid in his first over in Test cricket. Harbhajan, though, went down swinging, scoring 40 in that total.

Cat poo to the rescue
Groundsmen in England and Australia use Supersoppers to dry their outfields, but in most parts of the subcontinent that job is entrusted to armies of workers equipped with sponges and buckets. However, during the recent first Test between New Zealand and West Indies in Dunedin, the ground staff used an assortment of methods - ranging from the high-tech to the downright queer - to salvage the third day. A helicopter whirred over the University Oval in the morning and shaved five hours off the estimated drying time, after which leaf blowers were used to try and remove any remaining moisture. But when play began at 2.45pm, it was found that the ground was still wet underfoot. Not a problem for the intrepid ground staff, who came up with yet another innovative solution: spreading kitty litter on the affected areas.

Pain and nearly no gain
Last September, Blunham Cricket Club broke the world record for the longest cricket match by playing continuously for 59 hours and 35 minutes. They persevered through night-time temperatures of 5ºC, as well as early-morning mist, and their efforts were monitored by officials from the Guinness Book of World Records. However, their toil nearly came to naught after proof of their achievement - the film footage of the conquest - went missing. The files were apparently lost when the computer was moved from the field. When the computer was turned on again, a week after the game, it automatically deleted all the files. This film, containing footage of all the changeovers was central to the ratification process. "Needless to say this left us in a bit of a blind panic as it appeared that everyone's efforts, in terms of the world record at least, had been for nothing," Neil Wildon, the organiser of the event, told Biggleswade Today. It ended well, though, for Guinness were able to ratify the record through a number of witnesses, photographs, and media coverage.

A commentator with a difference
Sports broadcaster Kern Tyson may sound like anyone else on air. However, unlike several of those in commentary boxes around the world, Tyson had to overcome a severe handicap - blindness. Tyson, who was born Trinidad and Tobago with keratoconus, a condition that rendered him able only to make out only shapes and outlines, is in Dunedin to cover the West Indies tour for the Family Focus Broadcasting network (FFBN). He began working with FFBN in 2002 and said that passion, healthy imagination and an excellent memory made up for his lack of sight. "Every time I went on air, I spoke about sport. So eventually I said, 'This is my passion and I need to get into writing about sport and become a sports analyst," Tyson told the New Zealand Herald. Tyson isn't the only blind commentator, though: Zimbabwe has one, Dean du Plessis, who has been on the circuit for a few years.

Headline of the Week
Swann ruffles feathers and breaks duck
The Times on Graeme Swann's sensational first over in Test cricket.

George Binoy is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo