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The Younis files, the Bravo elegy, the Manohar manoeuvre

"Are you my helmet or do you belong to that other Younis Khan fellow?" AFP

Retirement dramedies
If expecting to be drinking pals with opposition players you have abused for weeks on end is an Australian persuasion, and defecting to English counties is a South African thing, then in parts of South Asia, retirement is a leading cricketing art form.

Like with any creative enterprise, every country has its own particular iteration. Sri Lanka, for example, is the home of the encore. When some players announce their retirements, they do so gazing hopefully at the nation's sports minister, who makes a point of cajoling certain players into staying for one more series, as long as it makes political sense for him to do so.

Often these second comings don't work out. Sanath Jayasuriya spent his last few innings slashing balls to off-side fielders. Kumar Sangakkara kept getting out cheaply to high-quality spin. In both cases, fans clamoured for renditions of the players' best work, but were reminded instead of the players' great flaws - a little like screaming for "Billie Jean" at a Michael Jackson show, only for Jackson to climb onto the roof and dangle a baby from it.

India is not beyond unusual retirements either, giving Sachin Tendulkar the grandest farewell of all in a made-for-purpose series from which Tendulkar's speech remains more vividly in the memory than any of the cricket.

But the undisputed grand masters, of course, are Pakistan. Imran Khan scripted one of the great cricketing comebacks when he came out of retirement to play in, and win, a World Cup. More recently, Shahid Afridi has un-retired so many times that for fans to truly believe he is gone for good, he will have to publicly saw his own arms off. Shoaib Malik went in a different, but still dramatic, direction, hitting 245 in his first Test innings in five years, before springing a shock retirement at the end of that series.

So has the baton passed to Pakistan's present old-timers. Misbah ul Haq's approach to retirements has been the more classical of the two. He first took fans on a rare journey into his mind, despondently raising the possibility of retirement in a stream-of-consciousness press conference following last year's loss at the MCG, then stating days later that he would play on for a bit. Only now has he confirmed the West Indies series will be his last.

Younis Khan, however, has aimed for something fresh and daring, and the genre is so much richer for it. He first came to us in a press conference in Karachi. "People are calling me and asking me not to make any announcement to leave but now is the time," he said. All settled, then?

But wait. What's this? Two weeks later another Younis quote emerges, in which he suggests he could extend his career, "if my team needs me".

Having ratcheted up the drama with two opposing announcements, Younis returned to us in a gloriously fulfilling final act. Looking dead serious in a video message from the West Indies, this third, authoritative Younis told us: "Younis Khan will retire even if he scores a hundred in every innings of every match". The way he glowered, and spoke in third person, he seemed to not just be telling fans off for doubting "Younis Khan's credibility", but also scolding the other two Younis Khans for speculating on Younis Khan's future.

Misbah and Younis may be two of the more straight-talking men in their nation's cricket pantheon, but no one can fully avoid the drama vortex that is a Pakistan retirement.

Left behind by the IPL
Thanks to the IPL, many cricketers can finally rub shoulders with international stars and earn the kind of money worth dodging taxes for, but spare a thought for the folks who did not earn a contract.

Denied the chance to party in a glam club in Mumbai or a plush Delhi hotel, New Zealand fast bowler Doug Bracewell had to resort to getting drunk in his home town of Hastings, like some kind of worthless pleb. Worse, Bracewell didn't even have access to a team chauffeur, and - get this - had to personally open the door to his own car, put himself behind the wheel, and wound up getting picked up by the police and sent to court for drunk-driving.

April's horseman of the Kolpakalypse
With several South Africa players having signed county deals over the last few months, taking advantage of what was effectively a post-Brexit going-out-of-business sale for British visas, county cricket has gained a greater international profile this season than it would otherwise command. The foreign player making most waves last month was none other than the biggest signing of the season: Kyle Abbott. In three matches for Hampshire, Abbott returned 20 wickets at an average of 16.8. This included an especially impressive match-turning 7 for 41 against Yorkshire.

The low-key goodbye
Bangladesh have recently had success forging their own path, and in a departure from South Asian tradition, Mashrafe Mortaza - who has led his side with elegance and charisma - made about as nonchalant a retirement announcement as possible. Striding to the pitch for the toss ahead of the first T20 at Khettarama, Mashrafe casually let slip to Dean Jones that this was his last series like he was relaying a hike in the price of bananas, or telling Jones that his fly was down.

The Star Wars parallel
For so long the cricket world laboured under the illusion that N Srinivasan was our very own Senator Palpatine, but in recent months it has emerged that it is in fact Shashank Manohar who has adopted that role. 
Like with Palpatine, Manohar's rise to the ICC's top job was as deft as it was swift. By overseeing the ICC's new financial proposal he too seeks to weaken the very federation he was once charged with protecting, the BCCI.

The dream chaser
Less than six months after he played for England, 25-year-old Surrey allrounder Zafar Ansari announced he is retiring from cricket, possibly to pursue a career in law. Perhaps looking across the Surrey dressing room, Ansari caught sight of an older man, hair greying now, whose own dreams of becoming a lawyer lay broken and unfulfilled. Who, after all, would want to end up like Kumar Sangakkara?

Heartbreak of the month
No one has ever been sadder about a bust hamstring than Dwayne Bravo, who last month had to pull out of the IPL because of the injury. Below is a brief rundown of that unforgettable press release.

"It is with deep regret that I announce my decision to withdraw…" *violin music begins*

"My body is not ready to perform at its fullest potential…" *other strings join*

"…[I] undoubtedly have the love support of the best sports fans in the world. It is for them that I perform at my best every time I go on to the pitch." *soft piano notes, sobbing heard in crowd*

"I sincerely apologise to my Gujarat Lions team-mates, franchise owners, and all my wonderful fans…" *weeping intensifies*

"I, too, am deeply saddened and disappointed, particularly because I know how much my fans were looking forward to my return." *percussion builds delicately to a crescendo*

"This is one of the hardest decisions I have had to make in my career."

*haunting pause*

I thank everyone for the love and encouragement.

*applause, tearful cries of "Bravo! Bravo!"*

The weird fetish
The smell of freshly mown grass has been repeatedly cited as one of the pleasures of the early English season.

Come on, county cricket fans. This is why people don't respect you.

The misheard word
In world news, North Korea has raised global alarm by testing ballistic missiles, but Kieron Pollard has found it demeaning to North Koreans that so many people are questioning whether they have the "brains" to reach North America.

The who-do-they-think-they-are-fooling announcement.
Sri Lanka Cricket has declared its players will undergo "high-intensity and altitude training" in Pallekele, ahead of the Champions Trophy. While the benefits of training at this venue - among the faster, more seam-friendly pitches in the continent - are clear, it is less certain whether a ground that is not much more than 500 metres above sea level qualifies as an "altitude" venue. There were even suggestions the mountain air would pre-acclimatise Sri Lanka's players for the weather in England, forgetting that, this being a tropical island, temperatures still regularly breach 30 degrees around Kandy in May, and that pre-series training in Pallekele last year had not, in fact, led to a single win on the tour of England.

SLC is also reportedly advising a group planning an expedition across the Sahara to prepare by standing under a lightbulb for a few hours.