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The Briefing

Australia, no one cares about your ball-tampering anymore

Our correspondent is fed up. And Steve Smith's boring YouTube channel isn't making him feel any better

(From left) Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon walk off the field, Australia v England, third Test, day two, Perth, December 15, 2017

We'll take a season's worth of crude Aussie sledging if it means we stop hearing about the ball-tampering saga  •  Getty Images

Missed opportunities
Steven Smith has started a YouTube channel in which he talks about the basics of batting. This has serious potential, right? The most bats**t batter of his era passing on his methods, inspiring a generation of young minds to follow him into the realms of cricketing craziness? Ideally the channel's intro video would be him taking a flamethrower to every single book on batting technique previously written.
But alas, Smith's instructions are almost painfully vanilla. In one video about footwork, he talks about weight transfer, and getting to the pitch of the ball against spinners. In another he talks about running long distances to get himself match-ready for Test batting. Come on, Steve. We could get this kind of thing from Alastair Cook if we wanted.
Suggestions for future content:
- How to club balls from a foot outside off stump through midwicket.
- Weirdest motivational phrases to yell at yourself in the nets.
- How to play a leave like you're in the middle of murdering a squadron of Storm Troopers.
- Dealing with stalkers (aka setting clear boundaries with Marnus Labuschagne).
Post-break-up flirtations
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to move on, feelings linger. It's been almost exactly three years since AB de Villiers broke things off with the South Africa national team. He was "tired", he said. Who hasn't heard that in a relationship that's no longer working?
A year later, though, perhaps while reminiscing about the good times, de Villiers sent that late-night "U up?" text to South Africa's selectors, asking if they wanted a piece of him for the 2019 World Cup. "We've moved on," was the reply then.
But had they, really? This year, having seen how assured and confident de Villiers looked with the Royal Challengers Bangalore, South Africa found themselves wanting him again. Only, now it's de Villiers who is sure he's moved on. Will they ever make it work?
The spray
Halfway through Bangladesh's first ODI against Sri Lanka, the Bangladesh board president, Nazmul Hassan, was royally ticked off at his team's batting effort. In a media briefing at the innings break, he asked: "How many good balls or brilliant fielding got us out?" Exactly. "Was our shot selection right? There's no point bringing a good coach if this is their shot selection." You tell 'em Nazmul. "Some of the outs [dismissals] were very ugly. There was no need to play those shots in that situation." Preach.
Anyway, Bangladesh had made 257 for 6, which, it would turn out, was easily a winning total in the match, and they would go on to win the series 2-1, taking them right to the top of the ODI Super League standings.
Still at it
Australia, please let us let you in on a secret: nobody cares anymore. Last month, Cameron Bancroft apparently suggested the bowlers probably knew about the ball-tampering in Cape Town in… was it 2018 (look, I'm not even going to bother looking it up). The bowlers then took exception to this and produced a joint statement pleading ignorance. David Saker, the bowling coach at the time, has weighed in. There's been talk about reopening an investigation into the issue.
Folks, years have passed. Everyone has done their time. There's been at least one other international ball-tampering incident since then, which nobody remembers. And, oh, a global pandemic has forced mass cancellations and postponements of cricket, not to mention profoundly altered life itself. And yet, you want to be over in the corner, still self-flagellating. Be like the rest of us and figure out how to brush this kind of thing under the carpet. Everyone's got bigger things to worry about.
Shastri corner
Our favourite coach was back doing what he does best this month. In a press interaction ahead of the World Test Championship final, Virat Kohli was asked what the difference was between the Kohli of 2014 and the Kohli of 2021. After Kohli had answered, Ravi Shastri, who was sitting beside him, jumped in, saying: "He's slimmer, fitter, the most successful Indian Test captain, and 5500 runs richer", probably thinking the whole time, but somehow stopping himself from saying that he is also way cuter.
Next month on the Briefing:
- Cricket Australia immediately orders fresh in-depth investigation into ball-tampering scandal after Bancroft reveals team-mates hinted he should use yellow sandpaper specifically since that's the most patriotic colour. This is after a meteor strike has wiped out 90% of humanity.
- de Villiers writes a long, emotional text to South Africa team management but deletes it at the last moment. Repeats this 12 times during sleepless night.

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