Corruption investigations continued through March, wicketkeepers appealed for wickets they knew were not out, and administrators continued to act in brazen self-interest, but of course none of this got the cricket world's gender-neutral underpants in a twist like R Ashwin's mankad dismissal of Jos Buttler last week. The Briefing tries to make sense of the outrage.
Won't somebody please think of the children?
In cricket, as in non-cricket, it is generally agreed that children are the future. But many who love the sport also know that children are idiots. Shane Warne, for example, worried on Twitter that when a high-profile player commits a "disgraceful act", as Ashwin had done, the impressionable next generation is at the risk of ruin. "We need to set examples to the young boys and girls playing cricket," he said.
We can only come to the conclusion that as an iconic player himself, Warne is speaking from experience here. Presumably, in 2003, he inspired a generation of children to unquestioningly take the medication their mothers were giving them. And that about ten years before that, phone bills across Australia had skyrocketed, as six and seven-year-olds insisted on providing pitch and weather information on their weekend games to bookies in India.
The home of the spirit
Reactions to Ashwin's mankad have been particularly severe in England, which it turns out - and what a crazy coincidence this is - is the exact same country that Buttler comes from! England captain Eoin Morgan was also concerned for the "terrible example" Ashwin was setting for kids, while former captain Michael Vaughan tweeted Ashwin's actions were completely out of order. Where it gets interesting is that Ashley Giles and Joe Root, meanwhile, have not only come out against mankading, they've also strongly suggested that this form of dismissal went against their "values", regardless of situation.
Which means that if you're an opposition batsman playing the saints of England in the World Cup, you could be in for some outstanding running opportunities.
South Africa threw themselves into World Cup preparation this month, trialling a host of prospective squad members as they won both the ODI and T20 series against Sri Lanka. Sure, the opposition was so weak South Africa could have started trying out random people from the stands and still won the series, but there is nevertheless a growing confidence about this South Africa team. With Quinton de Kock hitting form, and the likes of Dwaine Pretorius and Anrich Nortje announcing themselves, there seems to be an all-round dynamism within the side. Imran Tahir and Kagiso Rabada delivered successful Super Overs in the past few weeks, and there is a burgeoning belief that South Africa have players who absolutely will not let pressure get the better of them.
All of which, of course, will only make it funnier when they massively balls it up in a must-win game in July.
Sri Lanka's self-sabotage
There was a time when it seemed like Lasith Malinga - one of the best cricket brains around - might be a good World Cup captain for Sri Lanka, but in March they lost eight limited-overs matches under his leadership. At one point Angelo Mathews looked a solid bet, but he has such fragile hamstrings now that if anyone so much as looks at his thighs for too long they will combust due to strain. Dimuth Karunaratne was talked about as an emergency captain, having led the team to a Test series victory in South Africa, but then got himself arrested for drink driving and causing an accident in Colombo on Sunday, and may now probably face some sanctions. Other teams are getting down to finalising the last one or two spots in their World Cup 15s. Sri Lanka have not only failed to finalise their captain yet, all their options seem to be getting worse every week.
Test cricket death watch
Everyone knows Test cricket has long been on the verge of dying. In March a global survey conducted by the MCC has found that the long format may remain on its deathbed longer than ever imagined. Having asked over 13,000 fans across 100 countries, the survey found that about 86% of respondents named Tests their preferred format. If these results (along with the results of a similar survey conducted by the ICC last year) are to be believed, we could be set to watch Test cricket die for another 50 years.
Next month on The Briefing:
- Test cricket doing more dying than ever, as research reveals more and more fans become interested in doomed format.
- Faf du Plessis pulls off a perfect last-ball, D-L chase, improving South Africa's set-up for the inevitable punchline.