Thursday 31 May 2007

Warne’s anti-baldness ad gets Britain’s goat

Shane Warne has this uncanny knack of hitting the headlines for reasons right, wrong and everything in between. The latest came when the British advertising regulators castigated a firm for allegedly misleading consumers in an advert for hairloss treatment featuring cricketer Shane Warne.

Warne has often been a subject of debate in England since June 4, 1993, when he sent down the delivery that spun around Mike Gatting to hit the wicket, a blow the nation could never recover from. Now while they can go on debating on the product, the persona of Warne continues to intrigue me.

Evening walk, walking sticks, pipe, nostalgia, weekend inner, award ceremony, seminars, committees – these are things you tend to link with a retired cricketer. But hang on, don’t be conned into believing that Warne has retired. The international cricketer, the Wizard of Oz, may have quite the game but the showman is very much there. And controversy, like it or not, remains the most reliable evidence of showmanship.

Cricket has been hit hard by the recent exodus of some of the most charismatic, competent too, players in its history. Among them, I believe, Warne’s void is not difficult to fill. It’s rather impossible.

Wednesday 30 May 2007

Warne punished for misbehaviour

Old habits die hard. Shane Warne may have quit international cricket but the old, wily fox remains the same intense fighter. He still wants to stay there and deliver the good for the team.

In Hampshire’s Championship match against Kent last week, Warne was not happy when umpire Tim Robinson upheld Ryan McLaren’s appeal. The leg before decision naturally did not amuse Warne, the Hampshire captain, who stood his ground for a few seconds and then gave Robinson the kind of petrifying stare. And that was not the end of it. As soon as he entered the pavilion, Warne let loose an audible obscenity.

Accordingly, he was fined six points under ECB's disciplinary code and he would be automatically suspended of he accumulates nine points or more.

Sunday 27 May 2007

Sub-continent owes you a bow Mr Sonn

Whenever I think of ICC, I think of pin-stripe suits, dark ties, glossy shoes, claustrophobe faces and well-rehearsed tautology. But for once, it was not sophistry, rather lack of it, that had me stumped during an ICC Press Conference and for all his entertainment values, I thought ‘thank god, it’s Percy Sonn’.

The only time I met him was in Colombo last year and it was the rain-ruined Unitech Cup, which was supposed to be a tri-series involving India, South Africa and the hosts.

The day I landed in the Lankan capital, Colombo welcomed me with not with a traditional gun salute but a full-fledged blast. Though my official compulsion meant I could not even think of returning home, Graeme Smith & Co were shuddering behind their incredibly misleading exterior.

Finally, their media officer Templeton Gordon Templeton, a harried soul, confirmed that the Proteas were packing their bags.

On his arrival in Colombo, Sonn squeezed his bulky frame in the choc-a-bloc tiny room of Cinnamon Grand and adjusted his tie before greeting all with an infectious smile. To be honest, he did not impress me much and to my eyes, he seemed more of an unscrupulous foodie than a hard-core cricket administrator.

South African team management had been playing a cat-and-mouse game with the media, which was clueless about whether they would play or not. Sick of the daily will-they-won’t-they drama, the hostile press let loose its pent-up frustration on Sonn and the first salvo was “How come that the city is safe enough for the ICC President’s visit and stay but not for the South African cricketers?”

Sonn’s ready wit, however, doused the fire. ''I'm from Cape Town, we are different people altogether,'' he quipped.

Deep inside, Sonn was miffed with the chicken-hearted Proteas, especially because he believed that the sub-continent was a special place for the game and the show must go an, irrespective of such distractions.

''I was deeply disappointed to hear the news (of South Africa’s withdrawal) because this is a region where people play cricket under the worst situation.

The world we are living in is an imperfect world. In fact nothing is perfect in this world. ICC wants cricket to be played in the spirit of the game and even at the cost of your personal interest, you should play,” Sonn said.

I still remember as he spoke from the heart, his eyes glowing behind his glass. For me, that remains Sonn’s lasting image. So what if he “literally fell out of his pants" during the 2003 World Cup and supported the racial quota system as the President of the Protea cricket board?

Friday 25 May 2007

Can Suresh Raina be the left-handed Tendulkar?

