Cricket: Should India and Sri Lanka be playing each other?

The dust seems to be settling down in the premises of the Board of Control for Cricket in India following a week of utter madness.

On Tuesday, India named a 15-man squad for the first three matches of a hastily arranged five-match one-day international series against Sri Lanka in the first half of November.

Fortunately for the BCCI, the announcement of the squad has taken some of the spotlight away from the uproar caused by the touring West Indies team last Friday.

The picturesque and serene Dharamsala in the north of India had become a scene of chaos, at least in the world of cricket, when the West Indies announced they would be heading back home with a one-dayer, a Twenty20 International and three Tests still left to play.

The reason: a three-way dispute between the players, the West Indies Players Association (WIPA) and the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) over wages.

However, three days later, the BCCI announced that their most hospitable neighbours from the Emerald Isle had agreed to step in.

India made some changes to the squad that took on the West Indies. Most notably, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni has been rested for the first three games, with Virat Kohli taking on the armband.

Photo courtesy: himanisdas (Creative Commons)
Virat Kohli / Photo courtesy: himanisdas (Creative Commons)

Not many would argue against Dhoni warranting seven days of rest from his crammed cricketing schedule.

As someone who plays and captains all three formats of the game and with a long tour coming up Down Under, beginning at the end of November and culminating with the World Cup in February, one could even argue that Dhoni shouldn’t play the entire series.

But then, one could even debate whether this entire series was needed after all.

Assuming the series ends by November 15, that leaves India just nine days before their first tour game against a Cricket Australia Invitational XI at Adelaide.

The BCCI had its (financial) reasons. The West Indies tour was India’s only international home series this year and, according to the Guardian, the board stood to lose around $60 million with the pullout.

There was no way the BCCI were not going to try and fill up the gap in the calendar again. And there was no way the Lankans were going to turn down a request from the richest board in the world, no matter how their most experienced player felt about it.

So, without going into a fruitless discussion of whether India and Sri Lanka should or should not be playing each other, let’s go back to discussing the Indian squad, with an eye on Australia ahead.

One can only wonder whether Dhoni would indeed have been rested had Kohli not rediscovered his form against the Windies. The 25-year-old couldn’t buy a run in England, but he came back to score a fifty and a century in his last two games to take a load off the selectors.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who has had a long summer after playing all of India’s matches on their tour of England, has also been given a rest. His replacement is the promising speedster Varun Aaron, who impressed in England.

Giving Aaron company in the pace department is Umesh Yadav, who will be raring to impress the selectors ahead of the Australia tour. The prospect of seeing a fit and charged up Aaron and Yadav bowl from opposite ends in Australia would be a mouth-watering one for Indian fans.

Rohit Sharma, who has just recovered from an injury, is also not being risked by the BCCI for the first three games, although he has surprisingly been named in an India A squad to play a warm-up game against the Lankans before the ODI series.

The logic? Quoting one of Dhoni‘s favourite phrases at press conferences, ask the BCCI.

Meanwhile, Ravichandran Ashwin, who was rested against the West Indies, is back in the mix to lead the spin department along with AmitMishra and Ravindra Jadeja.

India and Sri Lanka have played each other in 15 ODIs since they clashed in the World Cup final in 2011. Between 2008 and 2010, they played 33 ODIs against each other. By now, they would probably know each other’s mannerisms better than their wives.

India vs. Sri Lanka is probably not going to offer anything unique, apart from perhaps a couple more run-scoring records being broken on highway-like surfaces.

But as long as the fans keep flocking through the turnstiles, which they will, and the BCCI‘s cash register keeps chiming, which it will, all is well.

(Featured image courtesy: Chubby Chandru)

*This article was first published on Bleacher Report here.

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