Commonwealth Bank Series 2011-12 February 4, 2012

Triangular shapes as big series for India

If all three teams are switched on, and if the pitches are juicy, the next few weeks could provide some exciting cricket

Australia was the original home of premier multi-nation ODI tournaments outside the World Cup before Sharjah and later the ICC Champions Trophy came along. There was following, prestige and recognition for all those who did well here. Coloured clothing, night cricket, excited commentators were the thing in the '80s, and that happened only in Australia.

Even in the '90s, even as other countries caught up and started their own events, ODI cricket in Australia remained big. The three finals were a unique concept, the jerseys remained funky, but with Australia becoming more and more dominant it became increasingly difficult to maintain the quality of competition over a whole summer.

Eventually the triangular gave way to more focused bilateral series, based of course on some market survey. It started as a big success with a competitive series between the hosts and South Africa, but last year was painful, when England had nothing left in the tank after the Ashes win. The triangular is back this year. Uncertain of its future but back nonetheless. It features the No. 1 side in ODIs, the reigning world champions and the side that lost the final.

However, the ODI world champions have just been handed a good-old thrashing in Tests and until last night seemed to have forgotten how to win away from home, the runners-up haven't been paid for a while and are going through administrative and leadership crises, and the No. 1 ODI side are on a roll from their Test triumph. On paper this can't be good news for a tournament making a comeback from the dead. And it's a format of the game struggling for relevance at a time when Twenty20 leagues are dominating the limited-overs market; the administrators are battling to bring context to those middle overs of ceasefire, constantly introducing new rules and gimmicks.

Around Christmas you could feel on the streets and in the pubs that a Test series was around. There was a buzz, which is all but absent now. It doesn't reflect in the numbers at the grounds, though. Try booking a hotel in Perth next week to find out. Forget the WACA, hotels in Perth are all sold out. There is a huge interest around this triangular, especially among the Indian fans.

In terms of a cricketing contest this summer can only go up. One-day cricket can be the levelling field. India can only improve from their show in the Tests. That lethargy and passivity is gone. The team is noisy, bouncing around, diving around, hitting the stumps direct. MS Dhoni has become more active. The change in the mood was an essential prerequisite after a gloomy summer and a half. Now comes the challenge of the skill. You can win the odd Twenty20 on fielding alone, but in ODIs the same young members of the side will have to pass the test of technique, and convert this enthusiasm into runs and wickets. There will be at least three batsmen wanting to stake first claim to the Test spots that open up later in the year. The next month is big for the Indian team.

Sri Lanka are going through a complex flux themselves. Millions of dollars were spent on building stadiums for the World Cup, but the players are not getting paid. While their first Test win in South Africa should ideally have been a catalyst for a major turnaround, it was followed by the change of captain. Coach Geoff Marsh was summarily sacked. So much goes on behind the doors there that the BCCI looks like a model organisation.

All this while, the players, though, need to march on regardless. This is the format Sri Lanka most love. It was in the 50-over format that they won their first series in Australia, last season. Angelo Mathews, the man responsible for the turnaround then, is now tipped to be the next captain, but such is the vacuum in the leadership that Mahela Jayawardene is making a comeback as skipper until such time that Mathews is considered mature enough. At least they are coming off a tough tour of South Africa, where, albeit after the series was lost, they became the first Sri Lankan team to successfully chase 300 in back-to-back games.

Rightly Australia go in as favourites, as Michael Clarke said. They are the No. 1 ODI side in the world, they are on home turf, they know the conditions best, and are carrying the confidence from the Test whitewash. They have been rebuilding since the World Cup, but have won all their ODI series since then, in South Africa, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. They haven't won either of their last two home triangulars, though, losing the final to India and England. They will want to regain that lost turf.

The limitations of the ODI format notwithstanding, if the curators dish up juicy surfaces, if all three teams are on, with their three different brands of ODI cricket, and with the following expected for the series, the next month could bring us some exciting cricket.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mihil on February 5, 2012, 9:33 GMT

    Don't let us down Sri lanka! Play hard like the last ODI's and show what you have to prove..

  • Mishim on February 5, 2012, 7:28 GMT

    @maddy20 Are you forgetting Sri Lanka got bowled for 43 in the first ODI in SA but then chased 300 in the final two ODIs. It's not how they started that counts; it's how they finished. They were playing arguably against the most formidable bowling attack in the world and still chased 300 in two consecutive matches at the end of a long arduous tour! Australia have similar conditions to SA so Sri Lanka are better prepared because they've just come off playing ODIs in similar conditions whereas India are fatigued having only played Tests in those conditions!

  • joseph on February 5, 2012, 6:59 GMT

    @Chetan Asher - Already Irfan was out of the team for playing an allrounder role. He needs to concentrate only on his bowling and improve from 120 to 135 atleast.

  • duminda on February 5, 2012, 6:27 GMT

    @Maddy Last time srilanka in australia srilanka have tharshed australia and won the odi & t20 series.U were still in a dream world, in 2007 its srilanka who beat australia in the final round game which let down there confidence in the final. india just manage to reach final only help from the rain washed out matches,srilanka bowled out for 43 in 1st odi but they were came back strongly in last 3 odi's and almost win the series, where india got white washed in england, and australia( one sided at its best) to show who is the poorest subcontinent team who cannot deliver any thing with even there senior players

  • V.L on February 5, 2012, 2:35 GMT

    @BravoBravo You gotta be kidding me. You are betting that a team that was bowled out for 43 in the SA ODIs has a better chance than India? If anything this is more like an Ind vs Aus ODI series and Aus have the upper hand. Remember that the last CB series in Aus was won by India also featuring Sri Lanka who were literally the punching bag of the tournament.

  • Luke on February 5, 2012, 2:18 GMT

    Will be a very exciting series indeed. Both Aus and India have very different teams for ODIs so I doubt the result of the tests will burden the players too much. Good to see the triangular series back as well.

  • Cricket Strategy on February 5, 2012, 1:34 GMT

    You may all be surprised, but the prediction is that India and SL will go to final and AUS will be left out. India is still a very good ODI team both at home and overseas. If you see, even in ENG, Indians played very well in ODIs and looked pretty good unlike in the Test. Somehow, the rain, D/L did not go their way. SL is always a formidable ODI team and they have all the capabilities to defeat AUS in AUS. Nevertheless, it will be one exciting series and it will go until the 3rd final! ADVISE for INDIA: Have faith on your spinners, and discard 3 pacers theory even though it's in pace-friendly pitches. Indian pacers do not know the winning formula (except Zaheer), whereas spinners can trouble Aussie hitters...Wrist spinners (left armers) are quite helpful in Aussie conditions. ADVISE for SL: Play to your potential. Malinga can be terrific! Batsmen need to be consistent. Kick the host out!! and entertain us like in last WC final...

  • Steve on February 5, 2012, 0:17 GMT

    by the way i am in melbourne and we may well loose a large chunk of this game may be rained out as it is building up at the moment. i reckon a rain shortened match on the cards. lets cross our fingers that it goes by quickly and we get some good play in !!!!!!:)

  • Steve on February 5, 2012, 0:15 GMT

    Before this all starts, best of luck in battle to all 3 teams. What i want is a good fair fight. If all 3 teams fire it should be consuming cricket. That's what every fan actually wants - GOOD CRICKET (with the exception of those that are so emotionally nationalistic that they boarder on delirium).....did I detect a sub-continental writer asking for juicy my my....

  • Vishal on February 4, 2012, 22:01 GMT

    Bring it on, India have nowhere to go but up. That's it, I will keep all the trash-talking to myself until the winner is crowned (go Team India, go).

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