Gayle heads stellar cast for inaugural SLPL: Richard Gibson

The rich list of overseas talent signed up for Sri Lanka’s inaugural Twenty20 tournament next month only serves to highlight the negatives associated with our own bloated domestic version. A stellar cast including Chris Gayle, Shaun Tait and Daniel Vettori will descend upon the island for the 17-day Sri Lanka Premier League.

The short, sharp, shock nature of the event has meant the cream of the world’s 20-over talent as well as a host of players signed up for English counties this summer – Kieron Pollard, Shahid Afridi, Dirk Nannes, Muttiah Muralitharan, Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Kevin O’Brien among them – are scheduled to participate between July 19 and August 4.

Its emergence has further diluted the traditional pull of county cricket to top foreign talent, already effected by the  financial draw of the Indian Premier League. As one agent put it: “Why spend six weeks in England when you can earn the same amount for two weeks’ work in Sri Lanka?”

The scheduling has also been planned to perfection, with the seven-team competition cheekily shoehorned between the group and quarter-final stages of our own Friends Life t20.

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One international star not reporting for duty in Colombo is Pakistani Shoaib Akhtar, who has reneged on his original commitment, citing disillusionment with the game.

Shoaib, 35, retired from international cricket at the 2011 World Cup but had agreed to both a SLPL deal and a place in forthcoming British TV show Titans of Cricket. However, he now commendably talks of committing himself full-time to charity work, and dismisses any future role in the sport.

See you in November then, Shoaib.

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Former England captain Michael Vaughan’s innuendo-induced guffawing in conversation with Jonathan Agnew on Test Match Special during the drawn Lord’s Test naturally evoked memories of the universally-loved Brian Johnston’s ‘leg-over’ moment with Aggers back in 1991.

Sir Ian Botham’s failure to negotiate the stumps as he lost his balance against West Indies 20 years ago remains the most cherished piece of sports commentary, and officially so in Desert Island Discs’ recent public vote. Earlier this month, more than 25,000 devotees of the BBC Radio 4 show nominated their eight favourite compositions – and of non-musical entries, only the Dylan Thomas play Under Milk Wood was more popular.

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After the driest start to a domestic season in living memory, the recent wet weather has allowed Durham fast bowler Mitch Claydon to mesmerise his team-mates.

While some dressing rooms revert to competitions on Play Stations and X-Boxes during rain breaks, the Durham lads are treated to shows from wannabe magician Claydon. The Australian, whose card tricks have appeared on Durham’s official website, is serious enough about his hobby to have paid for private lessons.

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Yorkshire captain Andrew Gale will not be putting his feet up at the end of his second season in charge. Far from it, in fact, as he heads to the United States for a charity bike ride in October.

Gale, 27, hopes to meet a £6,000 fundraising target for Marie Curie Cancer Care through a six-day, 200-mile bike ride from Yosemite National Park to San Francisco.

“My family has been touched so much by cancer over the past ten years, and Marie Curie has helped in a very personal way to make things easier,” said Gale, who will be joined on the gruelling trek by club physio Scot McAllister.

* Follow me on twitter @richardgibson74

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