The football World Cup might have the planet giddy at the moment, but these uncouth football folks should honestly start watching their backs. Ever since the ICC announced it would like cricket to be the most popular sport in the world, in 2015, its officials have been working tirelessly. They have done things like confirm the cricket World Cup will be shrunk to ten elite teams, while football has plans to expand to 48 nations. Who wants to give pleb underdogs the chance to upset the natural order of things, or turn no-name players into heroes on the biggest stage the sport has to offer? Officials have also gone out of their way to stop papare and steel bands playing in venues in Sri Lanka and South Africa, because what kind of moron commoner needs an atmosphere to distract from the high art of a stonewalling batting day? What else is cricket doing on this unstoppable march to global domination? The Briefing takes a look.
Cricket's actual best chance of becoming the world's favourite game
Is there any way we can get the football World Cup, as well as major events in all other competing sports, to be administered by the ICC?
Turning over a new leaf
While diving is the bane of football, cricket has been dealing with its own player-behaviour issues this year, with verbal aggression towards opponents coming under the microscope in the aftermath of Australia's tour of South Africa. Under new coach Justin Langer, Australia arrived in England vowing to do away with "abusing" the opposition, while sticking instead to mere "banter". Langer even used the example of the words he exchanges with his daughter while playing the Uno card game, to lay out the boundaries of what was acceptable.
Perhaps, thanks to this new Australian philosophy, we will not see the kinds of classic sledges that Ashes series in past decades have been known for.
But whatever the case, Langer's men did emphatically deliver on the promise that there would be a fresh start, in the sense that no Australia side in living memory has been thrashed as extravagantly in England, as this team. They lost the limited-overs encounters 6-0.
The series enliveners
One outfit that did their best to keep cricket in the news in June was Sri Lanka, who upon seeing largely empty stands in their Test series in the Caribbean, took it upon themselves to make the tour interesting. In the second Test, their captain, Dinesh Chandimal, was charged with ball-tampering, to which the defence was that he did not remember exactly which of the objects in his pocket he had put in his mouth before using saliva on the ball. (Maybe what he swallowed was one of those memory-loss drugs.) He was eventually suspended after being found guilty.
In the next Test, Sri Lanka were bowled out for 154 in the first innings, conceding a significant first-innings lead. Then their own quicks knocked West Indies over for 93, swinging the match dramatically, like it was under the influence of so much Chandimal saliva.
Mr Sharma goes to Washington
The USA is one of the key markets the ICC wishes to crack - a market Rohit Sharma was last month given a chance to impress, when he was invited to throw the ceremonial first pitch at a Seattle Mariners baseball game. He could have showed the Americans just how superior cricket was compared to their puny baseball. He could have loaded up, taken aim, and sent a laser beam right into the middle of the catcher's mitt, from which smoke would immediately pour due to the heat on that ball.
But instead Rohit ambled casually up to the mound, and fired in a throw so wayward it sent spectators ducking for cover at a separate baseball game two states over, setting cricket back several decades in North America.
Steven Smith's rough day
Spare a thought for Steven Smith, who according to a news story originating in Australia, cut a "sad and lonely" figure in New York, on a day in which he visited global superstar Hugh Jackman to talk about charity, supposedly looked at property in swanky neighbourhoods, and in the evening, visited a bar for a few quiet beers. Going by the tone of this coverage, Smith then presumably retired to his hotel room to weep loudly about the state of his life, while a homeless person played violin outside his window.
From the mouth that brought us "tracer bullet", "what the doctor ordered", as well as "flashing and flashing hard", a new cricketing witticism comes. Maybe it was hearing the word "yo" so many times in the dressing room that inspired India coach Ravi Shastri to try his hand at a little rap, when he announced at a press conference about India's yo-yo tests, that "If you pass, you play / If you fail, you sail." Now, to the layman, this doesn't seem to make sense - isn't sailing generally thought of as a pleasant, even pleasurable activity? But Shastri isn't speaking to the layman. If you don't get it, it's because you are too stupid. The word "sail" obviously harks back to the time in which India players had to travel by boat to England, and Shastri is making the point that if you fail a yo-yo Test, you are clearly obsolete. Give the man his Nobel.
Fawad Alam Sadness Corner
He scored tons of domestic runs, like he does every year. He was overlooked again for Pakistan's Test team, like he is every year. This time went to England to try and bat away the pain at club level, which is clearly beneath a man of his talents. Then, Fawad is done the ultimate cricketing indignity - he gets out in the lamest way possible when he is timed out for failing to show at the batting crease within three minutes of his Clitheroe CC team-mate's dismissal. Worse, he angrily throws his bat in the dressing room and "accidentally" breaks a window (no cricketer in history, from Matt Prior to Ricky Ponting to Shakib Al Hasan, has intentionally broken dressing-room glass), and gets a load of negative media coverage.
Next month on The Briefing
- A week after suggesting having a quiet beer was an unsuitable solo activity, Australia media outlet does follow-up story on Steve Smith. Headline: "Disgraced cricket cheat forlornly poops all alone in Toronto toilet."
- Fawad Alam's taxi falls into lake on way to match; Fawad kicked out of Clitheroe CC side for turning up late.
- Dinesh Chandimal kicks himself for not having thought to tell the match referee that what he swallowed in the tampering clip was actually truth serum.