This week many countries named their provisional World Cup squads. For England the biggest quandary was whether to include Rajasthan Royals' Jofra Archer, now the West Indian-born speed monger is eligible for his adopted nation. They didn't, not yet, but the debate then took in a discussion of Newcastle United's 1995-96 Premier League title collapse after Chris Woakes suggested Archer's inclusion would be similar to Kevin Keegan's ill-fated purchase of Tino Asprilla. There actually seem to be, perhaps not surprisingly, a few England bowlers who, to quote Keegan, would "love it" if Archer wasn't selected.
On Saturday, the pacer showed just why he will probably end up in England's starting XI anyway, taking a parsimonious 1 for 22 against Mumbai, his feet-seeking missile of a yorker again looking devastating. England may, though, have to give Archer a bit of coaching to get his hands as soft as his voice for he put down a hat-trick of chances in the deep during his side's win. Quinton de Kock and twice Hardik Pandya benefitted from Archer's fumbling, two players to whom it really isn't advisable to give too many chances. The England star will have to ensure he takes his, in every sense, when he lines up for a pre-World Cup ODI series against Pakistan.
Seeing things from Rayudu's angle
A few weeks ago, Dave Cameron was ousted as the chairman of the West Indies cricket board. His latter years coincided with a bit of an upturn in Caribbean fortunes, but his departure was still only fitfully mourned. One player who doubtless won't be sad Cameron has left is Darren Bravo, who didn't play international cricket for two years after posting a tweet calling him a "big idiot".
So it's a bit risky for players to take to social media to criticise officialdom, but this didn't deter Ambati Rayudu sending a cheeky response to his own omission from India's World Cup squad. The selectors opted instead for Vijay Shankar, who they referred to as a "three-dimensional player". In reply, the Chennai batsman tweeted that he'd "Just Ordered a new set of 3d glasses to watch the world cup...". There's actually a lot of geometry involved in cricket these days. After Pandya's stellar form last week, Michael Vaughan called him a "270-degree batsman", which seemed a little bit obtuse. Anyway, ultimately the BCCI decided not to take any action against Rayudu, noting that acute disappointment often leads to "emotions running high". Darren Bravo may have smiled ruefully.
Not yet a has-Binny
Stuart Binny has endured an odd cricketing existence. Mocked by many as a utility player with at times seemingly little use, he nonetheless turned in a few compelling performances during his brief stint in India colours. On Tuesday, he showed glimpses of his international talents by notching 33 not out off just 11 balls, valiantly but unsuccessfully trying to rectify the stodgy mess his Rajasthan teammates had made of a chase against King's XI.
On Saturday, in that Archer spillfest match against Mumbai Indians, he bowled with his customary wobbly wiles and parsimony. He even produced one of the most extraordinary slow bouncers seen in the tournament, bowling it almost into his toes, but somehow inducing the trajectory of a flat football hurled into the ground by Zeus. It passed a bemused de Kock around waist height, seemingly several months after Binny had released it.
Afterward, his pummelling innings on Tuesday his wife, TV anchor Mayanti Langer, tweeted her support noting her husband had not even played a competitive game for six months before his batting blitzkrieg. In response, one fan sent her a photo of her and her husband, suggesting she would now change her display picture to include her other half. The implication was that Langer might want to bask in the glory of, well, a quickfire thirty in the IPL. She thanked the fan for the suggested image and sent him on his way. Stuart's career might have been a bit flaky, but the Binnys' partnership is admirably solid.
Pain and Saffering
With the World Cup around the corner and so many South Africans in form, thoughts inevitably turn to how they will contrive to implode in ludicrous fashion. From dropping vital catches while celebrating to hapless run outs to Duckworth-Lewis miscalculations, the Proteas have never been dull when it comes to finding ways to eliminate themselves from the tournaments. England, as current favourites yet also perennial own foot-shooters, are perhaps the only side more likely to provide an amusing exit in this year's tournament.
On Monday, AB de Villiers offered a tantalising glimpse of comic South African potential when he was caught dozing like a post-lunch sloth by Kieron Pollard on Wednesday. After being refused a second run by partner Akshdeep Nath, de Villiers scampered back to the non-striker's end and, despite Pollard's Ferrari fielding, seemed to have enough time to make it. Yet there was a peculiar hesitation and then a desperate lunge, but all too late. Pollard, who has made fielding at long on a specialism, had his man.
Last week, Kuldeep Yadav suggested he had cracked the code of KKR teammate Andre Russell's batting. This week it was his own mysteries that were laid bare as RCB's rejuvenated Moeen Ali took him for 27 in his final over with a level of organised striking to make even the most ardent trade unionist swoon. It left Kuldeep with figures of 1 for 59, the joint most expensive in IPL history for a spin bowler.
Like many slow bowlers, Kuldeep wears his heart on his long sleeve, and the KKR man sank to his haunches, seemingly crying as his teammates tried to comfort him. A little while later, he misfielded on the boundary and appeared similarly watery-eyed, standing hands on hip looking as if he wanted the earth to swallow both him and the last twenty minutes of human existence. There hasn't been such a teary drama in the IPL since Bhajji slapped Sreesanth.
Even though it now seems like months ago, Ravichandran Ashwin sent a wandering Jos Buttler on his way, IPL mankad mania simply will not die down. Even Dale Steyn has got in on the act, when South Africa's performance analyst, Prasanna Lara, asked on Twitter, "How good will it be to have Jofra Archer, Jasprit Bumrah, Kagiso Rabada, Imran Tahir, and R Ashwin as your bowling attack in an IPL team?". Steyn, whose social media game is impressive, replied, "Bumrah- Bowled Rabada- Caught
Tahir- Lbw Ashwin- Mankad All bases covered there".
On Saturday, in the battle of the big gun outgunners, King's XI and Delhi Capitals, Ashwin was at it again, twice warning Shikhar Dhawan about straying out of his crease. The second time his international teammate fell back melodramatically on his bat, emphasising he was in his ground. The next ball, the opener jiggled his body dramatically as Ashwin came in to bowl, doing a passable impression of someone interviewing to work at the Folies Bergère. Ashwin, clearly no lover of racy French cabaret, looked distinctly unimpressed.