(Suresh Raina/Getty Images)

Before he left the Indian shores a riled man, Greg Chappell rued Suresh Raina had to pay the price for a few good words he spoke about the youngsters. Well, finally some good news for the UP youngster as the “Wisden Cricketer” magazine names him as one of the 10 players who would define the game in the next decade.

Raina is in the august company of Australians trio of Michael Clarke, Shaun Tait and Shane Watson, England batsman Kevin Pietersen, Pakistani paceman Mohammad Asif, Sri Lankan freak pacer Lasith Malinga, West Indian all-rounder Dwayne Bravo, New Zealand batsman Ross Taylor and Bangladesh vice captain Mohammad Ashraful.

Well-known British cricket writer Lawrence Booth went on to say that Raina had the talent to be a left-handed Sachin Tendulkar with even more intuitive flair” but he needs to be sensitively handled.

Raina himself was rather coy about the compliment and said he was itching to get back to the field after fully recovering from the knee injury. Good luck Sanu.

Thursday 24 May 2007

Maninder gets bail

Maninder Singh got the bail. Few people could believe it when Delhi Police caught him red-handed and it was revealed that the former left-arm spinner has been indulging in it since the decade. With as little as 1.5 gm of cocaine recovered from the former player, the court decided to give him the bail.

"Maninder has confessed that he was a drug addict and consumed drugs to deal with family problems. He first took drugs 10 years ago in Holland," Deputy Commissioner of Police (Narcotics) AS Cheema said.

The bail was granted on a personal surety of Rs.50,000 (approximately $ 1160).

This piece of news caught everyone by surprise. After all, Maninder was one of the few well-behaved players, who hardly vent his anger in public. According to report, he was going through emotional crisis and married life was in tatters.


Tuesday 22 May 2007

Percy Sonn awaits third umpire's decision at ICU

(Percy Sonn battles for life)

At a Cape Town hospital, ICC President Percy Sonn is awaiting the third umpire’s decision and his entire tensed family is going through an agonizing phase, for it does not know what the third umpire, up there, has in mind.

Apparently, the 57-year-old rotund Sonn had a colon operation after which he developed some complications. His secretary said they are “hoping against hopes” that Sonn might overcome the crisis.

“He's extremely critical. We are hoping against hope he'll pull through. He is unconscious and under heavy sedation," Sonn’s secretary George Hector said.

Sonn is unconscious and under heavy sedation.

Sonn is the sixth person to head the ICC, following Colin Cowdrey (1989-93), Sir Clyde Walcott (1993-97), Jagmohan Dalmiya (1997-2000), Malcolm Gray (2000-2003) and Ehsan Mani (2003-2006).

He is the first African to become the head of world cricket's administration.

Photo: BBC

Monday 21 May 2007

Woolmer death now a Bollywood whodunnit!

Hitman, strangulation, al-qaeda, snake venom, poisoned champagne, match-fixing, fatwah. Bob Woolmer’s murder mystery had almost every ingredient – almost because we are yet to discover a sex angle to it – of a Bollywood thriller and hey, it’s quite a possibility now!

Here comes report that Mahesh Bhatt camp, known for churning out films after films on anything illicit – affair, child, and drug – is planning a whodunnit on Woolmer’s death.

According to reports, the proposed movie, to be directed by Kunal Deshmukh, would, however, zero in on a bookie’s love affair and no choice for guessing who’s going to play the lead, Emraan Hashmi the Serial Kisser.

Kunal said he is already speaking to real life bookies so that he can make it quite authentic.

Incidentally, Bhatt seems fascinated by the world of cricket. Last time, we heard he wanted to rope in Shoaib Akhtar for a movie. The “Rawalpindi Express”, however, preferred to be the prankster than “Gangster”.


Thursday 17 May 2007

ICL woos Gough, Deano out to rope in stars

(Gough ready to come to the party)

The rebel Indian Cricket League gets rolling with Darren Gough, the roly-poly England discard, saying that he is game for the ICL and Dean Jones, distinguished Executive Board member, hinting that he would add some Australian names to the line-up.

Since Gough won BBC’s ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) started believing that ‘Dazzler’ is more adept at shaking the leg than hurling the cherry. Gough clung on to his World Cup dream but ECB did not relent. So where he goes from here? Gough said India.

