The News of the World sting operation inspired us. We wanted to do one too. But it was too hard and needed lots of money. So we stuck to interviews. And we got some exclusive, never-heard-before stuff about the evening of the fourth day of the 2006 Oval Test. Only, there are three versions. Which of them is true?
Inzamam-ul-Haq: Aaah, you see jee, what happened was Shoaib Akhtar landed in our team hotel that morning and demanded to be let into the XI immediately, claiming he had a new delivery - bowled off only seven paces - where he held the ball between his thumb and middle finger. I told him that even if I could let him into the XI in the middle of a Test, his delivery sounded absolutely ridiculous and taken straight from the game of carrom. Thankfully he went away.
We went up to tea irritated with Darrell Hair for penalising us. But our mood was lifted by the mutton samosas laid out for tea along with jelly doughnuts. I shared the food out among all of us while Younis entertained us with impressions of Ian Bell being ripped off by Karachi carpet salesmen. At the end of the meal, we had our daily ritual of telling everyone what we appreciated about them that day. No one had anything nice to say about Kamran so it took a few minutes to pacify him.
As I went to open the dressing-room door, I found it was locked from the outside. Shoaib was standing there, jumping up and down and laughing maniacally. "If I don't get to play, no one does". I tried to threaten him with my bat but he laughed, muttered something about "only in Toronto" and ran off like an express train.
Five minutes of banging and shouting at the door didn't bring anyone.
Then I realised Asif was gently prodding my stomach. "Sirjee, I do." I told him kicking the door wasn't an option because he had to bowl with those legs. He shook his head, took the paper clip from my notes on "Jokes that don't discriminate against fat people" and expertly picked the lock. I didn't want to know how or where he learnt lock-picking. But by the time we got down, Hair had awarded the match to England.
Our board president thought no one would believe Shoaib locked us in (Ed: "anything can happen in Pakistan cricket" was yet to gain popularity as a maxim) and told us to go with the ball-tampering story.
Shoaib Akhtar: I was in London for an audition for Wicked and dropped in to see the team. Inzy was delighted to see me and practically begged me to join the team for the Test. He said if I could keep wicket, he could sneak me in. In fact, he said could I please pretty please keep wicket. He was squeezing my arm so tight I thought my double-joint would spring twins. Ha ha ha.
Unfortunately Kamran heard Inzy's plea and what a tantrum he threw. I slipped away as soon as I could but returned to the dressing room in the afternoon.
What a bizarre scene there! Inzy was addressing the boys, who were all looking at each other uncomfortably. "There was one last jelly doughnut on the plate not one minute ago. Who took it without having the courtesy to ask if anyone else wanted a piece? Hmm? No one is going to leave this room till the culprit had owned up."
That's why they got to the ground so late. Because of a missing doughnut! I always suspected Kamran but Inzy wouldn't hear of it.
Mohammad Asif: Well, this is a little embarrassing. When we came to the dressing room at tea, I felt drained and needed something to revive myself with. I took out the herbal medicine my doctor had prescribed and was about to have it when Younis asked me what I was taking.
I explained I met my doctor at a seminar called Aliens Live Among Us (where I also, incidentally, bumped into Sreesanth and Harbhajan Singh). He gave me the meds for my tiredness. Younis asked if I knew whether there were any banned substances in them.
"No, Younis bhai, all natural," I said. "My doctor, Hakim chacha, I call him, was an astronomical biologist, and he said medicine had moonshine, mushroom and poppy flower."
I sprinkled some on my doughnut but it was grabbed out of my hands by Inzy bhai who sniffed at it suspiciously and then took a huge bite. I guess he isn't used to Hakim chacha's mix because next minute he had leapt over three chairs, done a pirouette and grabbed a bat to strum as a guitar. He had just begun to hum a lovely bit of Mirza Ghalib's poetry when umpire Hair burst into the room. "What's going on here?" he harrumphed. Inzy bhai continued singing. Hair turned to him, looking very angry. But suddenly his face crumpled and he began to cry. We huddled around him worried, and between sobs he said: "No one has sung me such a melody since February 1993."
Kamran, who I suspect was jealous of Inzy bhai's musical talents, told Hair that the only reason our captain was singing to him was because he was under the influence of some potent meds.
Enraged, Hair flounced out you know the rest.