By Nishad Pai Vaidya
The geographical proximity and the need to fill in the international calendar with a few meaningless tours has seen the Indian and Sri Lankan cricket boards cash in on their golden goose through frequent reciprocal visits. But in the bargain the overexposure has taken the sheen and excitement out of the contests.
Since February 2008, India and Sri Lanka have clashed in 44 One-Day Internationals (ODIs). India have been the dominant side as they have won 26 games - which includes victories in the Asia Cup, a tri-series in 2009 and the all-important 2011 World Cup final. While clashes tournaments like the Asia Cup and the World Cup were inevitable, the number of tri-series and bilateral series' is far too many for the liking. The overexposure compounds further when one factors the Indian Premier League (IPL) where a number of Sri Lankans parade their skills.
In a 16 month-span - from August 2008 to December 2009 - the two teams played three bilateral series' - two in Sri Lanka and one in India. In fact, the two face-offs in Sri Lanka were only five months apart. The 2012 series is the first bilateral series since the one in India in December 2009.
One would say that it is a fair gap between the two, but bring the tri-series' into the equation and the argument weakens big time.
In the last five years, India and Sri Lanka have contested together in a total of six tri-series'. Two of those series were played in Sri Lanka - both had New Zealand as the third team. All these contests were packed in between 2008 and 2010. Also, India and Sri Lanka have clashed in two Commonwealth Bank series' in Australia since 2008. If one breezes though the facts and figures discussed above, one would get the impression that they haven't played any other team.
To illustrate the point further, one must have a look at Virat Kohli's record as he made his international debut in the 2008 ODI series in Sri Lanka. Off his 90 appearances, 30 have come against Sri Lanka and five of his 13 hundreds were scored against them. Gautam Gambhir has played more matches and thus has faced more opponents, but six of his eleven ODI hundreds have come against Sri Lanka - another indicator of the frequency of the contests.
According to the Future Tours Programme (FTP) released by the International Cricket Council (ICC), the ongoing tour was supposed to be a three Test match affair. Considering the fact that the two sides last played Test matches against each other two years ago, it would have been a decently timed series. However, the two boards seem to have opted for the ODI series.
Also, the next Test series between the two teams is scheduled for 2015 in India - which is why a Test series now would have made more sense.
What the two respective boards must remember is that although cricket isn't a sport that boasts of a number of top tier teams, too many contests between the same sides is in overkill. It looks as if most of the series were scheduled for the sake of it as the FTP would indicate that two tri-series played in 2010 were additional and not on the original list. In the years ahead, there isn't much India-Sri Lanka cricket scheduled and the authorities would do well to adhere to it. Contests in Asia Cup or any other tournament may come, but there shouldn't be any more additional assignments.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a club-level cricketer with an analytic mind and a sharp eye. It was this sharpness which spotted a wrong replay in IPL4 resulting in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. Some of his analytical pieces have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. Nishad can also be followed on Twitter)