"Of course it (ICL) would interest me, I hope they give me a call. I'm 36 now, Warney and Brian Lara are a year or so older than me, so if there is a chance to play in an older guys' Twenty20 then I'd be up for it," he added.

Gough was referring to reports that claimed Brian Lara, Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne are likely to be part of the circus.

Meanwhile, Prof Deano (Remember his pre-match analysis for an Indian channel? Alas
how low a former cricketer can stoop for a few bucks) is out on the prowl with a ‘hit list’ in his pocket.

Deano, however, sought to make a point when he said "We haven't got as much money as some people think".

Thanks to their scrapped Zimbabwe tour, Australian players have a long break till September and Deano wants to sound out the Aussies to find out if they are game to earn some easy bucks. Ditto with international players without any county cricket.

“There are always concerns about Australians playing county cricket because they play so much, but there will be openings for them to play in our matches. A) they can earn some extra money and, b) it won't be as taxing on their bodies. There are a few lining up," Deano said.


Sunday 13 May 2007

Lara, Warne, McGrath in rebel Twenty20 league!

(Renewing rivalry? Photo: Getty Images)

If glamour quotient is the yardstick, ICC can take a walk. And when it holds the inaugural Twenty20 World Championship in South Africa in September, ICC can expect a good run for its money, fame and everything else.

The rebel Indian Cricket League has staged a series of coups by roping in the likes of Brian Lara, Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath. And if this is not enough for the lawyerly Malcolm Speed to lose his sleeps, ICL has assured “more big names to follow.”

Media baron Subhash Chandra launched the ICL amid much fanfare and the breakaway Twenty20 competition is likely to take place right after the ICC event.

With Warne, Lara and McGrath, among others, quitting the stage, mainstream cricket has lost much of its glitz, gloss and glamour. It went to such extent that Lasith Malinga was voted among the sexiest men in cricket, something left even the staunchest of his supporters cherry-red in the face.

From viewers’ point of view, it simply could not get better. I have a couple of suggestions. Get Jayasuriya, the quintessential woodcutter who once mistakenly walked into a cricket field and stayed on to hack bowlers with the willow. And I know you need an electronic microscope to find if Inzamam has any supporter left. Still, can’t we have the big, bushy Inzy in the circus?

Saturday 12 May 2007

Team India’s success mantra: Jadu Ki Jhappi!

(Dhoni womanhandled! Photo courtesy: STAR Ananda)

It was neither the strategist in Ravi Shastri nor the infusion of fresh blood. It took just a “Jaadu Ki Jhappi” to put India back to winning ways. I mean apparently so.

Haseena Nasreen, Shiuli to her friends, waited five long days during Team India’s conditioning camp in Kolkata before she had her man of dream, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, right in front. The teen could not resist giving Dhoni a hug and see what it augured!

Three days later, when most of his teammates came a cropper, Dhoni bailed India out from the morass and led to the win in the first ODI against Bangladesh.

One just wishes that Shiuli’s idea finds takers in other parts of India as well, because the likes of Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh are badly in need of something similar.

When Munnabhai showed on-screen how much difference one “Jadu Ki Jhappi” (Magical Hug) can make, we loved it but did not take him seriously. Now Shiuli proved it works in real life as well.

So, neither a change in guards, nor a wholesale chopping-and-dropping exercise. Neither a performance-linked contract nor a cap on advertisement. All India need is a Free Hug Campaign – like the one below – to revive its fortune.

Thursday 10 May 2007

Mushtaq Ahmed passed on deadly champagne to Woolmer!

(Mushy, under the scanner again/Getty Images)

In another sensational revelation, a Pakistani TV channel has claimed that it was Mushtaq Ahmed who passed on the two champagne bottles laced with weed killer to Bob Woolmer.

Incidentally, the needle of suspicion was pointed at Mushtaq in the West Indies, where his cut-marks on the face provoked many uncomfortable questions.

The ARY TV quoted Pakistan's media manager for the World Cup, Pervez Mir, as saying that Mushtaq received the bottles from some other person before passing them to Woolmer and claimed team manager Talat Ali was also witness to it.

Earlier, British media had reported that a rare weed killer was mixed with champagne, traces of which were found in the glass Woolmer drank from and even in his system.

