Making Jane a plain Jane!

For all the good neighbourly relations and bonhomie, the cricketing dynamics between India and Sri Lanka have been bordering on excess. It isn’t exactly a case of familiarity breeding contempt but surely it is a tale that nudges in a sense of boredom.

The Sri Lankan team, led by captain Dinesh Chandimal (right), arrives in Kolkata on November 8, while the Indian team prepares (facing page) for the series which began on November 16. The teams met only recently in Sri Lanka and the current series looks like an overkill.   -  PTI

The links between India and Sri Lanka have been forged through mythology (Ramayana), religion (Buddhism), labour (indentured Tamil workers in the Ceylon plantations during the colonial era) and a love for tea and cricket. The ties have made light of the Palk Strait that splits the two countries and more importantly it is a relationship which has tided past the after-effects of the island’s civil war.

The back-story is one of solidarity and faith despite the odd doubt. Yet for all the good neighbourly relations and bonhomie, the cricketing dynamics between the nations, have been bordering on excess. It isn’t exactly a case of familiarity breeding contempt but surely it is a tale that nudges in a sense of boredom.

READ: Comprehending the seriousness of the series against Sri Lanka

It looks like just yesterday that Virat Kohli’s men were criss-crossing Sri Lanka playing three Tests, five ODIs and a lone Twenty20. That tour stretching from July 21 to September 6 happened barely two months ago! With India still basking in the after-glow of winning every international fixture on that visit, Dinesh Chandimal’s men are already in India with a rain-marred first Test underway at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens at the time of going to the press.

The visiting seamers have rattled the Indian top-order and yet there is a sense of torpor as familiar rivals joust repeatedly on the maidans. The current tour which concludes on December 24, has two more Tests, three ODIs and three Twenty20s in the pipeline. This isn’t the first time that India and Sri Lanka have squared off a touch too often in whites or coloured clothing. In the past there were multiple series in the 1993, 93-94, 1997, 97-98 seasons. Keeping aside the World Cup tussle in the 1970s, the cricketing equation between India and Sri Lanka, formally commenced in 1982-83 and picked up pace in the last decade and a half.

 

The current sporting skirmishes with Sri Lanka are much akin to the ones against the West Indies, often shoe-horned into quickly scheduled series, like the one that featured Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement in 2013. At least back then there was the great man’s swansong and the outpouring of affection and gratitude from the multitudes, to deal with and recognise.

Cut to the present, a context is sorely missing. This series looks more like an after-thought besides the pressing need to keep the broadcasters happy with more play-days. The dream is that Kohli’s troops will keep churning out victories against an enfeebled Sri Lanka. The Emerald Isle has had sturdy warriors across decades, be it Duleep Mendis, Roy Dias, Arjuna Ranatunga, Aravinda de Silva, Sanath Jayasuriya, Chaminda Vaas, Muttiah Muralitharan, Mahela Jayawardene or Kumar Sangakkara, but now the cupboard seems empty. There is Rangana Herath and company to deal with but still this isn’t an outfit that could test the Indians and offer a fitting prelude to the more strenuous tour of South Africa early next year.

Matches between cricketing squads need space, an adequate interval to prepare, enough time to nurse a little nostalgia and consequently help build a yearning in the fans’ hearts. The Ashes does that brilliantly while India vs Sri Lanka or India vs West Indies doesn’t any more. It goes beyond the personnel involved and leans on the deja-vu that these contests engineer. Frequent games against the same set might help the players figure out each others’ nick-names but can keep the fans away.

Yes, there are revenues involved. It is reported that Star pays BCCI Rs. 43 crore per match and primary sponsor Oppo shells out an additional Rs. 4.61 crore for every game but in terms of ad-revenues, the broadcaster is dealing with a speculated 25 per cent cut. Obviously this isn’t a marquee series and the Indian economy’s sluggish turn over a year, means that brand managers will intensely scrutinise every rupee-expenditure.

A two-Test series against the West Indies was arranged hurriedly in 2013, but at least that had a context... the retirement of Sachin Tendulkar, who cracked 74 in his last innings in the final Test (also his 200th) at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.   -  K. R. DEEPAK

 

Ever since the Indian Premier League’s inception in 2008, Indian cricketers don’t have the luxury of an off-season. Hence when a window to recuperate opens like it did now, ideally the BCCI should have offered the players some respite. Kohli’s men could have stretched their limbs and pressed the snooze button or ironed out some chinks and polished their craft by playing for their respective States in the Ranji Trophy.

But utopia doesn’t exist, a fine-balance is always elusive and India, be it in whites or in the blue-shade, has to slug it out with the Sri Lankans. Kohli’s men are expected to bulldoze the opposition because that is the accepted narrative but in case Chandimal’s men prove to be a banana-peel, then the knives will be out. Presently under cloudy skies, the Sri Lankan fast bowlers have asked some questions which the Indians failed to fathom and already that whisper has started — what will they do against the Proteas? Surely not an ideal state ahead of an acid test against speed merchants in South Africa.