Why is nothing being done?
Sure, cricket has come a long way in the area of player safety. But if you think it can rest on its laurels, you've got another think coming. Even now, there are players out there unaware of the danger they are in. Did poor Mitchell Marsh know, for example, that when he was out for 53 in a Sheffield Shield game last month, he was only moments away from having his unsuspecting hand fractured by the dressing-room wall? Did he understand that he could hurt himself so badly, he is at risk of missing the first Test against Pakistan?
And is it not a travesty that in the 21st century cricket still keeps failing to keep its comically enraged and stupidly volatile players safe? When will they be free from the tyranny of concrete structures, metal lockers, bar toilet windows, and the eye sockets of drunken homophobes.
Maybe it's time player areas were fitted with foam padding. Perhaps pavilions could be torn down altogether and replaced with cloth gazebos. And if all that sounds too expensive, there is also the option of lining dressing-room walls with South Africa bowlers, who, judging by the tour of India, are not currently capable of being a threat to anyone.
It was a tumultuous month for Bangladesh star Shakib Al Hasan. Just last week he was the leading figure in Bangladesh's player strike, threatening to pull out of matches against India, in order to get better pay from the cricket board. Later, he also failed to show up to team training sessions. Then he was suspended for at least a year, for not informing the ICC about phone contact with a bookie.
Which means that although Shakib spent parts of last month failing to report to the cricket in order to send a message, in the end he got himself sent away from cricket for failing to report a message.
Strap a turbine to this mess
Are Sri Lanka a decent team? Or are they terrible? Early in October, they went to Pakistan with a team missing several first-choice T20 players (including captain Lasith Malinga), and thrashed the No. 1 ranked team in the world. In the third match, they even made five changes to an already depleted XI, and still won comfortably. Then they went to Australia (where they have never lost a T20 series before) with a full-strength side, and have been steamrolled in profound and embarrasing ways.
It's been like this all year. They were thumped in Tests in Australia, weeks before they changed the captain, dropped a bunch of players, and became just the third nation to win a Test series in South Africa. They stank up limited-overs cricket for the first five months, before breathing life into the World Cup by beating England, and then crushed Bangladesh at home in a bilateral series soon after.
It feels like global-warming energy challenges could be solved if we could just work out a way to harness the rate at which they oscillate from awful to awesome and back again, week by week. At the very least the collective blood pressure of Sri Lanka fans could power a major city.
Congratulations to the ECB, who in retrospect produced a masterstroke in announcing the Hundred more than three years ahead of its scheduled start, ensuring that all criticism had time to wear itself out and become replaced by resignation by the time this revolutionary competition begins.
What kind of smart are you?
Cricketers generally benefit from some of the best hospitality of any city they visit, but for Dean Elgar the hotels and food in "some of the smaller places" in India were not entirely satisfactory. "[India] is the one place I find where they are very streetwise and clever with the touring teams," he went on to say. "They definitely push your boundaries and test you." Which is fascinating because last year he had suggested that Sri Lanka had been "pretty streetsmart" for supposedly giving South Africa a flat surface for their practice match, before decking them on turning surfaces in the actual Tests.
Is there a pattern here? Has someone really been unfluffing players' hotel room pillows in the knowledge that it will correspond directly to low batting averages? Have showers been depressurised to ensure batsmen's feet get tangled up against spin?
And how much conniving exactly has gone into each of South Africa's seven consecutive Test match defeats in Asia?
Next month on The Briefing:
- Dean Elgar reacts to getting a speeding ticket. "What I will say about the police is that they made this stretch of road very straight. They're streetsmart like that, and that's a learning I'll take with me."
- The ECB pushes the Hundred back another few months to cleverly ensure even the last straggling critics will have lost interest by then.