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The Briefing

India prove they are cheats by batting on turning pitches for decades

And Sri Lanka Cricket doesn't even try to make our correspondent work for his jokes

Over the years, India have sneakily trained their batsmen to blind the opposition by kicking up dust from their carefully designed pitches  •  BCCI

Over the years, India have sneakily trained their batsmen to blind the opposition by kicking up dust from their carefully designed pitches  •  BCCI

Pitches. What makes a bad one? How should a good one behave? Is there a charter for pitch decorum handed down to us from centuries past? Do people put pitches in stadiums, or do they build stadiums around pitches that have existed since the dawn of the universe?
And why on earth do they crumble? Is it because when non-Asian teams visit, South Asian pitches tend to find themselves at the centre of raging controversies, with abusive words like "poor", "unfit" and "misbehaving" thrown around, and in the face of this global media pressure, the pitches fall to pieces? (Wouldn't you?)
These are all excellent questions. This column will not answer any of them.
Decades-long doctoring
Clearly if the ball turns from the first day in a Test in India, the home side is winning underhandedly. Having lost the first Test, the pitch for the second Test in Chennai was described by some pundits as "a sandpit", with England collapsing for 134 and 164, and India going on to score more than 600 runs across two innings. If that wasn't outrageous enough, apparently, this isn't even the first time India have dominated an opposition on a spinning surface. Can you believe this? This means that not only do India produce pitches unfit for Test batting, they have gone as far as producing generations of batsmen who can score loads of runs on these pitches, the cheats.
Premature pitch slander
Spare a thought for the media pundits who used their staunchest anti-pitch rhetoric up in the second Test, where 914 runs were scored, and then found that in Ahmedabad, where the match aggregate was 387, no one really trusted them anymore. Like hunters using all their ammo up on a rat while a bear sneaks up behind them.
Mandatory Sri Lanka Cricket round-up (please kill me now)
Do we have to do this again? Do we really have to mock the ever-living crap out of SLC yet again? At some point it becomes boring. I mean, every month. Every single month, it's the same thing with these people. It's like they think that after one decent Lanka Premier League, everyone has suddenly forgotten how resplendently incompetent they have been for years.
Which of their screw-ups should we drag them for this time? How about SLC describing in a press release Chaminda Vaas' decision to pull out of the fast-bowling coach position as "holding the administration, the cricketers, and indeed the game at ransom" because he asked for more pay? We could talk about how SLC has consistently spurned local coaching talent in favour of foreign coaches, whom it pays way more, generally (this is the opposite strategy from, say, its extremely successful neighbours to the north). We could talk about the ridiculous turnover for coaching staff within the Sri Lanka national team, which points to a profoundly dysfunctional system (Vaas had only been hired because David Saker had quit earlier in the month).
But ultimately, we don't have to do any of that, because SLC's own press statements make more ruthless fun of it than any of us could. After claiming that Vaas had made his request based on "personal monetary gain", the statement goes on to suggest he'd instead been "rewarded over the years both in status and in kind". Hopefully future SLC coaches will figure out how to pay bills using status. The kind of status that sees them flung under the bus in public releases.
Best of luck to the Royal Challengers Bangalore…
…who after the IPL auction, put up videos on social media in which cricket director Mike Hesson is shown to be outsmarting other franchises by bidding for players RCB don't necessarily want (thus driving up the amounts other teams will have to pay for those players) in order to secure the likes of Kyle Jamieson and Glenn Maxwell in later rounds of the auction. I don't know about you, but for a team that's notorious for making too little of the talents at their disposal, it seems a little early in the process to gloat. Either they are right to be this confident or they have made their eventual shaming even more hilarious. In which case, see you back here in three months.
No-show champions
Australia are not going to tour South Africa in March, as had been planned, Why? Officially, Cricket Australia is citing an "unacceptable health and safety risk" to its players, due to the prevalence of Covid-19 in South Africa. Here are some facts, though:
- The teams were to be in a biosecure bubble, so the Covid-19 status of the country is irrelevant if the bubble is secure enough.
- Cricket South Africa had devised an especially tight biosecure bubble for the Australia series.
- The cutting short of the England tour in December has been tacitly accepted by the ECB as having been no the fault of CSA's bubbling procedures.
- Covid-19 case numbers were on the decline in South Africa at the time of cancellation and have largely been that way since.
It's difficult, though, not to think that these are not the facts most relevant to the postponement of this tour. Try these:
- Australia had just been beaten at home by an under-strength India team.
- The last time they went to South Africa for a Test series, they suffered an epoch-changing pantsing.
Next month on The Briefing:
- Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, dozens of pundits continue to claim to be cricket experts.
- SLC decides to burn down all its stadiums to cut down operational costs.

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