South African seamer Wayne Parnell was one of two players to join his team management on a tour of the Taj Mahal. "I wanted to go because of the story behind it," Parnell told the indispensable Cricinfo. "It's amazing that someone could love his wife so much that he built that."
The budding romantic follows in a long and distinguished tradition of cricketers who feel that going on tour should be about much more than cricket. Who could forget that Steve Waugh took his men to Gallipoli before an Ashes tour for a two-day stopover in which he recreated the 1915 photograph of Australian soldiers playing the game?
Australian leg-spinner Stuart MacGill, a wine connoisseur who presented a TV show called Uncorked, took whole suitcases of books on tour. His predecessor in the Australian side, 1970s mystery spinner Johnny Gleeson, was nicknamed "Cho" – so obsessed was he with learning about local customs that, on tour, he was generally seen during Cricket Hours Only.
Meanwhile, at the back end of a tour to India in 1993, England's Phil Tufnell said: "Done the elephants, done the poverty. Now I'm off home."
Age cannot wither Grimmett’s feats
Seventy-five years ago today Clarrie Grimmett, the Twirlyman's Twirlyman, was disgracefully retired from Test cricket on the grounds of being too old. In his last Test, he bowled Australia to victory against South Africa with a third successive 10-for. Born on Christmas Day in New Zealand, he was the best Christmas present the Kiwis ever gave Australia, forming with Bill "Tiger" O'Reilly the greatest spin bowling partnership of all time. The author of several brilliant books on spin, Grimmett brought the flipper back into fashion, and was so ashamed of his baldness that he bowled with his baggy green cap on. When dropped, his fine tally of wickets in his final series matched his age: 44.
Is Freddie ready for the 4th XI?
It was always improbable that Andrew Flintoff really had retired from "all forms of cricket", as he announced in September. But few predicted the setting for his impending comeback. Prepare for acres of newsprint about Penwortham, just over the River Ribble from Preston, where the England star's older brother Chris opens the batting. Big Freddie is returning to his roots, having started his career in the Palace Shield at Dutton Forshaw. With four Saturday sides, will he turn out for the 4th XI if they're fighting relegation at season's end?