Test return, Thakur takeover, graceless Gayle: Cricket talking points

Osman Samuddin examines the week that was in the cricketing world, where the long format made a return from a long lay-off and Anurag Thakur took the reins of the BCCI.

England and Sri Lanka in action during their first Test match at Headingley on Saturday. Lee Smith / Action Images / Reuters / May 21, 2016
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Osman Samiuddin takes stock of the cricketing world with his weekly talking points:

Welcome back

Finally, nearly three full months after Australia beat New Zealand in Christchurch, Test cricket returned to the international calendar. All cricket in that time seemed to be Twenty20 and never has that format's place in the season seemed so overpowering. In the event, England's Test with Sri Lanka at Headingley did not end up lasting that much longer than a Twenty20 – it was over in three days, but had it not been for the weather, it would have been over in two. It took just over 160 overs (or four Twenty20s) but still it was something. Because the contest was so feeble, it also came with the must-have accessory for Tests these days, especially in England – namely, a conversation about whether Tests are dying? They are not, but the crowds were not great and the only people who would have been happy are those who have been advocating four-day Tests. A long summer awaits and Pakistan should provide sterner opposition but that conversation is not going to go too far away.

Thakur takes over

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) sneezes and the cricket world catches a cold? That is the way, right? How about when a new man takes control of the BCCI? The world holds its breath. On Sunday, Anurag Thakur was elected BCCI president at a special general meeting, taking over from Shashank Manohar. At 41, Thakur is one of the youngest of the 34 heads of the Indian board. He was elected unopposed as the sole candidate who stood for the post. He is the 12th (including two interim heads) since 2004, a period in which the BCCI, regardless of who heads it, has flexed its financial muscles like no board before it. Thakur is not likely to be much different from the increasingly bullish men who led before him though unlike them who could look outwards, he has his hands full with domestic issues as a priority: the Lodha committee still hangs over the board and a coach is needed for the India side. Keep holding that breath.

Gayle again

It would be great if this was about Chris Gayle hitting big runs again; Chris Gayle joining AB de Villiers and Virat Kolhi in taking T20 batting to its most berserk levels for the Royal Challengers Bangalore. It is, sadly, not. Gayle had 19 runs in five innings for Bangalore before he finally found some form, hitting 49 and 73 in successive games. But even that return to runs will now be overshadowed by an interview he has given to The Sunday Times magazine, in which he has once again landed right back into the middle of a sexism row. Gayle made a string of wildly inappropriate comments to the reporter Charlotte Edwardes, continuing a saga he began earlier in the year when he propositioned a female journalist live on air. It is likely to land him in some kind of trouble though he will still play in England in the T20 Blast this summer. He also claimed that there was an inherent racism in his vilification in recent months.

Game of the week

It was hardly a contest and barely a result, but the return of Test cricket was a moment of cheer. And there was some good cricket littered in England’s first Test of the summer against Sri Lanka – Dasun Shanaka’s debut burst, Jonny Bairstow’s bristling, resuscitative hometown hundred and, of course, James Anderson’s ten-wicket return.

Player of the week

MS Dhoni – The temptation is to give it to James Anderson for this 10-45, but that is mitigated slightly by Sri Lanka’s feebleness. Instead, it has to be MS Dhoni, who somehow ransacked 23 off the last over – including two sixes off the last two balls – to finish a chase. Dhoni even refused some singles in the course of the over, choosing to leave himself needing 12 off two to win it. If he is fading, he is not doing it quietly.

Match-up of the week

A couple of years ago Sri Lanka came to England and snuck away with a remarkable Test series. This time it will not be so easy, as evidenced by the shellacking they received in the first Test. They have a decent attack but as in the first Test, their batting is a major worry going into the second.

Stat of the week

55 – The number of years since an English fast bowler last took ten wickets in a match at Headingley, as James Anderson did this week. The last man to do it was Fred Trueman who took 11 for 88 in an Ashes Test in 1961.

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