Much has been made of India’s losing record in SENA countries (South Africa, England, New Zealand, Australia). Not only are the conditions hostile, the home teams are hostile too.
What better than to play an old ally at the world’s most demanding cricket grounds. Too often India’s wins against Sri Lanka have been demeaned because the matches are played in Asia.
Not anymore. Ravi Shastri who was still gung-ho after India’s series defeat said:
“If you look at the last three years, we have won nine matches overseas and three series (against West Indies and twice in Sri Lanka)”
While Shastri was in for some sharp criticism for his comments as usual, BCCI’s latest ploy to play Sri Lanka in England has been welcomed by Indian cricketers both past and present.
Sachin Tendulkar welcomed the move saying that it was, “good for competitive cricket between the two neighbours.”
He continued in his usual balanced way, “Sometimes neighbours have to get out of their comfort zone and play each other away. I look forward to India playing other neighbours like Bangladesh and Afghanistan out of Asia, it will make for good cricket”
When asked whether he rued not playing Sri Lanka in England, the Master Blaster answered with his usual straight bat, “No, there is a time for everything, those were different times, I was happy to play England in England and Australia in Australia, it was a different challenge”
Would playing Sri Lanka in SENA countries have helped Tendulkar reach hundred 100s any faster one cannot say, but it could well help Virat Kohli overtake the record in much fewer matches.
Kohli was prompt when he said, “If that happens, I will take it but for me it will always be his record. He was the first to get there. He did it with centuries in England against England, with centuries against Australia.”
When reminded that he too had scored centuries in Australia and now twice in England, Kohli was at his modest best – “It’s very sweet of you to say so, but I would’ve taken a few centuries less for a series win in England against England but that was not to be”.
Playing Sri Lanka in England could mean India will not play the host nation in their own backyard. A BCCI spokesperson was quick to respond, “This is not the case, we will continue to play ODIs and T20s in England…there is such a huge Indian population that comes to these games…as you would have seen, the same is not the case for the Test matches played there…then it ends up being a mostly English crowd…we are quite sure when India plays Sri Lanka in England, the Indians living there will be back in big numbers…we have to think about our people who love to see India win”
West Indies, also an old ally of the BCCI, that sent their team for Tendulkar’s retirement, is miffed by BCCI’s latest move. A WICB (West Indies Cricket Board) spokesperson was livid: “We would’ve have expected a few games in England, there is a sizeable population from the Caribbean in the UK and they will feel hard done by this move…all I can say is, if and when Kohli retires, I hope they remember us again. As for Michael Holding, his comments do not represent the West Indies or its people who are huge fans of Virat Kohli.”
Kumar Sangakkara, who has had commentary stints throughout the English summer was at his diplomatic best, “Yes, doing commentary for teams that do not feature SIRI LANKAAH has its own set of challenges. One cannot pick and choose the series you play or do commentary for…I’ll be pleased to do commentary for SIRI LANKAAH playing India in England or for that matter anywhere in the world.”
When asked whether non-Sri Lankan commentators face certain challenges, he was deadpan though not without his trademark smirk, “I will be happy to help with the pronunciation of SIRI LANKAN names, especially the new players with long SIRI LANKAN names.”
Lasith Malinga, who will return to international cricket with the Asia Cup in a few days, last played a Test match more than eight years back. While Malinga has no plans to return to play Test cricket, he is open to coaching assignments: “I played 30 Tests. Bumrah has played 6 Tests. I know him from IPL also. No problem if I know him from other team. I’m open to coach umm.”
India’s top order that has an outstanding record against Sri Lanka, welcomed the move. Cheteshwar Pujara, who averages 57, 77 and 145 in the three series he has played against the Islanders spoke with a broad smile, “I cannot complain, I will be happy to play Sri Lanka on the moon too.”
While the immediate future looks bright, and a Test series win in England appears imminent, what happens when India fail to win the Murali-Kumble series (as it has been aptly named)? Will India invite other upcoming Asian teams to play them in England?
Where will this stop? Bangladesh in South Africa? Afghanistan in Australia?
It is also being learnt that one Ashes’ Test match will be shifted to India. In all probability, it will be a Day Night Test played at two different venues. After two days, there will be a rest day when the teams will move to a second venue.
A BCCI spokesperson offered an explanation: “In these times of IPL, we need Test cricket to adapt and be played in different locations…one Test, two venues is a start, hopefully, one day, we will have a Test match that is played in five different venues…from Mumbai to Madras sorry Chennai, from Delhi to Calcutta…sorry Kolkata to Kanpur…to Varanasi”. When informed that that was six venues, he laughed, “The more the merrier, we have to keep these cricketers on their feet!”
(However plausible this may sound, this is largely a work of fiction)
(Gaurav Sethi branded Bored Cricket Crazy Indians (BCC!) to bring bloggers together. He also branded Che Pujara, Jatman and Thank You Sachin! – as a cartoon, before it became a farewell cry. He used to work on brands. Now he works on himself. He tweets at @BoredCricket)