Pandora: Tendulkar ton is news to Shilpa

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The Independent Online

The Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar's match-winning century in the Test against England on Monday is already being heralded as one of the great sporting performances of modern times.

A shame, then, that Mumbai's other greatest living export, the Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty, appears to have let the moment pass her by.

"What happened? I haven't heard about it. To be honest, I have hardly had the time to breathe recently," she tells me.

"I'm quite fond of cricket, but only for a short period of time. I only really like to catch the last couple of overs."

Shetty, who has decided to spend Christmas with her family in London, was in Mumbai when the recent atrocities occurred.

"The city is still not over the shock, but we're all slowly coming to terms with it," she adds.

Maude feels the economic chill

David Cameron is having enough trouble fighting off claims that it is his wealthy friends in the city who are to blame for the financial crisis afflicting so many businesses, let alone members of his own shadow cabinet.

One of Francis Maude's extra-parliamentary ventures, Prestbury Holdings, was facing ruin yesterday when it was forced to liquidate and turn itself over to the Official Receiver.

The financial services firm, where the shadow cabinet office minister, currently sits as chairman, has suspended all shares, claiming that it has "no cash resources of its own".

It appears that Prestbury Holdings is yet another victim of the now-notorious sub-prime mortgage market, having invested heavily in a mortgage tracker.

To make matters worse, the Cheshire-based company's nominated adviser, John East & Partners, has also resigned because of doubts over the company's financial position.

Maude wasn't available to comment on the matter yesterday; however, a company spokesman announced that unless it can appoint a new adviser by 18 January, it would be forced to cease trading on London's Alternative Investment Market.

"Trading in the company's shares will remain suspended until the appointment of a replacement nominated adviser," he stated.

"If no such appointment is made by 18 January 2009, trading of the company's shares on AIM will be cancelled."

The company, it should be said, has had its fair share of ups and downs during the past few months. Not so long ago, I reported that its shareholders had launched a bid to oust its chief executive.

Booth lands Iranian gig

I expect there could be a few choice words exchanged the next time Tony Blair breaks bread with his wife's family.

The former Prime Minister is currently a special envoy to the Middle East, where he has taken a tough stance on Iran's plans to build a nuclear weapon.

So it may well interest him to learn that his sister-in-law is now on the payroll of the Iranian government. Lauren Booth recently took over a presenting slot on the state-funded news channel, Press TV.

Booth, who was refused entry into Israel during a humanitarian trip to Gaza in the summer, has begun fronting the channel's newspaper review show Between The Headlines.

A regular viewer tells me she courteously opts to wear a headscarf throughout the programme.

Strictly enough for John

John Sergeant has been transformed into an unlikely TV star thanks to Strictly Come Dancing, but there are signs his time in the spotlight is beginning to take its toll.

ITN's former political editor was a guest at a recent charity carol service held at St Paul's. Unsurprisingly, he quickly became the event's star attraction.

"Please, I'd rather not talk about Strictly anymore," he pleaded with reporters. "I just want to stay out of the papers."

Pike's praise from an esteemed poet

Yesterday, I noted the former Bond girl Rosamund Pike is a suitable judge at the Costa Book Awards thanks to her 2:1 in English literature from Oxford. Her former tutor, the poet Bernard O'Donoghue, now tells me: "I think it is for me to point out that she didn't just get a 'very respectable 2:1' in English: she got possibly the highest-ever 2:1 which was only not a first on a technicality. She was a particularly brilliant, committed student – as well as everything else."

Romford's team of slurperstars

It's all go in the offices of shadow Home Affairs spokesman, Andrew Rosindell. This year, Rosindell – a colourful fellow who once dressed his pet bulldog in a Union Jack – has sent out 1,500 cards for friends and colleagues. A further 50,000 are winging their way to his Romford constituents. To cope with the stamp licking, Rozza enlists a flock of volunteers to help with the grim task. Lucky chaps!

pandora@independent.co.uk

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