The Briefing takes a tongue-in-cheek look at the month gone by
Our bodies are ready
It's almost here. Cricket. Not that YouTube nostalgia stuff. Actual live cricket.
In the past, perhaps we've all occasionally turned our nose up at cricket that is not of the highest quality. No longer. Kids imitating their favourite bowlers or batsmen? Yes, please. Matches where bowlers start with several wides? They're allowed a few lockdown looseners, it's fine. Batsmen playing and missing straight ones, fielders dropping sitters, wicketkeepers fluffing stumping chances, commentators butchering Asian names, players giving away six overthrows at a World Cup final - look, just come back. There's really no amount of incompetence we are not willing to forgive right now.
The turnaround man Mohammad Hafeez. What a fellow. Capable of almost incandescent innings at times, and yet, perpetually on the verge of being left out of the team. Batting form is not the only inconsistent thing in his life. Remember those biomechanics tests? He'd get reported for chucking. Go for a bowling test. Fail that test. Then a few months later, he'd retake the test. He'd pass. He'd bowl again. Get reported. Fail.
This month, as Pakistan prepared to leave for their tour in England, Hafeez was found to be positive for the virus. But then he got himself tested privately, and apparently returned a negative test. Later, an official test found him to be negative as well. In the midst of global crises, Hafeez' commitment to taking a bit of the old world into the new is almost comforting.
Won't somebody come to play?
Despite being among the nations hardest hit by the pandemic, England is preparing to host the first cricket international in months. Sri Lanka, meanwhile, has one of the best Covid-19 records so far, with only 11 confirmed deaths from the disease, and no one wants to come and play. SLC has been desperately trying to coax teams over, asking Bangladesh and India to keep their mid-year commitments, securing hosting rights for the Asia Cup this year, and also suggesting the IPL should be played on the island. So far, none of these tours has materialised. As if to underline just how keen it is to have cricket on, SLC has even threatened to start a T20 franchise tournament - the type they have announced on at least four different occasions and failed to get off the ground. Help them out, somebody. SLC administrators aren't used to going this long without having their jowls being beamed into living rooms around the world, as they sit around smiling in the president's box. They're not used to having to work this hard. Send a team before these people hurt themselves.
The new normal
Like rats during the bubonic plague, or badly neglected public toilets, a cricket ball could be a vector of disease. Which is why the ICC's cricket committee warned against the use of saliva. Don't lick your finger and then use it on the ball. Don't kiss the ball (looking at you, Lasith Malinga). Definitely don't bite it (#getwellsoonShahidAfridi). Just use sweat, which somehow, apparently, is less gross.
Pricking the bubble
Some coaches have the trust and support of their boards. Others have to constantly watch their backs. Over the last few weeks, West Indies coach Phil Simmons faced more calls for his swift sacking, apparently because he broke the team's biosecure bubble. His crime? Coughing over the team cutlery? Opening up a kissing booth in an elderly care home? Nope. Just attending the funeral of his father-in-law. Which it seems he had been allowed to do anyway. And after which he put himself in quarantine, isolated from the team.
Next month on the Briefing:
- Mohammad Hafeez gets reported for his action.
- Mohammad Hafeez has his action cleared.