As the Sri Lanka cricketers celebrated the dismissal of Wriddhiman Saha on the third day of the first Test in Kolkata, there was hardly any crowd at Eden Gardens cheering for them.

Even as India and Sri Lanka played some intense cricket, Eden Gardens largely remained empty. And as the teams gear up for the second Test in Nagpur, there is a big question mark over the relevance of hosting such a series ahead of India’s much-awaited tour of South Africa.

While some cricket experts believe that playing against Sri Lanka will help India fix its loose ends before travelling to South Africa, legends such as Erapalli Prasanna feel that there was absolutely no need to play a meaningless series against Sri Lanka at this point of time.

“There is no relevance (of such a series). Indians have played a lot of cricket over the months, and it was necessary to give some rest to the players and allow them to regroup,” says Prasanna.

READ: Making Jane a plain Jane!

The former India off-spinner is also of the view that after the limited overs series against Australia and New Zealand, a rather low-profile series against Sri Lanka was “completely uncalled for.”

“Before a long South Africa tour, which will go on for a couple of months, it is important for a side to be fresh — both physically and mentally,” Prasanna says.

With the series against Sri Lanka ending on December 24, the Indian team will fly to South Africa three days later. The BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) has indicated that there would be a preparatory camp for the Indian team ahead of the tour. Which means, the players will hardly get any rest. “It is a ridiculous thing (to host a series against Sri Lanka now). The players have to last for two months in South Africa, so if they get tired, it will reflect on their form during the later part of the tour,” Prasanna says.


Nuwan Zoysa... “For a young Sri Lankan side, it is a great moment to play against the World No. 1 team. For India, too, this series is about getting things in place before a heavyweight series.”


Former India fast bowler Irfan Pathan, however, has a different take on this. Having played at the highest level for a fairly long time, he feels that every international fixture has its relevance. “With every game, a cricketer is going to get better. You can’t improve your game just by practising. That will happen only when you play some serious cricket. It will boost your confidence,” says Pathan.

“There is a huge difference between practice and playing a match. In the first Test, Indian batsmen were tested on the first two days, and that actually gave them a lesson. These are the things you won’t be learning just by practising,” he adds.

And it is for this that Pathan refuses to underestimate the Sri Lankan team, which is in a transition phase. “This challenge is also necessary before the South Africa tour. Though things will be different there, but at least this will give the Indian team a chance to get its house in order,” he says.

Former India wicket-keeper Deep Dasgupta, however, does not see the series against Sri Lanka as a preparation for the South Africa tour. “I am not too sure if we can see it that way. Things will, however, be clear once the series progresses. If the pitches in Nagpur and Delhi also have as much bounce and carry (like Eden Gardens), then only we can say it is a preparatory series,” he says.

While many feel that it was not a perfect decision by the BCCI to host a series against a relatively weaker Sri Lankan side, Dasgupta differs. “The BCCI has asked for a window for the home season, and it is only fair to have a home season. And this is a little more confident Sri Lanka side (than the one that played against India in July-August). After winning against Pakistan, the Lankan side has got confidence, so it is unfair to raise questions over the relevance of the series,” he says.

Echoing a similar view, former Sri Lankan fast bowler Nuwan Zoysa says the series will help both teams to improve their game. “For a young Sri Lankan side, it is a great moment to play against the World No. 1 team and get prepared for a busy season next year. For India, too, this series is about getting things in place before a heavyweight series. That is enough motivation for both the teams,” says the bowling coach of the Sri Lanka ‘A’ team.

Though he agrees that the Sri Lankan team is relatively young and inexperienced, Zoysa is of the view that such series actually benefit the cricketers.