The Briefing takes a tongue-in-cheek look at the month gone by
Look, it's fine if it's crap
While the IPL has been showing off with its obnoxious dramatic finishes, Super Duper overs, and redemption stories, Sri Lanka Cricket has been trying to get their own T20 tournament - creatively titled the Lanka Premier League (LPL) - together. They got as far as putting on a wonderfully shambolic draft in which barely anyone seemed to know the rules, but despite which some squads were put together, before five foreign players pulled out. This seems like a setback for the league, but does it have to be so bad? Keep your head up, SLC. You can still do it. We've all lowered our standards in 2020. A captain runs out of bowlers mid-game because too many players have withdrawn? Just bring on a bowling machine. The league is short of big-name batsmen? Just have cardboard cutouts of famous foreign players take guard at the crease. We just want to see some cricket. Any cricket. And no one - and I cannot stress this enough - is expecting competence.
The death of quality
For decades, the fearless, outspoken, and unblinkingly honest, not to mention fearless Geoffrey Boycott walked the cricketing earth being able to say almost anything he wanted. But upon his exit from the BBC's Test Match Special team due to health reasons, he lamented this was no longer the case. "[the BBC] have sacrificed quality for equality," he said to the Daily Telegraph in September. "It is now all about political correctness, about gender and race. When you work for them you are wary and frightened of saying anything." Appalling. Which reasonable person would take umbrage at a man who in June said that women cricketers were unfit to give expert opinions on the men's game, and three years ago suggested he should "black up" to stand a better chance of becoming a knight of the empire, which as we all know is an honour famously monopolised by black people? (Thankfully, in 2019, sense prevailed and the UK government stopped viewing Boycott's skin colour as an impediment.) Banish the thought, but what if Boycott is right and things persist on their current trajectory? What kind of world would it be if future generations of white men are not even able to make abrasive comments under the guise of forthright opinion on a multitude of media platforms until the age of 80?
Everybody knows the South Africa men's team as one of the most dramatic around. Dropping a bat mid-pitch when all that was required was to run, going into crisis mode after every World Cup, a superstar retiring because he is "tired" then asking to be let back into the team… we've come to expect this. Now their board is joining the fray. Why? Like a high catch at an Eden Park semi-final, it's hard to track exactly (belated trigger warning, SA fans). Cricket South Africa's CEO was sacked months ago over alleged financial impropriety, the government has stepped in to take control of the board, and the board has now resigned en masse. In a year in which cricket is in phenomenal upheaval, South Africa are on track to being champions of the trash heap. There is a choking jab to be made here but I will stop.
Ravi Shastri, patron saint of the Briefing, has blessed us again. Such is his benevolence that this bounty is unlike any previously bestowed. Last month the Moustachioed One launched a men's grooming line named 23 Yards. Why 23 yards? Is it the minimum distance his voice is allowed to carry? The maximum distance Virat Kohli should be from him at all times? (If you're thinking of a leash here, whose neck the collar is on is up to your own imagination.) No. It is because a cricket pitch is 22 yards, and Shastri "truly believe[s] that you can be a champion too. Question is, are you willing to go the extra yard?" Okay, but somebody please tell actual World Cup champion and infamous mankading candidate Jos Buttler.
Shakib Al Hasan is poised to return to the Bangladesh team after serving a one-year ban over a corrupt approach. Given the seriousness of the offence, and the fact that Shakib can be said to have got off lightly given cricket had largely ceased for a substantial chunk of his suspension, surely the team will go about his reintegration soberly and perhaps a little bit of sheepishness? Nope. Signs are he's getting a hero's welcome.
Next month in the Briefing
- To make up for further player withdrawals, SLC has freshly out-of-work South African administrators play in the LPL.
- Shady bookies around the world admit they would have approached players way more brazenly if they'd known there was going to be barely any cricket in 2020 anyway.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf