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Why India playing Sri Lanka on a loop is someone's idea of a sick joke

by Gaurav Sethi

An India versus Sri Lanka series is not scheduled. It doesn’t belong to a predetermined itinerary. It’s conjured out of thick air reeking with miscellaneous pollutants by a sundry bunch of Indian cricket babus. And when it takes place, as it does now, it packs an otherwise lean period and gives a channel some more ad spots to sell.
To sell these fatigued spots, especially that of the Test series, is possibly the greatest challenge that any India-Sri Lanka series knows.
As for the cricket, few watch it. The few that do would still know very few names in the Sri Lankan playing eleven. Perhaps, a good game within the game would be to catch random cricket fans on the street and ask them to name five players in the Sri Lankan playing eleven. Ok, four. Three?
There can be few better ways to promote India-Sri Lankan cricket than taking the mickey out of it - start by rebranding it - "the series nobody wants to watch". Just that will create more interest than the long-drawn out name which has sponsors stuck both ways. What is it called? Naturally I don’t remember. But surely someone on Twitter does. Apparently not.
Does Google? “India-based ITW Consulting, sports management company in association with Sri Lanka Cricket and Sony Pictures Networks India Private Limited, has announced Seagrams Royal Stag Cricket Gear and Servo Lubricants as the Title and Powered by on-ground partners of the India Tour of Sri Lanka Cricket Test Series 2017.”
But what is it called? (h/t @Dilliwasi) All in all, it reads as Seagram’s Royal Stag Mega Cricket Cup Powered by Servo.
Why isn’t it named after cricketers like the India-Australia series is called the Border Gavaskar trophy? Possibly because no cricketer in his right mind wants his name to be dragged into a charade of a series. Otherwise, this would’ve been a great opportunity to make it the Murali-Kumble series.
Also, it’s thanks to so much "spin" that these series continue to happen. Perhaps the most enduring memory from India-Sri Lanka matches is of Vinod Kambli in tears during that 1996 World Cup semi-finals, how about Kambli-Kaluwitharana series? So while the name can be prefixed and suffixed with all the sponsors, in between can be a swift KK?
But if they want to beef up the names, who better than India’s greatest tormentor - Warnakulasuriya Patabendige Ushantha Joseph Chaminda Vaas. It would be befitting to call it the Seagram’s Royal Stag Mega Cricket WPUJ Chaminda Vaas Cup Powered by Servo.
As if this series wasn’t rough enough, there’s more – the return favour Test series in India this winter. Batting first and beating a battered Sri Lankan side wasn’t enough in less than three days, so let’s have them over, bat first and beat a battered homesick Sri Lankan side in less than two days.
As for away tours in testing conditions, they can wait, be abridged, and in no way challenge the juggernaut. The world’s No. 1 Test team must stay so, and for that to happen, the batsmen must score centuries, the bowlers must scalp five-fors, and for that to happen, they will do what they must do at all costs – play Sri Lanka, play Sri Lanka, play Sri Lanka, and play Bangladesh for relief. Yes, Australia and England and South Africa too, but only if we can host them.
But an India-Sri Lanka series isn’t all bad. It can be a holiday for some. Like discarded Test opener, Shikhar Dhawan, who was on holiday in Hong Kong, and continued to vacation in Galle and Kandy. 190 and 119, man of the series, that too without his moustache, what does that tell you? That next time India plays Sri Lanka, they might challenge themselves and all play clean shaven.
Then there was Hardik Pandya. So supremely Mad Max and a bolt out of the blue, you’d be forgiven if you missed his straight sixes. But if you preserved and watched this series, tied to a whipping post, salvation was at hand. Pandya video-gamed his way through a hapless bunch of zombies. So special was his innings, it belonged to another series. That he played it in Sri Lanka, against Sri Lanka, should not be held against him. He batted. He bowled. He even breezed his way to a distant ball to make it look easy like Sunday mornings.
India’s days of rest appeared to be many. They weren’t. They were a team on the ascent, just as Sri Lanka was on the decline.
It will be our misfortune to see these teams play each other again. But then the sponsors can’t put a gun to your head, so in all probability, you’ll give that return Test series a miss. 
Who knows, maybe you’ll only tune in when Hardik Pandya comes in to bat? Or join Shikhar Dhawan for another holiday in the middle?
Until then, it’ll be just another Test series nobody will watch.
And then they wonder why everyone keeps saying, “Test cricket is dying”. Guess you can take some of the people for a ride, some of the time, but you can’t take all the people for a ride, all of the time.
More so, when the ride makes them sick. I’m assuming people don’t want to hop on to a ride that makes them throw up.
Another branding idea, how about just calling it pu..

First published here


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