Andrew Fidel Fernando
The chaos harnessers
Sri Lanka’s greatest results have largely been unexpected. They won the 1996 World Cup as rank outsiders, at a time when their cricket board had less than US$6000 at its disposal. In 2014 they won a World T20 after dropping their captain halfway through the tournament, while simultaneously in the midst of a contracts standoff with their board. This month, arguably their greatest Test series victory ever was achieved despite such a gigantic list of handicaps that it would take the entire word count of this column to list them all.
To just dip our toes, though: captain Dinesh Chandimal had been dropped, their best batsman (Angelo Mathews) and three of their top four fast bowlers were injured, and their coach was convinced his bosses were trying to fire him, largely due to a series of humiliating losses.
Three months out from the World Cup, Sri Lanka are ranked eighth in ODIs and haven’t won a series in that format since the Triassic, so on the surface it would seem they don’t have much of a chance, right? But what if the selectors and board worked proactively to create as much chaos as possible – something they are already pretty good at? Come the World Cup in June, Chandimal should be repeatedly appointed captain, only to be sacked just before every toss, SLC officials should start fist fights in the president’s boxes, and the coach should be dangled by the feet from the dressing-room balcony for the duration of all of Sri Lanka’s games.
These pros ain’t loyal
As if suffering one of the great upsets of all time wasn’t enough for South Africa, they have also now been stabbed in the back by one of their promising talents. Fast bowler Duanne Olivier, who has 48 Test wickets at 19.25, has signed a Kolpak deal with Yorkshire, and will no longer be available for South Africa despite Cricket South Africa having offered him a two-year contract.
Olivier seems to have been keen to get a county deal during the UK’s ongoing going-out-of-business sale (aka Brexit), but there is also a beautiful story here. The last time Sri Lanka toured South Africa, it was Kyle Abbott’s Kolpak deal that was revealed mid-series, and it was only then that a spot was freed up in the XI for Olivier to make his Test debut in the match. Could it be that somewhere in South Africa’s domestic system there are other young players busting their guts, week in week out, just yearning for the chance to wear that protea on their chests, just so they can very quickly turn around and deface it as soon as they start getting noticed?
Strong Yorkshire, strong England
“Strong Yorkshire, strong England,” is an adage that has been more or less incessantly on the lips of generations of Yorkshire fans. It is difficult to tell if this is actually true, but now, as Yorkshire are strengthening themselves by stealing players from other international sides, no one can deny they are at least making England stronger by comparison.
That good game lovin’
Spare a thought for Sanath Jayasuriya, who has been banned for two years on the back of corruption-related charges, which he says he accepted “for the love of the sport of cricket”, because fighting the case would have used up valuable ICC resources. It is great to see that he is taking such a principled stance here. Sure, he was accused of making political selections to the national team during two stints as chief selector, was booed out of that job in 2017, and failed to hand over his phone to the ICC’s anti-corruption unit, then got his story mixed up until eventually he was forced to use the “I had sex tapes on that device” defence, but at least he is not the kind of monster who would drive up the ICC’s legal costs.
Ahead of England’s first ODI in India, a reporter asked captain Heather Knight “how much confidence [her team] took from the England men” who had won an ODI in Barbados the previous day. Having essentially been asked if her team had a higher chance of winning because a completely separate team won on a different continent, Knight answered: “None at all. We’re here to answer questions about women’s cricket.” Which begs the further question – when can women cricketers expect just the same media treatment as the men? When can they, for example, expect to not have to face insensitive questions, but merely the stupid ones their male counterparts face all the time, such as “Are you disappointed to lose?” and “What do you want to do in this series – win, lose or draw?”
Next month on the Briefing
– A county updates its motto. “Strong South Africa. Strong Yorkshire.”
– SLC hires arsonist to set dressing room alight during games. “Will really fire up the boys.”