Mushtaq, indicted in match-fixing case, was a last minute inclusion in Pakistan’s World Cup team, reportedly at the then captain Inzamam-ul Haq’s insistence.

Gallant losers and timid victors

(Architects of a hard-earned win. AFP Photo)

There ought to be some other means of reckoning quality in this the best and loveliest of games; the scoreboard is an ass
-- Neville Cardus.

Since David slew Goliath, and in cricket since India won the 1983 World Cup, we sided with the underdogs. And today’s India-Bangladesh match was another occasion when you felt more for the gallant losers, than their timid victors.

The victory margin of five-wicket win could not have been more misleading. It hid as much, if not more, as it revealed.

Did it say how master strategist Dav Whatmore, before changing camp, outwitted a shrewd Ravi Shastri? Or did it say about Tamim’s youthful arrogance, Saqibul’s nonchalance, Omar’s grit and Ashraful’s blooming personality.

Nor did it say how Mahendra Singh Dhoni braved cramps and limped on and on but stayed there till his side was through. Similarly, Dinesh Kaarthick was worth far more than his 58 runs. There was a time when India had to place Dravid behind the stumps to accommodate an extra bat/bowler. And here you have two wicketkeepers in the side, both capable of walking into the squad purely as a batsman.

But take Dhoni and Karthick away, India cut a sorry figure in the match. After losing the top half of their batting order for 144, it seemed another upset win was on the cards. Dhoni and Kaarthick, however, had other ideas and they carried out the bail-out act with aplomb.

The win notwithstanding, Team India has more questions than answers now. Why is it so that the more it craves for change, the same it remains?

Wednesday 9 May 2007

Are Proteas getting death threats?

For those who though cricket madness is essentially a sub-continental trait, time they get rid of their prejudice. Chances are that the Proteas are getting death threats after returning home from the World Cup.

Skipper Graeme Smith did a flip-flop by first claiming that the team, after their World Cup semifinal exit, was getting death threats. Realising he had dropped a bombshell, Smith claimed his version was misconstrued and he was actually referring to India’s hostile reception on their return from the West Indies.

This was what Smith said to a radio talk show;

“We are still recovering from our semi-final defeat to Australia and the threats are hard to deal with.”

Later his statement read: "I was referring to the reception India got when they returned home from the tournament and reports of incidence of violence that occurred in that country.”

Team India gets stung by sting

(The Great Indian Muddle...AP Photo)

As if we did not know it, Aaj Tak, along with its English-speaking sister Headlines Today, carried a sting operation where the selector quartet of Ranjib Biswal, Bhupinder Singh Sr, Venkatapathy Raju and Sanjay Jagdale ‘reveal’ a dressing room riddled with infighting and ego clash. And how ominous Greg Chappell was. The highlights are:

Bhupinder Singh Sr: "Greg wanted to show everybody he is the boss. He was not happy with anybody. There were instances when Chappell was not talking to senior players for 4-5 days. He was not on talking terms with Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Harbhajan Singh. It happened in South Africa.”

The North Zone selector says Chappell had a "divide and rule policy" and was the additional ego in a team full of egos.

He also said that Rahul Dravid had problems with Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly. They were not supporting Dravid, says Bhupinder; some players were backing Tendulkar, some Ganguly. "They are sensing that if he fails then we have a chance to become captain."

Ranjib Biswal: "Greg could not understand Indian cricketers' psyche. He was more like a schoolmaster than a friend."

Sanjay Jagdale: "I won't call it factionalism but there were some personal problems.”

Jagdale also reveals that S Sreesanth and Zaheer Khan had fought in the dressing room.

Niranjan Shah: "Endorsement money is so huge, there is a chance of a grey area. They will get money if they are in the team, otherwise they won't. That's why. it [pressure from sponsors to retain them] may be there. That's why the board has said only three endorsements per player."

'Chhota Dada' injures shoulder, ruled out of first ODI


My heart bleeds for Manoj Tiwary. The sprightly chap did everything right -- scored loads and lots of runs, was sharp in the field and even led Bengal with aplomb in the Twenty20 Cup to merit a call-up. But as soon as he landed in Bangladesh, the poor guy hurt his shoulder and now runs the risk of missing the entire ODI series against Bangladesh.

