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The end of the innings

Most of us tend to think of our cricketing heroes as immortal, not as they become with passing years, but as they were in their prime. Hearing of the death of Tony Greig, at the age of 66, and three days later, at the age of 67 of the cricket writer and commentator Christopher Martin-Jenkins, I could not help but remember the lyrics from the musical Evita: “...you were supposed to have been immortal, that’s all they wanted, not much to ask for....”

As a callow youth, I was thrown in at the deep end by The Daily Telegraph to cover the Kerry Packer trial at the High Court. With all the famous cricketers of the day giving evidence, I felt much like a schoolboy let loose in a chocolate factory.

In retrospect I think I was a little unkind to Greig, who had been recruiting England cricketers to play what the establishment called “pyjama cricket” for Packer’s “circus”.

Greig said he was the genuine voice of English cricket but “in a South African accent”, I recall writing — or words to that effect.

What Packer did, with Grieg’s help, was to usher in what evolved into ODIs along with much better money for professional cricketers. The origins of today’s IPL lie in Packer’s then radical experiment which had Greig as its main cheerleader.

Christopher Martin-Jenkins — known to all as CMJ — was cricket correspondent of The Daily Telegraph before switching to The Times. As a ball-by-ball commentator on Radio 4’s Test Match Special, his was the voice of an England which had once ruled the world. He did not engage in the inane banter of some of the ex-professional cricketers turned commentators but usually stuck to describing the on field action. Exceptionally for a journalist, he was made president of the MCC.

In person, he was courteous and charming. Come the summer, when the grass has been cut, the sun is out and the first ball of a new Test match about to be bowled at Lord’s, CMJ’s voice will be missed by millions of cricket lovers.

Savile row

Sexual harassment is not the preserve of any one country. Britain seems to have quite a problem, judging by the daily revelations of what the popular television entertainer Jimmy Savile got up to in his lifetime.

Savile, who died last year, aged 84, worked for the BBC for more than 40 years, did much good work by raising millions of pounds of charity and was knighted by Margaret Thatcher for the strong support she received from the entertainer.

But claiming no one in authority knew about Savile’e activities as a paedophile is a bit like claiming no one in Pakistan knew Osama bin Laden was hiding in a huge house in the garrison neighbourhood Abbottabad, barely 40 miles from Islamabad.

Authorities now believe that Savile was one of the country’s most prolific child sex offenders. Some 589 people have come forward with information relating to the Savile scandal, with a total of 450 complaints against the BBC presenter himself, mainly alleging sexual abuse, according to Scotland Yard. Police have recorded 199 crimes in 17 force areas in which Savile is a suspect, with 31 allegations of rape recorded against him in seven force areas.

Officers are looking at three strands within their inquiry: claims against Savile, those against Savile and others, and those against others. So far, 10 personalities have been arrested and questioned about sex abuse allegations made against them. The latest is a 59-year-old comedian, Jim Davidson, who is, incidentally, on his fifth marriage.

Dev’s love

Only one Asian figures in GQ magazine’s list of the 50 “Best-Dressed Men” in Britain. Alas, the 22-year-old actor, Dev Patel, who played Jamal Malik opposite Freida Pinto’s Latika in Slumdog Millionaire, just makes it at No. 50.

“Some say he’s got the Midas touch,” says Charlie Burton, GQ’s commissioning editor. “Put Dev Patel in anything from a sober Savile Row suit to a geeky sleeveless knit, and he’ll make it look hip as hell. But his secret’s actually quite simple. It’s clear he loves his clothes — and they, in turn, love him back.”

According to GQ, “the Slumdog actor is always picture perfect — and having Freida Pinto on his arm certainly doesn’t do him any harm.”

One advantage Dev has is his height — he is 6ft 2in tall.

Dev has shifted his base to America so he can be with Freida. But when I met the couple last year, Dev said that whenever he is London, he does the washing up for his mother at her home in Harrow, north London.

Swarup’s girl

Talking of Slumdog Millionaire, it is worth recalling the film is based on Vikas Swarup’s novel, Q&A, which he wrote in London while working for the Indian High Commission. After a stint in South Africa, he moved to Japan to be the India’s Consul General in Osaka.

Vikas tells me his new novel, The Accidental Apprentice, to follow Six Suspects, should be out by April. I look forward to his UK book tour.

The plot: “What would you do if, out of the blue, a billionaire industrialist decided to make you the CEO of his company? No prior business experience necessary. There is only one catch: you need to pass seven tests from ‘the textbook of life’. This is the offer made to Sapna Sinha, an ordinary salesgirl in an electronics boutique in downtown Delhi, by Vinay Acharya, one of India’s richest men. Thus begins the most challenging journey of Sapna’s life....”

So who should play Sapna in the film of the book? With the agreement of my good friends Vikas and his wife, Aparna, I am going to recommend a shortlist of three — Nandana Sen, Raima Sen and Anita Majumdar.

Kathak queen

A note for lovers of dance: the UK-based Kathak dancer Amina Khayyam will be dancing at Gyan Manch in Pretoria Street, Calcutta, on January 8, and at the Birla Auditorium in Delhi on January 14.

Amina, who was born in Sylhet and trained in England under Alpana Sengupta and Sushmita Ghosh, brings Kathak with a modern global twist to Calcutta at the invitation of Debashish Mukherjee. Along with an ensemble of musicians, he will accompany her on tabla as he launches his own company, Hari Mohan Smriti Sura Bitan.

Amina, who has been teaching a degree in dance and culture at the University of Surrey since 2006, explains why English pupils are taking up Kathak: “It is the same reason why South Asians learn western dance, such as ballet and contemporary. They have an interest in it to start with, then they develop some sort of love and passion to continue.”

Tittle tattle

We may be lousy at cricket but Indians are, at least, first rate at running hotels. I happen to have a high regard for Surinder Arora, chairman of Arora International Hotels which manages the five-star Sofitel adjoining Heathrow’s Terminal 5.

I am sure Surinder looked after Alastair Cook and his England ODI team as the players held their press conference at the Sofitel before boarding their flight for India.