Cricket, we all now know, has a credibility problem. Across the world, alleged fixers have been seen in contact with alleged curators, incidents of alleged session-fixing have occurred, and alleged criminals have been filmed in the company of alleged investigative journalists. Because our lawyers are buzzkills, we can't discuss any of this here. But never fear. The cricket boards have it under control. And one thing we know from past experiences on unrelated matters is that when faced with a crisis, these exemplary folks in administration will not rest until at first they deny, before later backtracking, and eventually taking the least amount of action possible, after widespread condemnation.
Change we can believe in?
Among those dealing with a separate credibility problem were Cricket Australia, who after facing public criticism over the sandpaper-in-underjocks incident, had to say goodbye to coach Darren Lehmann (after initially delaying suspending him). They had suggested during the scandal that the Australian team was in for a complete culture change - the likes of which will wash all memory of the cheating away. No stone, it was implied, would be left unturned to right the team's course.
And so, it transpired a month later, that with great courage, integrity, and willingness to see total transformation, they appointed Justin Langer, the literal next-in-line, avid follower of Steve Waugh's mental-disintegration philosophy, and the man Lehmann had himself groomed to be his successor.
The pushover neighbours
In all this desire to be better behaved, could Australia lose their identity? Say it ain't so, said recent wicketkeeper Matthew Wade. "I hope now we don't go too far the other way, lose all our drive," he said, "and try to play like New Zealand." The sentiment was echoed by Shane Warne: "I don't think we want to play like the Kiwis… C'mon. The Kiwis, no thank you." Fair enough, I guess. I mean, who could possibly want to perform creditably on their most recent tours of the UAE and Sri Lanka, draw a series in England, generally gain a reputation as the best Test side their nation has ever produced, all while taking cues on respect and humility from the most successful elite sports team of the last 50 years: the All Blacks. Ha ha. Get lost, you wimps.
Superman Kohli's kryptonite
Few in human history have ever believed in anything as much as Ravi Shastri believes in Virat Kohli. In February, he said the world's cricket writers did not know enough superlatives to describe the man, and encouraged them to go out and buy dictionaries. At other times, Shastri has also compared Kohli with the greatest. He said he saw a bit of Viv Richards in Kohli. He said he saw a bit of Imran Khan in Kohli. And - here is the greatest possible praise - he even saw a bit of himself in Kohli.
But wait. What's this? Late in May, when it emerged that Kohli had pulled out of his playing commitment with Surrey due to excessive workload, Shastri spotted a weakness. "It is not a case of putting rocket fuel up [Kohli's] backside and getting him on the park," Shastri told Mumbai Mirror. "Even a top dog can't be given rocket fuel up his backside."
If the quote is difficult to believe, it is because Shastri never sounds this defeatist about Kohli. In everything else, he has been a do-everything-possible, knock-on-every-door, we'll-make-it-happen kind of coach. You can imagine him, even on this matter, emailing experts at NASA about whether rocket fuel can, in fact, be delivered to top dogs in this fashion. And then staring despondently at the screen, a tear rolling down his cheek, as he reads the reply that no, it cannot.
Spare a thought for Bangladesh. While Australia are moaning that the BCCI merely declined to play a day-night Test, Bangladesh's entire tour of Australia this year has been cancelled. It is a strange trend. In 2015, Australia declined to tour Bangladesh based on security concerns. In 2017, they almost missed the tour because of a player-contracts dispute. Now, a board that signed an A$1.2 billion broadcast deal only weeks before claims Bangladesh's tour is commercially untenable. What next?
You could have done more
In the ongoing public bonfire that is the rollout of The Hundred - the ECB's proposed 100-ball competition - the board has announced that although the likes of Ben Stokes will be assigned a Hundred team, he won't be playing, which won't matter because the new audiences they are hoping to bring in won't know who Stokes is anyway. What? Poor guy. Imagine going on an infamous night out in Bristol, getting into major trouble, having your face splashed across the front pages of tabloids, getting arrested, getting suspended from cricket, getting charged with affray by the police, and being told that even so, after all that, you are still not famous enough.
Alleged fixer Robin Morris has supposedly provided a colourful reason as to why he says the things he does in Al Jazeera's documentary. According to the programme, Morris said he behaved as he did because he had been asked to audition for a commercial movie "for public entertainment".
We've got nothing on this, because what could possibly be added to this wonderful explanation?
Next month on The Briefing:
- Indian "actor" so convincing in role of shady gambling agent that he is asked to appear in follow-up role as "man who must face charges over stated links to illegal gambling industry".
- Innovator Elon Musk's SpaceX spots gap in market, vows to develop new technology to deliver rocket fuel into top dogs' backsides.