Instead of rubbing shoulder with Team India prima donnas, Manoj this time injured it, while going for a dive during the fielding practice.

"Tiwary was sent for MRI scan and X-rays. These results were reviewed by an orthopaedic specialist and he has been advised rest in sling for 3-5 days and to refrain from activity," BCCI said on the injury report send by physio John Gloster from Dhaka.

The shoulder was injured but it’s actually the heart which must be broken. After all, it was his maiden tour with the stars he had only dreamt of sharing the dressing room with.

Manoj, called ‘Chhota Dada’, was also the star of the conditioning camp in Kolkata, earning praise from his captain, coach and physio. Even Sachin Tendulkar was impressed by the youngster and offered him some batting tips. One can only hope that he takes the setback in stride and returns to the field soon.

Tuesday 8 May 2007

Flower blossoms into England’s assistant coach, Maynard offered passage to India

Matthew Maynard, just rendered jobless with Andy Flower replacing him as England’s assistant coach, claims he has an offer from the BCCI to work in India.

"I've been asked to go out to India to work with their academy, and I'm sure there will be one or two more offers coming in. But I'm just going to take my time, I don't want to rush into anything,” Maynard told BBC Wales Sport.

Though his contract with the ECB was until the end of summer, once Peter Moores took over the reins from Duncan Fletcher, Maynard’s days in the job were numbered.

"Whenever you get a new coach in, he tends to bring people he's familiar with to work with. To be honest, as soon as Duncan announced his retirement, I pretty much thought that was going to be the end for me as well.”

Flower, meanwhile, hastily retired from playing cricket with Essex to take up the job. He was naturally grateful to Moores.

"I hold Peter Moores in the highest regard...and believe that his selection as England head coach was an inspired choice and reflected well on his work and that of Rod Marsh prior to Peter in setting up the National Academy,” Flower said.

"From my time working with Peter at the National Academy, I know that we shall work very well together and I am excited about entering into this new challenge of coaching an international team."

Sunday 6 May 2007

Tendulkar, Dravid…Ganguly next in the hit-list?

(Rahul Dravid, following his bleeding nose to dressing room)

A day in the life of a conspiracy theorist.

If you just recall the freak incidents in Team India’s conditioning camp at Eden Gardens, the uncanny similarity raises the obvious question. Are the juniors, reportedly browbeaten by their senior teammates in the World Cup, out there to avenge their humiliation in the Caribbean?

Reports claimed one of the junior pacers was bullied by a fellow Team India senior in the World Cup. We don’t know if it was S Sreesanth but what we know that the Kerala pacer, equally capable of earning his stripes as a dancer-actor in any South Indian movie, hurled a snorter that had the Achilles ’ heel, I mean Sachin Tendulkar’s heal, sprained. Physio John Gloster, a busy man these days, rushed with the ice pack and Tendulkar was seen cooling his heels. Healing of his heels took some time and he was left alone to count the rows at the Eden Gardens.

The second incident had a gory end. Rudra Pratap Singh was perhaps led to believe that Rahul Dravid personified all the apparent injustice meted out to him. The UP southpaw duly sent down a bouncer and The Wall collapsed, hit on the visor and left with a bloody nose. Dravid was soon following his nose, bleeding one, to the dressing room.

Don’t be misled by the incident. Metaphorically, RP did not hit Dravid’s nose, merely thumbed his own at Dravid. And RP can’t feign ignorance either, for it happened right under the nose of each and every Team India member.

The third incident went less noticed. VRV Singh (Rudra Pratap/Vikram Raj Vir…valour galore) brought a groundsman to his knee with a mighty throw during the practice. Indian players were practising running between the wickets – against An achilles’ heel-- when the incident took place.

Now my gut feeling is that VRV, assigned to take care of another senior member, actually had Sourav Ganguly in his hit-list. The poor Punjab pacer probably mistook the Bengali-speaking groundsman for Ganguly and it was a rare classic case of a fast bowler delivering a leg-break.

Ganguly, of course, can take heart from the fact that cats have nine lives and a desperate lot still hails him as the Big Cat, the Royal Bengal Tiger. But the danger is clearly far from over.

