<
>

Jonny v the imaginary villains, and other stories

"Does my bum look big in this?" "No" Getty Images

There are things worth fighting for in life. Freedom. Justice. Human rights. In November, there were fights all through cricket. But - spoiler alert - they were all pathetic.

Virat Kohli v Ravi Shastri
The Briefing owes apologies to Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri, whose seeming owner-labrador relationship this column has been milking all year, only to be told this month that, in fact, Shastri is absolutely not the yes-man everyone thought he was. "About [Shastri] saying 'yes' all the time - that is the most bizarre thing I have heard," Kohli said ahead of India's tour of Australia. "I don't think there's anyone who has said no to me more than him in Indian cricket." Shastri was not asked by the press to confirm whether this was true, but we know the kind of thing he would have said, don't we? "Virat is damn right," he would have boomed. "I agree completely. When I started this job, he told me: 'Make sure you say no to me.' People who know nothing about anything can talk all the nonsense they want, but I can look any idiot in the eye and say I've carried out the India captain's request to every last bloody letter.

"Yes man? Puh!"

Jonny Bairstow v his "critics"
Some people goad the best out of themselves when they are written off or under fire. Unfortunately for Bairstow, who was dropped for the second Test of the series against Sri Lanka, writers, commentators and fans were pretty sympathetic to his situation. Almost across the board, people acknowledged that while England were probably right to go with the XI they did, he had done little to deserve being left out. So what did Bairstow do? He completely made naysayers up. Upon reaching his century in the third Test, he gestured pointedly toward the press box, and in a fired-up interview, said he was "proud as punch" of the century after being "castigated", even though there's no known record of said castigation. "People sometimes have an opinion while they are sat at home and don't see the graft that's going on," he went on to say.

Yeah, you tell those figments of your imagination, Jonny. That'll show those jerks. How many Tests have those made-up dolts played anyway? Trying to dump their fictional criticism on you? Get out of here!

Cricket v commercialisation
Partly because India continue to refuse to play Pakistan, the PCB has had to come up with creative methods with which to make their "home" series in the UAE extra profitable. Lately, their cricket trophies have begun to lose their battle against commercialisation. Recently, the prize for Pakistan's T20 series against Australia was shaped like a biscuit - the series sponsors' product. And now the one for the ongoing Test series against New Zealand has the sponsor company's name and logo on the actual trophy. Given the propensity of South Asian CEOs to shoehorn themselves into every possible presentation ceremony, there is only one logical conclusion to this trend.

Mithali Raj v Ramesh Powar
It is as yet unclear who is the more virtuous party in the unfolding drama between former India captain Mithali Raj and coach Ramesh Powar. Raj has alleged that some "people in power" may be out to destroy her. Powar has said that Raj ignored the team plan and batted for her own milestones. All this needs to be pored over and unpacked over the coming weeks, but one thing is for sure - women's cricket has reached a significant milestone. After decades of struggle, it finally has its very own globally recognised player v coach spat, replete with accusations of selfishness and favouritism.

This is new ground, but dare we hope for more? Could women's cricket one day match the histrionics and melodrama of men's cricket? Might we see women cricketers screaming at each other in stairwells? Bawling their eyes out after being shown to be guilty of ball-tampering? Yelling and gesticulating at critics who do not even exist? That's the dream.

Australian cricket v credibility We've all seen it by now, painted on the dressing-room wall at the stadium in Perth. But is "elite honesty" that weird a concept? Other teams may not broadcast it in the way that the new, cuddly Australia does, but they all have their unique value systems. For example, there's bumslapsmanship (New Zealand), collapsitude (Sri Lanka), McCulluplagiarism (England), contractdisputicity (West Indies), Kolpakshevism (South Africa), and unceasing lunacy (Pakistan). Why pick on Australia?

Angelo Mathews v Chandika Hathurusingha
Apparently it takes more than six weeks to get over being unceremoniously axed as captain, jettisoned from the limited-overs team altogether, and having your fitness (read fatness) questioned. Still seemingly annoyed at Hathurusingha, the coach who dumped him, Mathews reached fifty on three occasions in the Tests against England, and on at least two of those, glared in the direction of the dressing room, pointed to his bat, and then made a yapping motion with his gloves, as if to say he was letting his bat do the talking.

Next month in The Briefing

- Mathews makes a duck in next innings. Hathurusingha flashes note at camera reading "Yeah bat talk nah".

- "No, there is no way I will challenge your absolute authority on selection, strategy or general direction of the team" - Shastri puts his foot down with Kohli.