by Rex Clementine
The Board of Control for Cricket in India announced their home fixtures for next year and Sri Lanka have been slotted in for a Test series. However, unlike three Tests that has been customary between the countries, this time around, India has reduced the series for just two Test matches.
Accordingly, Sri Lanka will play in Bangalore and Mohali early next year, the first time they will play in a southern state since 2005.
Interestingly, it seems that the big three – India, Australia and England – are now content in hosting Sri Lanka for two Tests only although all three nations have hosted the team for three Tests overs the years.
England and Australia, the founder members of the ICC, restricting Sri Lanka for two Tests is understandable but India’s stance will be a bitter pill to swallow for traditionally they have been Sri Lanka’s strongest ally.
It can be easily pinned down to Big Three wanting to engage in more games between them. This year alone, England and India have played eight Test matches (four in India and four in England) and a ninth Test in Manchester was cancelled due to fears of outbreak of COVID.
However, the fact that Sri Lanka have own problems to sort out cannot be ignored as the standard of our cricket has downgraded rapidly
The last time Sri Lanka beat one of the Big Three was back in 2016, against Australia. Since then, they have lost five Tests to England, four Tests to India and two to the Aussies. Into the bargain, both India and England have handed Sri Lanka 3-0 whitewashes in our own backyard.
There are few ways for Sri Lanka to win back the recognition and their dues. One of that is by improving their rankings. Currently, Sri Lanka are ranked eighth in Test match cricket while none of their players; batsmen, bowlers or all-rounders are ranked among the top ten. Basically, that sums up the story and status of our cricket.
India has been a huge pillar of strength over the years, bailing out Sri Lanka Cricket umpteen times. Whenever there has been a financial crunch at Maitland Place, it is not Dubai, Lord’s or Jolimont Street that our cricket bosses dial up but Bombay.
India have never said no and their tours have brought in millions in foreign exchange that help SLC to invest on the game.
In recent times however, instead of sending their full strength sides, India have sent their back up players; like when they won the Nidahas Trophy in 2018, a tournament in which Sri Lanka didn’t even reach the finals. Then, again early this year when Rahul Dravid magnanimously continued the series scratching the barrel when the Indian bubble was compromised and several players were down with COVID. Incidentally, India was fielding two teams at the same time. While Virat Kohli was leading their Test side in UK, Shikhar Dhawan was in Colombo skippering the white ball team.
India’s second string teams beating full strength Sri Lankan sides is no good sign and we have only ourselves to blame.