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The Briefing

Attention, Tim Paine: Niroshan Dickwella will see you now

Australia's captain really could use some help with his sledging game

"Quick guys, what do you think of this one: Forget about Kohli cos Pujara is the Che-man?"  •  Matt Roberts/Getty Images

"Quick guys, what do you think of this one: Forget about Kohli cos Pujara is the Che-man?"  •  Matt Roberts/Getty Images

Sledging round-up
Over the course of two India tours, Tim Paine's behind-the-stumps gabbing can be put into two broad categories. The first category is elite hospitality.
- To Rishabh Pant in '18-19: "Beautiful town, Hobart. Get you a nice apartment on the waterfront. Have you over for dinner. You babysit?"
But then Paine also seems extremely sensitive to any fractures within the India team. This is category No. 2.
- To M Vijay in '18-19: "I know [Virat Kohli's] your captain, but you can't seriously like him as a bloke."
- To R Ashwin, '20-21: "At least my team-mates like me, d***head."
He's had two years to work on the routine, and still keeps treading the same ground, so get some new material, amirite? Maybe he could do with some sledging lessons from Sri Lanka's wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella, who in the second Test against England, reminded Jonny Bairstow that although he'd been "dropped" (or rested, as the official ECB line will be) from the India tour, he would still be available for the IPL. Shortly after, Bairstow edged a ball into his pads and was caught at slip.
Almost more impressive was Joe Root's sledge to Sri Lanka's stand-in captain Dinesh Chandimal from slip. Having watched Chandimal slog-sweep the previous ball for four, Root chirped: "Come on Chandi, throw your wicket away." Attempting another almighty heave, Chandimal obliged, seconds later.
But does Paine have a point about Kohli?
No. He doesn't. Because agreeing that he did would constitute internet suicide. I would never suggest that the likeability of the India team that won in Australia was even slightly due to the absence of Kohli, who is not only one of the greatest cricketers of the age but also the most magnetic and marketable, not to mention really handsome.
Punishment for racist spectators
Mohammed Siraj and Jasprit Bumrah reported hearing racist abuse from the SCG crowd in the third Test. A group of spectators was later removed from the ground, following a complaint to the umpires from Siraj. But is being escorted out really enough of a deterrent for racists at cricket grounds? Alternative punishment: shoot the racists out of cannons, over the grandstands and out onto the streets outside cricket grounds, preferably in sync with stadium music, with confetti and streamers going off around the ground.
How to motivate a batsman over ten years
Congratulations are in order for repeated Pakistan selection panels, who collectively refused to pick Fawad Alam for Tests for over a decade in order to get him perfectly primed for this roaring comeback, in which he has now hit two hundreds in the space of four innings. Nothing like being told your technique is too weird to succeed at the top level, during part of which time you watch Shivnarine Chanderpaul scuttle his way to 11,000 Test runs, or Steve Smith become the best batsman on the planet, while you yourself rack up over 12,000 first-class runs, to really make you serious about your batting.
Is this what we waited for?
Thanks to the pandemic, there had been no Test cricket in Sri Lanka since August 2019. And I do mean thanks to the pandemic on this one. Because although Sri Lanka fans of the longest format were initially excited to watch their team play England in Galle, any positive feelings were vomited into their face masks as they watched Sri Lanka's batsmen get out for 135 in their first innings of the series, before in their final innings, Sri Lanka produced a collapse that was feeble beyond imagination, tumbling to 126 all out.
These collapses were so unwatchably bad - batsmen hitting wide long hops straight to point, or slog-sweeping against the turn en masse to be predictably caught off top edges - that it was a mercy to spectators that no one was allowed at the ground. Somebody should sell "I was not there" T-shirts.
Next month on The Briefing:
- Kohli will return to the India team for the England Tests, and they will absolutely be every bit as supportable, his on-field gesticulations and generally aggressive demeanour not doing a single thing to dent their likeability.
- Pakistan selectors realise their long omission of Alam worked so brilliantly, they have no option but to drop him again for several years.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf