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Swapping countries, a monkey attack, and Monty's flavour

Pitching for a place in the team
Everybody's doing it - in rugby, in football, the Kolpak players, Ed Joyce. Next, suitably inspired, Saqlain Mushtaq? The master offspinner and termed by many as the inventor of the doosra recently took to the field in Sussex whites after qualifying as a British citizen. England's search for a world-class performer in the spin department and Saqlain's craving for international action could see him don the three lions shirt as early as next year. "It now depends how desperate I am for the big comeback," he said. By the looks of things, very.

Had enough of cricket? Here, have some more

There's good news for cricket followers in the UK. Following the series against West Indies and India, Britain is set to host the 2007 Indoor Cricket World Cup. The event, to be held in Bristol during the last week of September, was launched last week and has confirmed participation from nine countries. The sixth version of the biennial tournament is slated to be the biggest, with junior teams also competing for a trophy of their own. "You can play indoor cricket during the off season to keep your skills sharp," commented Syd Lawrence, president of the England Indoor Cricket Association. Well, at least with this version there won't be rain stoppages as a result of the wonderful "summer" we've seen so far.

Monty adds to his artillery

Adding to the joy of cricket fans in the UK, Walkers have announced a new flavour of crisps - chilli and lemon. The product, specially designed for the UK's growing south Asian population, boasts packaging that features information in Hindi. And considering that the likes of Gary Lineker - who has been the face of Walkers since 1995 - surely won't be able to stand all that spice, Walkers have looked for an alternative and found ... Monty Panesar! The new crisps will be launched with a massive marketing campaign featuring radio ad spots with Monty, an appearance at the Asian Lifestyle Show, and giveaways at cricket matches. Monty himself described the whole thing as a new challenge and predicted its success with the UK's Asian communities.

The language barrier. No more

World Cup 2007 was a nexus of nightmares for Pakistan; early exit, death of coach, retirement of captain. But before all that, the team were banned from talking in English - more due to their lack of familiarity with the language than anything else. To counter problems of that sort, Shoaib Malik has started taking English lessons from a specially appointed tutor. According to a close friend of the new captain, "Malik is very serious about his image and that of the country." The Pakistan Cricket Board has for once picked up on the players' weakness and has not only asked other players to follow suit, but is also looking to have language classes for young players attending the National Cricket Academy and training camps. Alas, no more "Thanks to the boys who play very well".

A surprise to forget

You have been bowled out for 62, Muralitharan has snapped up a horde of wickets, and Sangakkara has racked up a double hundred. You arrive at your hotel hoping to catch some rest, and hopefully a change of fortune for the next Test. Not if you're Mohammad Rafique, who found a welcoming band of monkeys waiting in his room. "They just attacked me once I entered my room. Hotel authority immediately dispersed them by shooting blanks," said Rafique, who was not amused by the surprise party. He had earlier bowled 35 overs in the second Test without any success and, following the monkey-attack, announced that he would be skipping the ODIs altogether.

In need of a break

There has been plenty of criticism directed the West Indies Cricket Board's way following the doomed World Cup, Brian Lara's parting shots, and most recently, the controversy over a media article by Chris Gayle. Keeping with the trend, Dave Martins, of the band Tradewinds, has recorded a satirical calypso suggesting the WICB "Take a Rest". Distributed to radio stations across the Caribbean, the song takes a shot at the board's handling of recent situations, especially on the administration front, and has lyrics that say, among other things, that the board made "Holding and Richards cry". Martins has said he wants a "real campaign going in each island", with "simple signs all over the place, even bumper stickers" in order to do the trick. Who knows, we might see a resurgence of the mighty West Indies yet.