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Since 1st March, 1999
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On a sticky wicket

Greg Chappell’s interview with the Guardian’s cricket correspondent, Mike Selvey, became a major talking point on the BBC’s Test Match Special, its running radio commentary from Nagpur.

The team of commentators, which include Jonathan Agnew, Christopher Martin-Jenkins, Simon Mann and Geoffrey Boycott, noted that Selvey and Chappell were friends. In his interview, Chappell put the knife in by suggesting that Sourav Ganguly did not wish to relinquish the captaincy because the job allowed him to make a lot of money.

Speaking about how his differences with Ganguly first developed, Chappell claimed: “What I didn’t realise at that stage was how utterly important to his life and finances being captain was.”

According to the BBC team, Sourav had been making an estimated $12 million a year through sponsorship deals. “Beckhamesque,” one of them called it.

Then, it was pointed out that Sourav would have some way to go before he caught up with David Beckham, the England football captain, who is said to make $32 million a year through having become just about the most sought after brand name in his sport.

It should have come as no surprise that Chappell chose to unburden himself to Selvey. Firstly, Sourav ' “Lord Snooty” ' has never been popular with the British press, and, secondly, Selvey’s views on Sourav are well known.

Last September, he described Sourav as “aristocratic (at least in his own mind), haughty, a good belter of indifferent bowling but suspect against something more testing of spirit”. He had proved to be India’s most successful captain but “Ganguly has had his day, a modest player in a team crowded with batting talent of the highest calibre,” commented Selvey, who has played three Tests for England as a pace bowler, taking six wickets for 343 runs at an average of 57.16.

Chappell has certainly touched a raw nerve by alleging that money was of supreme importance to Sourav. Boycott considered the remark possibly “defamatory” and said Sourav was a better player than Mohammed Kaif and that Chappell had been unwise to have made his comments to an English journalist.

My own view, for what it is worth, has always been that the Indians would be better players if they were less obsessed about using their cricket to make fortunes and considered the honour of playing for India to be reward enough. But I know that is an old-fashioned, outdated view.

Code breaking

In common with millions across the world, I very much enjoyed reading Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and look forward to the release on May 19 of the film. It has been shot partly in Britain at such locations as Winchester and Lincoln cathedrals and Rosslyn Chapel, near Rosewell in Midlothian.

“I did not like the book at all,” said Father Fio Mascarenhas, a charming Catholic priest from Mumbai who sat next to me on the flight to Heathrow and who gave me a copy of his own book meant “For People of All Faiths”, Inspired Teachings of Jesus Christ (From the Holy Bible), which he has co-edited.

“Making fun of the Catholic Church I could have tolerated,” said Fr Mascarenhas, who was coming to Britain to speak at a Christian conference. “But it also made fun of my God, Jesus Christ. As Christians, we are taught to turn the other cheek. Had Dan Brown written about Islam, you know what would have happened.”

Of course, before the film is released, we will have to await the outcome of the legal action in London by Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. They claim Brown stole the idea that Jesus Christ married Mary Magdalene and had a child with her from their 1982 book.

High fliers

Michael Ward, who is to produce Fireflies, a sequel to his musical, The Far Pavilions, has just made the kind of deal with the British airline BMI which many Bollywood stars would love to have.

“It will fly me back and forth to Mumbai from London as often as is necessary,” says a delighted Michael, who is in India this weekend with his wife, Elaine.

After British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, BMI is the new kid on the block on the lucrative India-UK route. Its four times a week Heathrow-Mumbai service is going daily from April 22. Commercial sponsorship of the arts is the enlightened way forward for BMI.

The Wards’ trip is partly for sentimental reasons ' yesterday, they were due to scatter the ashes in Piccola Lake in Udaipur of M.M. Kaye, author of The Far Pavilions, who died a year before Michael’s musical opened in London last year.

But Michael is also hoping to do a stage version of Fireflies in Mumbai with nine actors, before taking it on tour, first in India and then abroad. He is also hoping to persuade Amol Palekar to direct a film adaptation of Fireflies.

“I have written the script,” says Michael. “Fireflies tells the story of what happened to the two central characters in The Far Pavilions, Ashton-Pelham Martyn and Princess Anjuli, but their story is told in flashback by Koda Dad Khan Saheb, Master of Horses to the Maharajah of Gulkote.”

Bowled over

Last week I sat up in Mumbai with my niece and her husband watching Iqbal, a spirit enhancing film about a village boy who overcomes many physical and social handicaps to make it into the Indian national cricket team.

My high opinion of the film is shared by the UK Film Council which has just allocated '50,000 to ensure “its wider release and distribution in the UK” later this month.

At least, 30 copies will be released, rather than the planned eight. “If it does well, more copies will be made,” a UK Film Council spokesman tells me. “It’s a good film, the sort of film that deserves our support.”

The UK Film Council got hammered by sections of the British media last year for giving '150,000 to The Rising, which was accused of “distorting the history of the British in India”. But no one can possibly object to Iqbal ' except possibly Rahul Dravid.

One of the bad characters in the movie is a smirking and privileged brat with a disturbing resemblance to the nice Indian skipper.

Tittle tattle

Watching A British Very Bollywood, an hour long TV documentary on BBC2 on the making of Private Moments, an “erotic comedy” directed by my good friend Jagmohun Mundhra, made me wish I had stayed in India.

The film was shot in London using an Indian crew, taking advantage of tax breaks once foolishly offered by the British government. I felt sorry for Aruna Shields, an Indian girl who looked uncomfortable doing her sex scene.

“Jag” is a lovely fellow but a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde character who makes films such as Bawander and also stuff like Private Moments. Happily, the latter is unlikely to get a UK release. At the end of the documentary, we get a few seconds of Aishwarya Rai in Provoked, the much anticipated movie on which Jag will be judged.

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