Why Bangladesh vs Sri Lanka is so watchable even when they aren't playing

"I mean, we have not played for six months! So asking for another two weeks of sitting around is just preposterous, which is why postponing is better" Raton Gomes/BCB

The Briefing takes a tongue-in-cheek look at the month gone by

The Mumbai Indians are tanking their early matches, the Royal Challengers Bangalore have already produced a batting collapse, MS Dhoni is attracting critical words, which he will obviously go on to make his detractors eat in a few weeks, and an umpire has been rinsed in public by a Bollywood star. The world might still be eating itself, but the IPL provides some semblance of normalcy. Such is the commitment to normalcy that even the foreign cheerleaders have been done away with. We can all now agree about how hugely messed up that was, right? I mean, wow. Thirteen years we've mostly pretended like it wasn't completely stupid.

You can stop now
Look. We understand. This year has been nuts. Hospital orderlies have to go to work wearing more protective gear than gladiators. Regular people have become epidemiologists on social media. Many sportswriters became couch potatoes through the course of the pandemic. And to fill that gap, some cricketers became sports reporters. In the early months, Tamim Iqbal was prolific, interviewing the likes of Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Kane Williamson on his various channels. Later, R Ashwin made waves with interviews of Kumar Sangakkara, Anil Kumble, Muttiah Muralitharan and, more recently, Rashid Khan. You know what? We get it. You've proved you can do our jobs. Point made. But the cricket has started now. And we need our jobs back. Get the hell back in your own lane.

Please, guys. We don't know how to do anything else.

The negotiation
Sri Lanka and Bangladesh were going to have a three-Test series starting in October, but that's no longer going to happen. Why? Largely it's because Sri Lanka's health authorities insisted on a 14-day quarantine, and the BCB felt that was too much to ask of players ahead of a World Test Championship series (there were legitimate concerns about maintaining fitness).

But what should have been a delicate and respectful negotiation process, as two boards attempted to organise a tour in difficult circumstances, descended predictably into bickering. The BCB's first complaint seemed to be that Sri Lanka's domestic season was going ahead so it was unfair to quarantine Bangladesh players - which seemingly did not understand the basic differences between domestic and international travel. Then, when one of the players in their training group began to display typical Covid-19 symptoms, the BCB announced that the player had tested "borderline negative". What does "borderline negative" mean? We can only guess.

Later the BCB suggested Bangladesh would not tour with anything more than a three-day quarantine, and after the tour was postponed, threatened to withhold permission for Bangladesh players to play in the planned Lankan Premier League, as a sort of vengeance on Sri Lanka's Covid guidelines.

The whole thing was drawn out, undignified, and counter-productive. The BCB would probably call their role in it "borderline competent".

The attack
As cricket's reckoning with race issues continues, former Yorkshire offspinner Azeem Rafiq revealed this month that he had been driven to the brink of suicide by his experience of racism while playing for Yorkshire. Although the county has since appointed a committee to investigate his allegations, Rafiq nevertheless had to endure an attack from the chairman of ECB Yorkshire South Premier League, Roger Pugh, who wrote that Rafiq was "discourteous and disrespectful" and that essentially he had reaped what he sowed. Why disrespectful behaviour could possibly deserve something as heinous as racism goes unexplored in Pugh's writings. Presumably he's the kind of person who sees someone get robbed in broad daylight and decides the victim had it coming if they thought that shirt and those trousers went together.

We're rooting for you
In other years we've made fun of Sri Lanka Cricket's repeated failures to start a local franchise T20 tournament. The board has cited various reasons for these failures: clashes with other tournaments, economic slowdowns, security issues. (Although SLC is trying to present itself here as a man slipping on multiple unforeseen banana skins, a more accurate analogy might be someone repeatedly tripping on their own shoelaces, which they have themselves accidentally tied together.)

In 2020, though, we need all the cricket we can get, so let us refuse to smirk at another SLC attempt to get the Lankan Premier League under way. Let us under no circumstances suggest that given its past with organising a T20 showcase, it's a wonder the board can organise for its legs to go into its pants every morning. Let us not sneer that the one solid, dependable, unchanging event on Sri Lanka's cricket calendar is the LPL postponement press release.

Let's instead cheer these fellows on, like nervous parents on the sidelines of a toddlers' soccer game, and try our best to signal which direction they should be running in.

The Shastrification of Shaw?
Back at the IPL, Prithvi Shaw, age 20, has seemingly been undergoing a transformation. Fans have noticed that with hair growing on his upper lip and thinning at the temples, he is increasingly looking like India supremo Ravi Shastri. Is this a blatant attempt to ingratiate himself with the India coach, with playing opportunities on the line? It makes some sense. If there's anyone who might fall for this type of unsubtle flattery, it's Shastri. Maybe Ambati Rayudu, Sanju Samson or Axar Patel - other players hoping for more India game time - should put on booming voices, adopt boasting as their primary form of communication, and start comparing everything around them to bullets.

Next month on The Briefing:

- Ashwin and Iqbal take over this column, putting regular writer out of work.

- Cricket world rejoices after the SLC gets as far as holding an LPL opening ceremony before cancelling the tournament this time. "Well done, you almost did it!"

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