Through the course of its life so far, the World Test Championship has been kicked at, spit on, and abused. Back in November, the ICC's chairman claimed he wasn't sure if the Test Championship had "achieved what it intended to do". As recently as March, Virat Kohli said it didn't really motivate his team any more than usual. More recently, Stuart Broad asked why the Ashes couldn't be worth more points than a two-match Test series (the old "our series should count double" argument). All this while the competition survived a global pandemic, which threatened seriously to end it.
In the end, though, Test cricket's biggest prize found its way to a team that truly adored it - New Zealand, who have invested heavily in red-ball cricket, frequently treated the format with the dignity it deserves, and never spoken ill about the league. After everything the World Test Championship has been through, the mace is currently where it deserves to be, cradled in the ultra-soft hands of BJ Watling, like Jenny at the end of Forrest Gump.
Kusal Mendis, Niroshan Dickwella and Danushka Gunathilaka have been sent home from the tour of England after having gone out towards the city centre in Durham, despite being told explicitly that such an excursion would violate the team's biosecure bubble. They were discovered after videos were posted on social media of them out in public.
The whole thing didn't even seem to be worth it - they were merely snapped looking around the city's market square, with Mendis fiddling with what appeared to be cigarettes (though this has not been confirmed). If you're going to be sent home from a tour, you should at least have been at a raging party, right?
The most embarrassing thing, though, was that despite clearly being on the lookout, these players didn't spot the person who was recording from just metres away - practically from short leg - which, uh, should probably be handed over to the team analyst as footage that might explain some batting averages.
But in the grand scheme of bad behaviour, Sri Lankan bubble poppers are probably small fry. They thought they could get away with it until someone recorded them. Shakib Al Hasan, meanwhile, knew for sure cameras were rolling and media were in attendance when he let his temper explode at a Dhaka Premier League game, first kicking the stumps when he had an appeal turned down, then uprooting them and throwing them into the pitch when the umpire dared to take the teams off the field for rain.
It's hasn't even been two years since Shakib was banned for failing to report a corrupt approach, on top of which he has angrily threatened walkouts, cussed out umpires, allegedly beaten up a fan, and more, in a rap sheet that is truly something to behold. If there was a World Bad Behaviour Championship, this is the winner. Just race out of the room as soon as you award him the trophy, because of course he will throw it.
The long wait
The Hundred is finally set to begin in July. It's been so long since the tournament was announced, everybody seems to have by now run out of comic material to throw at it. Kudos marketing geniuses who foresaw this.
Next month on The Briefing:
- As punishment for the bubble-popping trio, SLC invites Shakib to gruffly pluck each of them up and fling them to the ground.
- The Hundred matches attract tens of thousands people in their 40s, with the kids the tournament had set out to attract at its inception having by now become middle-aged slobs with beer guts.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf