Ashes training summer camp
It is a fundamental plank of all religions that long before pre-history, when the earth was a shapeless mass, God created the Ashes. So is it any surprise that this year, ahead of this epic clash of the titans, England are taking no chances during their summer prep for the winter tour? Earlier in the year they had a practice team come over (let's call them Practice Team A). Turns out, Practice Team A beat England at Edgbaston and won the series. At the moment, England are involved in a longer training series against another side (Practice Team B) that could possibly be better than them as well, despite the latest result. There are two more matches to go in that series, but that doesn't matter. What matters are these questions: Do England have the attack to do well in Australia? Are their batters in good shape to play on bouncy pitches? Can Joe Root please stop wasting his amazing form on these pointless games? And will these training sides please sledge England in Aussie accents so the whole enterprise can be more realistic? Amateurs.
Nothing to see here
In Australia, meanwhile, everything is fine now between the players and the coach. Everyone just needs to move on. Justin Langer has talked to his players and everyone "got things off their chest". They are in a better place now. Not that they were ever in a not good place. And berating a media staffer for posting a video showing Bangladesh's celebrations after they beat Australia is not insecure or really weird.
Afridi mind games
We see you, Shahid Afridi. You've announced this month that you're going to retire from all cricket after the 2022 PSL. We know what you're up to. You do this all the time. Threaten to leave. To get under our skin. To get a reaction. Sometimes you actually walk out the front door. We can't take it anymore. There's a limit. How dare you?
… But then, Shahid, you'll always come back… won't you? You burst back in with that smile, a bouquet of wickets in one hand, a boxful of sixes in the other. Oh! You know we can't resist you. You old devil.
The world has changed. In the past 18 months, we've been through global protests that aim to highlight structural racism and inequality, and cricket is so much smarter and more sympathetic for it. So when allegations of racism at Yorkshire County Cricket Club were brought, primarily by former offspinner Azeem Rafiq, of course Yorkshire was going to take it extremely seriously and provide a transparent process through which redress could be sought. We can be certain the county will stop at nothing to find and publicise the truth. The report into these incidents that was ordered last year is going to drop some knowledge. People will be held accountable, cricket will introspect, and we will learn from the mistakes of the past and march toward a more accepting and equitable game.
Hah. Just kidding. Yorkshire has chosen not to publish the findings of this report out of purported fear that its contents are libellous, and Rafiq is still clamouring for justice, even as the ECB makes a show of its top Test players standing for a "moment of unity" before each game.
Racism's reckoning part II
South Africa, meanwhile, are also reckoning with racism in their past, with the Social Justice and Nation-Building hearings recently having revealed the nature of some appalling behaviour within the national team in past decades. There is a certain amount of sympathy that can be afforded the white players who are alleged to have made the dressing room an unwelcome place for players of colour, because part of apartheid's decades-long project was to entrench hatred. There are suggestions that the perpetrators of this behaviour were let down by the absence of cultural sensitivity training as the team moved into a more inclusive era.
But do you really need training to know that calling a team-mate "brown s**t" in a song to the music of Boney M is demeaning and unacceptable? This is like peeing into a public pool and arguing that, well, there were no signs specifically banning it.
Next month on the Briefing:
- Virat Kohli's outside edge to be turned into key rings, in business idea that promises to make keys super easy to find.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf