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Stop the madness

India v Sri Lanka? Lord have mercy

Sidharth Monga

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Amit Mishra is congratulated for dismissing Suraj Randiv, India v Sri Lanka, Tri-series, 5th ODI, Mirpur, January 10, 2010
The horror, the horror © Associated Press
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One of these days the crowds will throw up in stadiums. On purpose. In synchrony. Mass streaking will happen.

They will put up tents in the heat and dust of Dubai, outside the ICC's headquarters, and smoke hash and play rebel songs until they get a written assurance that India and Sri Lanka won't play each other for the next five years. Not in Tests. Not in ODIs. Not in Twenty20. Not in women's cricket. Not in carrom. Not in women's carrom.

The written assurance will also have to guarantee that if India and Sri Lanka happen to reach the final of the 2011 World Cup, that match will be abandoned - dangerous pitch or not - and that the losing semi-finalists will play for the World Cup.

I have no doubt that Vijay Bahadur Mishra and Daljit Singh grew sick of it all and took the only route left for men of honour and dignity. They rolled out a monster of a pitch at the Feroz Shah Kotla, making sure at least one of these matches was called off. Or that enough players got injured, just in case the BCCI arm-twisted the SLC to keep playing. So what if they lost their jobs? It was a small sacrifice made for the Cause. So what if Kotla might miss out on World Cup matches? It's better than staging yet another game between India and Sri Lanka.

Soon Daljit and Mishra will find followers. They'll charge through the streets of Colombo and Kolkata, they'll stage candle-light protests outside Galle Fort and Gandhi Memorial. For there is only so much India-Sri Lanka cricket that humanity can take. Twenty-two ODIs in less than 19 months to go with six Tests and three Twenty20s.

This week's tri-series final will be the 121st ODI between these two great cricketing nations, beating the record held by Australia and West Indies, who started playing ODIs against each other four years before this particular venerable contest began. The best rivals bring out the best in each other; India and Sri Lanka have for months been excavating the worst out of each other.

Tillakaratne Dilshan and Yuvraj Singh drop a catch a match. Harbhajan Singh sees Sri Lankans and starts firing balls into the pads. Muttiah Muralitharan's bowling shoulder almost came out of its socket, and to make sure it didn't fall out along with the next delivery, he vowed never to play India again. Mendis' middle finger is about to break. Nehra has refused to perform two acts in any one match: bowling and fielding.

 
 
How can one fall asleep with a Sangakkara lbw appeal for a ball pitched three feet outside leg just around the corner? Insomniacs' nightmare, more like
 

It's not the traditional boring contest, the kind Wisden and Cricinfo love to call an insomniacs' dream. Because there is always Sangakkara, who has become so desperate he has forgotten cricket rules, jumping up and down like he has stepped barefoot on a hot plate every time a ball as much as kisses the pad. And he doesn't even say "How was that?" How can one fall asleep with a Sangakkara lbw appeal for a ball pitched three feet outside leg just around the corner? Insomniacs' nightmare, more like. These matches resonate long after they are over. Painfully.

I don't know how Dilshan, the wannabe Sehwag, feels about it, but he seems to have scored 8000 of his 9000 international runs against India. And what of Gambhir, the greatest Indian opener since Gavaskar? We have forgotten the last time he scored a run against a team that was not wearing a shade of blue darker than his own uniform.

The only saving grace is the rare honourable man such as Dhoni, who slows the bowling rate down under the guise of discussing strategy, and gets himself banned for two ODIs. That's the closest we will get - in this corporate world - to Gandhi's Non-cooperation Movement.

Time the statisticians joined in the protest. Just like they don't consider matches against Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and other non-Test playing nations when carrying out a qualitative analysis, all India-Sri Lanka matches should be disqualified. This torture has gone on for too long, and there should be hell to pay. Sehwag should stand at two double-centuries fewer, and five of Dilshan's international centuries should be struck off the record, never mind how delightful some of those innings were.

Only then will these sides stop fighting each other like slave-gladiators from Rome. Cricket needs Marleys, Dylans, Guevaras. The BCCI and the SLC want blood, like the emperors of old. Somebody has to stop them. Is there no one man enough to stand up to them? Is anybody listening? Maximus, anybody?

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo

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