The Heavy Ball

Trademarked players, a catch-all apology, and the retirement of New Zealand

Shoaib apologises for unknown crimes, Dilshan becomes a brand, and more such delightful stuff

Shoaib Akhtar arrives for a fitness test at the Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore, April 3, 2009

'I'm sorry if my sunglasses are, like, too red and stuff'  •  AFP

While it's common enough for cricketers to announce that they will retire at the end of a particular series or after an event such as an upcoming World Cup, the announcement of an entire country's retirement from the game is bound to spark off more than a mere hubbub. Which is what happened when New Zealand Cricket announced that New Zealand would be retiring from cricket at the end of Daniel Vettori's career.
"It is with regret that we announce that the country of New Zealand will be retiring from all forms of the game once Daniel Vettori is finished with his career. We'd love to carry on for sentimental reasons, but you have to accept reality and face facts. And we honestly believe that, after Dan leaves, we simply wouldn't be competitive at the international level," said Justin Vaughan, CEO of NZC, at a hastily arranged press conference. "After all, it's better to go when people are asking 'Why' rather than 'Why not?'" he said, channelling his inner Sunil Gavaskar.
"Why not? After all, Vettori is their greatest player - in fact, we could label him 'the Daniel Vettori of New Zealand cricket'. If players retire when they feel they aren't good enough to play international cricket any more, why shouldn't a country do the same?" said Sunil Gavaskar, channelling his inner Justin Vaughan, just to maintain the overall balance within this article.
Vettori was not available for comment, as he was busy single-handedly battling Pakistan in the ongoing Test series between the two nations.
In the latest development in player-rights management, Sri Lanka's TM Dilshan has changed his name to Dilshan™.
"Now that I'm Dilshan™, people have to pay me every time they use the name Dilshan," he explained, immediately writing out a royalty cheque in his own favour.
This has caused much consternation in the media. An irritated Ravi Shastri responded with, "This is nonsense. How can we pay every time we use his name in commentary? Maybe we should just refer to him as 'The Player Formerly Known As Dilshan'," he said carelessly, as Dilshan's team of lawyers suddenly appeared saying "Gotcha! We accept credit cards."
The trend of players registering their names as trademarks has also led to several situations that are so hopelessly tangled that they can only be described as "legal Maggi noodles". Indian captain MS Dhoni is simultaneously fighting court battles against Microsoft and some guy who makes boats in the Maldives, Andrew Strauss is being sued by a phonetically motivated beer manufacturer, and Russel Arnold is being challenged in court by a guy named Kurt Schwarzenegger.
Meanwhile, the ever-controversial Shoaib Akthar has apologised to the PCB and the ICC, but he has absolutely no idea why.
"I'm extremely sorry, and I apologise to the board for any harm my actions may have caused to their reputation and the game of cricket itself. Okay, can I play for Pakistan now?" he said, reading from a printed statement. When asked what exactly he was apologising for, the fast bowler admitted that he didn't really know. "I must have done something, no? Can't quite remember. Better safe than sorry, yeah?" he grinned sheepishly, absently punching a passing Bollywood starlet in the eye.
And finally, there is no truth to the rumour that Amelie Mauresmo retired from tennis just so that she could concentrate on playing cricket in the guise of Aussie fast bowler Nathan Bracken.

Anand Ramachandran is a writer and humourist based in Mumbai. He blogs at bosey.co.in
Any or all quotes and facts in this article may be wholly or partly fiction (but you knew that already, didn't you?)