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Sri Lanka cricket tour a waste for India (Column: Close-in)
The idea of India sending two teams, one to England to play the Test series there and the other to Sri Lanka for limited-overs series was actually demeaning to the very essence of a national side.
One can debate on the fact that India can make two international level cricket teams. If so, one wonders as to why India has not won a single major tournament in the last six years. The quantity is surely there for one to see, however, it is the skill and quality of a player at the top level that makes the difference.
Performance in the Indian Premier League (IPL) is a good indicator to unearth talented cricketers, but international cricket is an entirely different ball game.
The tour of Sri Lanka, involving three ODIs and equal number of T20Is, has been a waste for India. The whole exercise was a goodwill gesture by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to help Sri Lankan cricket board which is struggling financially.
One appreciates being nice to one's neighbour and to assist them in their hour of need, but one has to realise that national pride and prestige is at stake.
Apart from this, points are accumulated for qualifying for World Cup tournaments and so generosity may not be the best option.
The Sri Lankan side has been at the bottom of the heap of the Test playing countries and therefore for beating them, one felt, a full strength Indian side was not necessary.
India may have won the ODI series but had to face a defeat in the last game. In cricket, one never takes one's opponent lightly and India in doing so lost valuable points by losing a match. The Indian team had five players making their debut. Although, it was a golden opportunity for the youngsters, their performance against a relatively weak Sri Lankan side would not be an ideal indicator of their ability against top cricket sides.
Sri Lanka look like a team in complete disarray and the small wins against India have given them a ray of hope for their future.
Rahul Dravid, the coach of the Indian side to Sri Lanka, during the press conference insisted that his squad will play to win all the matches and that it will not be possible to give everyone an opportunity to play on such a short tour.
He too fell victim to the system by making changes. One felt that he failed to understand that this was not an India A side but an India senior side and that every match is important as it goes down in cricket history. A defeat will be documented for years to come. Furthermore, the successful players who were benched for no fault of theirs could have established themselves as certainties especially in such a competitive scenario.
The T20 series between India and Sri Lanka had to be completed despite the Covid infection of Krunal Pandya and the quarantine requirements of a few other players.
This is precisely why Indian cricket looks good with plenty of options. But the Indian team management is unable to finalise ideal combinations. The ODI World Cup was a good example of it. The middle-order batting turned out to be India's Achilles' heel and that was because India kept changing their players during the run-up to the tournament. In the T20 World Cup in October this year, India are hoping to get their best combination in place from the initial IPL matches in the UAE.
The IPL will be more of an Indian domestic affair and one has to understand that even in full flight, the bowling arsenal of each team is not as potent and of the same calibre as that of a good International side.
India need to be cautious that a Sri Lankan pandemic and quarantine situation does not arise in England. The BCCI needs to ensure that replacements are on call, if required, at short notice.
One dreads to think of an Indian side with fringe players being inducted to make their Test eleven. England would then have a field day and garner as many points as they can towards the World Test Championship.
After all England are far ahead of Sri Lanka in rankings and a team that India cannot afford take lightly.
(Yajurvindra Singh is a former Indian Test cricketer)
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