Sachin's shocking reveal, and Bangladesh's unshocking win
The contracts crisis extravaganza
If any series featuring West Indies was the contest to watch in the 1980s, and Australia were the team to follow in the noughties, then in this decade, no rivalry has been as grand and as storied as that of cricketers versus their respective home boards.
The West Indies board has been at full-scale nuclear war with many of their players, the Pakistan board has maligned seniors and put junior players on notice, while Sri Lanka Cricket made the contracts dispute with its players an annual fixture between 2012 and 2015.
As cricket becomes more commercialised, and franchise tournaments grow in power, we can expect more player v board clashes in the coming years. So why not pick a side to support, and enjoy Cricket Australia's ongoing pay dispute with the Australian Cricketers' Association.
The players, such as Steven Smith and David Warner, of course, are well-known, but in match-ups such as these, cricket lovers also get the chance to learn more about the administrators taking part. What's James Sutherland's favourite boardroom move? What kind of pen is his weapon of choice? Perhaps CA could even print posters of their top negotiators, for kids to put up on their walls. What's especially rewarding is that unlike with cricketers, administrators are generally certain to stay in their posts for many years regardless of performance, so you can really build up a long-term bond.
At any rate, if you can't enjoy the drawn-out ebbs and flows of a months-long contracts crisis, perhaps you shouldn't call yourself a cricket purist.
The expectation expecter
Sachin Tendulkar's biopic-documentary Sachin: A Billion Dreams opened to much acclaim. On the day of its premiere, Tendulkar revealed to ESPNcricinfo that, "It would have been terrible to walk outside knowing that people are not expecting anything from me," and that he "would not have enjoyed" a low-pressure career.
Are you kidding me?
All those years pundits were telling us that cricket fans were too demanding of Sachin - that no one person should be prevailed upon to carry the hopes of so many - and we are only just now learning that Sachin not only enjoyed it, but that, in a sense, it was instrumental to his success? If we had known this sooner, entire nations could have threatened to throw themselves into wells if he didn't get runs, and the man might have scored 200 international centuries, instead of the mere 100 he managed.
And also, why have we, the public, like complete idiots, failed to continue piling this pressure on him, since his retirement? Maybe he's beyond playing top-level cricket now, but Sachin, if you're reading this, cancer lays waiting to be cured, the Great Barrier Reef is dying, and the evenness of the new pavements in Colombo leaves much to be desired.
The post-retirement superstars
Kumar Sangakkara scored a fifth consecutive first-class century, for Surrey, becoming only the eighth man to achieve that feat, and somewhere during that run, became the first Sri Lanka batsman to score 20,000 first-class runs.
In fact, the two haven't stopped lurching from success to success since they retired from internationals. In the first few months since their departure, Sri Lanka fans probably felt quite happy for them.
But given the present state of the Sri Lanka team they left behind, it has begun to feel like gratuitous taunting.
The not-at-all-empty threat
Early in the month, the BCCI agreed to send a team to the Champions Trophy, despite having had its payments from the ICC slashed, in April. This had followed several weeks of threatening to pull out of the ICC event in protest, which in past years had been an extremely successful bargaining strategy for the Indian board.
Below are excerpts of a BCCI press release following the decision to take part:
"Although we have decided to send a team to the ICC event this time, voting unanimously to do so at a Special General Meeting, this does not mean we weren't very, very serious about our threats to pull out of the tournament.
"In fact, it is pure coincidence that we have decided to fold on the very first occasion in years that the remainder of the cricket world has called us on our grandiose bluff.
"The BCCI cannot reiterate enough how much the threats of the last week, and indeed of the past few years, have NOT been an exercise in empty brinkmanship.
"The cricket world would do well to understand that our total and emphatic surrender this time absolutely does not, in any way, undermine any potential future threats to pull out of ICC tournaments.
"So, you know, be warned."*
The pressure experts
The approach to every ICC tournament is enriched by a much-loved and storied cricket tradition, by which I mean the ruthless poking of fun at South Africa, who have of course, been perennial… er… underachievers.
This year, however, South Africa have had to contend with a raft of Kolpak defections, so let us not be too mean with our jokes.
Let us not wonder, for example, how the South Africa team managed to all fit in one plane to England, given the amount of baggage they have accrued over many global events.
And let's not suggest that they cried so much upon their most recent exit from the 2015 World Cup that Eden Park's turf had to be dug up and re-sown, so salted was the earth with tears.
The non-shock non-upset
After a decade and a half of being patronised as the cricket world's impetuous little brother, Bangladesh have achieved some good form, but now find themselves talked down to by folks who characterise each of their victories as "shock upsets". To try and make up for this, The Briefing would like to sum up their recent victory in Dublin in the most respectful words possible:
In an entirely comprehensible turn of events, Bangladesh rose to No. 6 in the ODI rankings after defeating New Zealand by five wickets in standard cricketing fashion. The victory was delivered by an experienced Bangladesh top order and a well-led pace attack. The result conferred no great shame on New Zealand, who were beaten, after all, by a professional and well-drilled outfit from a cricket-loving nation, and not, you know, 11 guys running manically around the field vomiting and bumping into each other.
The great disarmament
Not since the Cold War nations met for their nuclear limitations treaties in the 1970s, perhaps, has any single power laid down their arms as willingly as Royal Challengers Bangalore this year. Royal Challengers had in their ranks Virat Kohli, Chris Gayle and AB de Villers - maybe the three most devastating T20 weapons in the world. And yet, RCB managed to come dead last in the IPL, winning only three of their 13 completed games. Along the way, they had registered totals like 49 all out, 96 for 9 and 119 all out. The UN's Office for Disarmament Affairs could probably learn a thing or two from that campaign.
*Not a real press release
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando