The richest cricket tournament on the planet reaches its messy climax today in Kolkata. The result of the Indian Premier League final between Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians is almost incidental, because for the past 10 days the IPL have been rocked by allegations of spot fixing, which have embraced players, officials, owners and Bollywood stars.
The three cricketers originally charged with offences, including the Test bowler S Sreesanth remain in custody. Nobody knows the extent of the murky dealings but the involvement of the government, who intend to enact a new law, means they are being taken seriously. So far, the omniscient chief of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, N Srinivasan, has managed to avoid resignation, if not censure.
Srinivasan, like many involved in the running of Indian cricket, appears compromised. As the boss of Indian Cements he also owns IPL franchise Chennai Super Kings. CSK have been dragged into the scandal through Srinivasan's son-in-law, Gurunath Meiyappan, the team principal arrested by Mumbai police. Srinivasan has waved away suggestions that there might be a conflict of interest and said yesterday he will not be bulldozed into resigning. But he is not alone.
The IPL chairman, television chat- show host Rajiv Shukla, is also the government's minister for parliamentary affairs. Rahul Dravid, one of the most respected men in world cricket and captain of Rajasthan Royals, said after his team lost Friday night's semi-final that the tournament had to proceed, but urged the police investigation to yield a result.
Pietersen back, but for how long?
England's season, as so many before it, has been dominated by the shadow of Kevin Pietersen. The captain, Alastair Cook, has confirmed Pietersen will return as soon as he is fit.
Pietersen himself turned up at Lord's last week and was in the dressing room when England won the First Test. Presumably he wanted to be part of it, and the team made it clear he was welcome now he is fully reintegrated. Yet it seems odd that Pietersen was not present at Lord's for the player of the year dinner on the eve of the Test, probably a more fitting venue to meet his pals than the dressing room, which is usually considered sacrosanct and limited to those involved. Everybody, including his colleagues, is wondering how long it will all go on.
Pietersen will return for the two Ashes series, home and away, this year but speculation is rampant that he might then retire from international cricket.
Finn gets woodworm
England's new nightwatchman, Steve Finn, finally has a bat sponsor. During his vigil in Dunedin, his first innings in the role, he batted for nearly five hours with a bat as plain as a pikestaff. Bat-makers Woodworm now adorn his blade, but will hope for more than his 16 balls and 20 minutes at Lord's.
Fudpucker stumps Coney
This is the 30th anniversary of New Zealand's first Test victory in England, at Headingley. Jeremy Coney, who hit the winning four, recalls the dressing-room toast. "I spilled a revolting drink. A base of beer, lashing of champagne, two nips of Galliano, topped up with leftover orange cordial from 'drinks'. A Fudpucker. It stained my shirt and burned my stomach lining."