(Photo: The Hindu)

Woolmer got death as a gift?

(Did Bob Woolmer drink death?)

Even after his mortals remains were cremated after going through a disgraceful six weeks of post-death rigmarole, there is no let up in theories as to what killed Bob Woolmer.

The Sunday Times quoted a Jamaican Police source saying that Woolmer consumed poisoned champagne – a rare weedkiller was used as poison-- which he got as a gift.

Police found high level of herbicide in his stomach and also discovered its traces in the glass from which he drank.

“Everything was contaminated. The stomach content, the glass, everything. There was enough to kill him,” the source said.

Woolmer was apparently poisoned before being strangled to death in the Kingston hotel room a day after Ireland knocked Pakistan out of the World Cup

The sleuths are also zeroing on the two champagne bottles, which Woolmer got as a gift. One was emptied and another was found untouched.

The weedkiller is rare and sleuths are not sure if it’s available in Jamaica.

“We think it’s something very unusual, that you can’t even buy in Jamaica. We don’t know what form it was in, whether liquid or crystal. The weedkiller was certainly in the glass. We are not sure whether it was in the bottle. Until we get further results we can’t confirm it,” the source added.

(Photo: AP)

Saturday 5 May 2007

Dar complaints World Cup was too long

(Bucknor and Dar/ AFP Photo)

One thought if anyone was amused by the never-ending World Cup in the Caribbeans, it must be the Men in White. Their job have been reduced to counting marbles and doubling-up as walking hangers for funky shades, muddied sweaters and dirty hankies but still the more they stood under the sun, the more they earned.

But Pakistani umpire Aleem Dar – part of the circus that scripted the farcical end to the final in Barbados – rubbishes the theory and reveals even he got fed up.

Dar says "It was a bit too long and in the end tired out the players and umpires. I think the World Cup should be of shorter duration."

Probably bored by the Caribbean waters, was he thinking about the biryani of his native Jhang while officiating in Barbados? Was it homesickness that cluttered his common sense and made him party to the inept match conduct in the final?

Dar said "I think there was a communication breakdown and we acted on instructions from outside. But the feeling was that the match had to be completed on the reserve day but the captains told us this is the rule. At times mistakes do happen. The International Cricket Council (ICC) and match officials have done the right thing by apologising for the mistake made in the final."

The problem is ICC has promoted a culture where confession is the redemption. Malcolm Speed apologises but does not sound apologetic. Ditto with Dar. It happens, we know. To err is human. but consider the occasion. World Cup final is not just another Indo-Pak ODI in another non-descript, god-forsaken place, after all. Or is it?

Friday 4 May 2007

Men in Blue: Unpaid, under-performed?

Maybe here you have the real reason behind Team India’s string of flop shows starting with the Champions Trophy and culminating – hopefully -- in the World Cup.

According to reports, the outrageously cash-rich BCCI, the richest cricket body under the sun, has not paid its players for the last seven months!

A high-handed BCCI has reduced cricket to an unorganized sector in the country, not allowing unions and arbitrary deciding fate of the players . The board simply doesn’t accept the existence of the Indian Cricket Players` Association, even though ICPA too has its share of blame. Envious of the players’ earnings, board officials make snide off-the-record remarks, plant stories in the media and harangue about performance-based payments.

Consider this. The Men in Blue remains unpaid since last year’s Champions trophy. Since then, they have toured South Africa, hosted Sri Lanka and West Indies before travelling to the Caribbeans for the world Cup, all unpaid.

Its overflowing coffers notwithstanding, BCCI has been an Uncle Scrooge when it came to making payment. And this was not the only occasion.

Andrew Leipus, the team’s former physiotherapist, was not paid for the last five months of his tenure, while the affable John Wright remained unpaid for seven months in 2004. BCCI took almost a year to pay the Rs 50 lakh bonus to Team India after their series win in Pakistan.

And this is after BCCI pocketed $612 million selling TV rights for next four years, adding to its annual income of $300 million dollar.

As usual, BCCI downplayed the issue and its publicity-hungry Vice President Rajiv Shukla said, “The payments were not made because the contracts were not ready. Once the contracts are signed, everything will be cleared. This is not a problem at all.”

