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Do India and Sri Lanka really face-off more frequently than other teams?

Australia and England have played each other a whopping 63 times; India-Sri Lanka contests come third on the list with 43 © AFP
Australia and England have played each other a whopping 63 times; India-Sri Lanka contests come third on the list with 43 © AFP

With the ICC World T20 final approaching several sarcastic comments regarding the frequency of India-Sri Lanka matches have been doing rounds on social media. Abhishek Mukherjee tries to find out how frequent India-Sri Lanka matches have been.

Whenever Sri Lanka takes on India in an international contest of any sort, there is a general tone of dismay among (especially among the Indian fans): not an India-Sri Lanka match again! The general notion is that India and Sri Lanka play each other more frequently than any other pair of teams in the world.

Of course, this is not true, given the routine the Australians and the Englishmen follow in the oldest surviving contest in international cricket. In the past five years Australia and England have played each other a whopping 63 times; India-Sri Lanka contests come third on the list with 43, next to (this may come as a surprise) the 46 Pakistan-Sri Lanka matches.

However, the comparison is a tad unfair, given the number of matches each side has played: while Australia has played 244 international matches, South Africa has played only 177, so it is only logical that Australia will have more matches per opponent.

A more valid parameter will be to calculate the percentage of matches played against the most prolific opposition with respect to all matches played by that side. In other words, if England has played 226 matches, of which 63 have been against Australia, 63/226 should be the number to look at instead of 63.

Let us check the most prolific oppositions for each team over the past five years. We are leaving out Zimbabwe since a substantial proportion of their matches have been against Bangladesh.

Note: We are using No. 1 opposition, No. 2 opposition, etc to denote the oppositions a side has played most frequently against for the sake of simplicity.

Team Matches No. 1 opposition (1) Matches vs (1) % Matches vs (1)
England

226

Australia

63

27.88%

Australia

244

England

63

25.82%

South Africa

177

Pakistan

36

20.34%

Sri Lanka

232

Pakistan

46

19.83%

Pakistan

233

Sri Lanka

46

19.74%

Bangladesh

139

Zimbabwe

27

19.42%

India

228

Sri Lanka

43

18.86%

West Indies

197

India

34

17.26%

New Zealand

184

Sri Lanka

28

15.22%

As is evident, India are actually seventh on the list. What has led to the notion, then? Is it the number of matches played by India against Sri Lanka compared to the second name (Australia in India’s case) on the list? Let us find that out.

Team Matches No. 1 opposition (1) Matches vs (1) No. 2 opposition (2) Matches vs (2) (1)/(2)
England

226

Australia

63

India

31

2.03

Australia

244

England

63

India

35

1.80

South Africa

177

Pakistan

36

England

26

1.38

Pakistan

233

Sri Lanka

46

South Africa

36

1.28

India

228

Sri Lanka

43

Australia

35

1.23

Bangladesh

139

Zimbabwe

27

West Indies

22

1.23

New Zealand

184

Sri Lanka

28

Pakistan

24

1.17

Sri Lanka

232

Pakistan

46

India

43

1.07

West Indies

197

India

34

Australia

32

1.06

Once again, though India ranks fifth on the list (marginally ahead of Bangladesh) there is no reason to believe that they play Sri Lanka more frequently than they play others. It is just another common notion among people who assume more than probe.

 (Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in and can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)

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