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With little context, this tri-series could be looked upon as another blow to Test cricket, but for the teams, it provides a chance to grow, build and streamline their ODI outfits
June 27, 2013
Seen from one perspective, this tri-series could be the latest instance of Testicide - the act by which a scheduled Test match or series is aborted (or rescheduled, to an unspecified date) by cash-strapped boards for the big money that a one-day series, preferably involving India, brings in. The WICB and SLC achieved that by scrapping the two Tests they were scheduled under the FTP to play against each other in May; they also managed to convince India to be the third team in a one-day tri-series that starts in Jamaica five days after the Champions Trophy ended in England.
But, as MS Dhoni might have put it in one of his interesting metaphors, if a delivery van has been assigned a particular route, there is little the driver, or anybody else, can achieve by fantasising about how good some other route may have been. And this route has one major attraction: The full-strength squad fielded by each country.
Barring a couple of injuries, and in West Indies' case, the need to cull a couple of players for a smaller home-series squad, all three squads are identical to the ones that participated in the Champions Trophy. These are first-choice squads, not some watered-down versions that may have made up the numbers in numerous forgotten one-day series in the past. The boards are quite serious about this series alright.
What about the teams? Host captain Dwayne Bravo has had a heartbreaking start to his limited-overs leadership, with West Indies exiting the Champions Trophy following a rain-hit tied match against South Africa. As Bravo said after the game, West Indies are trying to grow and build a stronger one-day team. New Zealand and Zimbabwe were the last two visitors to the Caribbean. Compared to them, the challenge posed by India and Sri Lanka will aid West Indies' development as a one-day unit. Admittedly, the hosts have made some strides. Having gone more than four years without winning at home against opposition excluding Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, they drew with Australia in March 2012 and then won 4-1 against New Zealand. What Bravo will also want is to grow into his new leadership role. As of now, he is captain in only one format, and taking on two well-drilled ODI outfits can only make him develop further.
The road ahead is tough for Angelo Mathews. Not only does he have to evolve as a captain and a player, he also has to make sure Sri Lanka's reliance on the seniors goes down progressively as the 2015 World Cup approaches. India have successfully achieved that transition in ODIs, so much so that, the window on seniors such as Virender Sehwag seems to be all but closed. Sri Lanka appear to be nowhere close to achieving that. The absence of the injured Tillakaratne Dilshan in this series is a small opportunity, one which Mathews will hope he and Sri Lanka can use to their benefit.
The last time India won a world title, they had Sachin Tendulkar, Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh and Zaheer Khan in the line-up. In just over two years, the nucleus of the one-day side has changed beyond recognition. Who would have thought an opening combination of Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma would win the Champions Trophy? The selectors had indicated their focus on the 2015 World Cup by selecting a young side for the Champions Trophy, and have chosen to continue with the same approach for this series. These four or five games, against reasonably tough opposition, aren't bad for a young unit to build its confidence further.
Coming to overall context, this series has none. Of course, it isn't the first one-day series, bilateral or tri-nation, devoid of it. Nor will it be the last. Some might argue that a bilateral Test series between West Indies and Sri Lanka, in the absence of a Test Championship, would not have provided any more context. But at least in that case, the game would have been spared the latest instance of Testicide.
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