Senior cricketers are fuming but the World Cup debacle and the Board’s gag order has forced them to maintain the mum.

Thursday 3 May 2007

ICC sees Team India as the Men in Green!

(Malcolm Speed, tough times ahead)

The BCCI and the ICC seem on yet another collision course. And this time, what got BCCI’s goat, cow and the entire cattle is the fact that the ICC sold green-coloured (!) Team India jerseys and caps as official merchandise during the Caribbean World Cup.

BCCI secretary Niranjan Shah is just nursing his sore throat after threatening a no-confidence motion against ICC CEO Malcolm Speed and Co and this new development is likely to add fire to fuel in the ICC Executive Board meeting in June.

Like Shah, board’s chief administrative officer Ratnakar Shetty is also not amused by the ICC goof-up.

"We first heard about the t-shirts from some Indian fans who had come from England. Then we saw them ourselves… India t-shirts and caps, with the BCCI logo, in parrot green colour. We saw them in Barbados as well as Jamaica. What's more, each t-shirt was being sold at $160 each.

We have bought some t-shirts and caps. We will discuss the issue with (marketing committee chairman) Lalit Modi and decide the future course of action,” Shetty said.

Rebel without a pause, BCCI, however, can’t be blamed in this case and it would be intriguing to know what led ICC to believe that the Men in Blue are a bunch of champion chameleons who change colours so often.

One explanation could be that the ICC wanted to give the Indians an eco-friendly look. Or they tried to convey the message that the cash-rich players were envy -- that green-eyed monster -- of fellow cricketers. I’m ready even to accept that ICC considered Dravid & Co as the top draws, the Green Buck. One final assumption – ICC decided India and Pakistan share boundary, culture, history. Why not a colour?

Sachin twists ankle, Laxman down with gastroenteritis

Nothing is going right for poor Sachin Tendulkar these days. On the first day of Team India’s Kolkata camp ahead of Bangladesh tour, Sachin gave the side an injury scare when he sprained his right ankle.

Team management insisted, it’s not serious enough. Physio John Gloster was quick to rush and after some treatment, Sachin was seen limping off the Eden Gardens.

Sachin reportedly twisted his ankle while negotiating a Sreesanth bouncer.

Poor World Cup form, clamour for his retirement, tri-colour cake controversy and then “rested” (read dropped) from the ODI squad and then this injury. Things could not have been worse for Sachin.

Meanwhile, VVS Laxman failed to report for the Kolkata camp after being down with gastroenteritis.

Tuesday 1 May 2007

Slinga Malinga among sexiest men in cricket

Their looks seemed as unimpressive as their form. And once again, India and Pakistan were outshone by Sri Lanka.

In simpler terms, no Indian or Pakistani could make the cut as “Easy”, a Barbados magazine, carried out a "Sexiest Men in Cricket" poll.

For Sri Lanka, it was ‘Slinga’ Malinga, who featured in the elite league, along with Daniel Vettori, Kevin Pietersen, Chris Gayle and Shaun Tait.

Those who got honourable mentions were Brain Lara, Andrew Flintoff and Makhaya Ntini.

(Photo credit: Sahara Samay)

Now a fatwah angle to Woolmer murder case!

(Bob Woolmer's body reaches Cape Town, at last; Photo: AP)

Hired hitman, match-fixers (not of the matrimonial kind), Al-qaeda, Dawood Ibrahim, snake venom, strangulation, poison…now add a ‘fatwah’ angle to Bob Woolmer’s mysterious murder in his Kingston hotel.

Pervez Mir, Pakistan media manager in the World Cup, told BBC Panorama programme that Woolmer was unhappy that Inzamam’s boys prayed more and played less. Woolmer never wanted to coach a side teeming with devout Tableeqi Jamaat followers.

Mir’s complaint about the players’ over-religiousness earned the poor man a fatwah and forced him to flee Pakistan. Mir claims, Woolmer too would have invited a fatwah had he gone public with his feelings on the players.

Mir went on to recall an incident to prove his point:

"A CD was being played which was a Tableeqi CD and Bob, who was sitting behind me, said 'why don't you tell them to stop? If they want to listen to that they could on their iPods or personal devices', and he thought that he shouldn't be subjected to all that and I agreed with Bob."