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The Briefing

Who said India have better top-order options than Kohli? Not us

We'd certainly not do anything so unjustified and ridiculous

"Pop? 'Dad' would have sounded so much nicer - warm and cuddly, just like me"  •  ICC/Getty Images

"Pop? 'Dad' would have sounded so much nicer - warm and cuddly, just like me"  •  ICC/Getty Images

The Bazifists
In 2015, the apostle Brendon McCullum, patron saint of the leg-side bash, landed upon England's shores and there, provoked by the profound sorrow inflicted by England's boring-ass style of play, spread his glorious message. A message of audacity. A message of unrelenting enterprise under steel-grey skies. Of intensity. Spunk. Hope.
England's white-ball teams drank deep. They dunked their heads in, were baptised, and did the breaststroke through life-giving McCullumwaters.
And then they won a World Cup. Sort of. (Technically.)
But in 2022 it was England's Test team that needed help. The county system wasn't working. Joe Root was a one-man pisstake of the rest of the batting order. A light was shone out into the night sky. The Bazsignal. And he came. The promised one. To forge a partnership with Ben Stokes and save them. Two sets of tattooed biceps dovetailing as one.
Nothing to see here
Don't be crazy. We would never say that about the king. Every player goes through a form slump. And he's one of the greatest of all time. He always bats better for India, anyway. IPL is just training for him. And look at his hunger. He may not have scored that many runs, but man did he punch the living daylights out of the air around him when he was in the field.
He's done too much to focus just on this season. This column would never highlight his failures like that. Wouldn't talk about innings like his 30 off 33 against Chennai Super Kings, or that long string of single-figure scores. Or say that even in some of the matches where he did score runs, he was going so slowly and played with so little intent, he might have put the team cause at risk. What kind of third-rate writer with a wish to have his house stoned would suggest India have better top-order options now than Virat Kohli? That is absolutely not what is happening here.
Daddy's home
No good innings from Kohli can pass without his old partner in crime, Ravi Shastri, passing a glowing comment upon it. Sometimes we're lucky enough to have this happen on this very website. Following Kohli's best innings of the season - a 54-ball 73 against Gujarat Titans that helped Royal Challengers qualify for the playoffs - Shastri explained that runs from Kohli aren't just runs, they are a phenomenon that sets the whole cricketing world in alignment.
"The pop is in the house and he's announced it to the world," Shastri said of that knock. "If they qualify, wait and watch. It's an announcement to the world, don't mess around with the pop. When there's class, respect class. It'll teach all the kids how to play."
Miracle recovery
Is cricket truly in the post-Covid age? Some drama from Bangladesh (which as usual means drama involving Shakib Al Hasan), is providing hope. Five days before the first Test against Sri Lanka, Shakib tested positive for Covid, which everyone assumed meant he would be out of the first Test at least. But then four days later, Shakib returned a negative Test, and was seemingly in contention to play, even if coach Russell Domingo was wary of playing him if he was only "50-60% fit".
Shakib, though, seems to know how to work this Covid thing. In 2020, he was serving out a one-year ICC ban, but then the pandemic happened and barely any cricket was played anyway. This time he not only played the whole series, he bowled more than 105 overs, took nine wickets, and hit a fifty as well.
Sri Lanka Cricket appreciation corner
Folks, we've sometimes lightly ribbed SLC on the Briefing over the perpetual dearth of IQ points among their top brass. But last month they did okay, actually. In the midst of Sri Lanka's crippling economic crisis, they donated US$2 million to hospitals, which have been short of medicines. They have managed to organise a bilateral tour for the women's team, to Pakistan, after failing to give the women any game time almost right through the pandemic. And word on the street is that most officials have turned up to work without their shoelaces tied together, if you can believe that. Bless.
Next month on The Briefing:
- Briefing writer continues to not attract social media abuse, after column refuses to say that India putting too much value on players' reputations could be why they haven't won a global trophy recently.
- Shakib has another brush with Covid. Becomes government minister.
- Only three SLC officials fall asleep at meetings on average, as board has unprecedented second good month in a row.

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