Overdosing on the same opponent
Teams that have played each other most often during short periods of time
A couple of days ago, Sri Lanka Cricket said they were hoping India would pay them a visit to play Tests and a tri-series later this year. Our immediate reaction was, "Again?!" Then we started thinking about which teams played each other most often during short periods of time, and came up with this.
India v anybody was a common fixture in 1983 - they played cricket on 107 days that year - but India v West Indies was the commonest of them all. They played 11 Tests - West Indies won 5, India 0 - and 11 ODIs - West Indies won 8, India 3 - a total of 64 days of cricket in all.
In 1984, Australia was West Indies' preferred opponent and they played them in ten Tests and 12 ODIs. West Indies won six of those Tests and went undefeated, unless you include the Sydney Test which finished in 1985, while in the one-dayers they won nine, lost two with one tied. However, despite their dominance over India and Australia, West Indies failed to win the most important match of those years - the 1983 World Cup final at Lord's.
If we expand our timeframe to two years, then the India-Sri Lanka jousts of 2008 and 2009 are easily the most between any team. The teams began 2008 by playing four ODIs against each other in a tri-series in Australia and faced off in two more matches during the Asia Cup in Pakistan in July. India then toured Sri Lanka for three Tests and five ODIs in July-August. After a gap of a few months, India visited Sri Lanka again in January-February 2009 for five more ODIs and a Twenty20. They won four of the one-dayers and the Twenty20 as well. Not yet satisfied, India returned in September, this time for a tri-series involving New Zealand and the hosts. They played Sri Lanka twice and lost once. Now it was Sri Lanka's turn to visit and they toured India in December for three Tests, five ODIs and two Twenty20s.
So over the last two years, India and Sri Lanka have played a whopping 32 matches against each other across three formats - six Tests, 23 ODIs and three Twenty20s. That's 52 days in all. And they want more.
Even if we look at a five-year span, India and Sri Lanka have still played each other the most times. Between 2005 and 2009, they played 51 matches against the other - nine Tests, 39 ODIs and three Twenty20 internationals.
India evidently like to do things in extremes. In the early 1990s they barely played Pakistan but between 1996 and 2000 India played them in 44 ODIs and three Tests. Between 2003 and 2007, India and Pakistan played 12 Tests, 28 ODIs and two Twenty20s and between 2004 and 2008, 12 Tests, 31 ODIs and two Twenty20s.
Incidentally, the most days of cricket between teams over a span of two years is only 65 - one more than the number India and West Indies played against each other in 1983. Australia played 55 days of cricket - 10 Tests and 12 ODIs - against West Indies in 1984. They played another 10 against West Indies in 1985 - no two teams have played more against each other in two years.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Australia and England played each other an astonishing number of times. Including multi-nation tournaments, Australia toured England in seven out of 11 seasons between 1975 and 85, while England returned the favour in eight out of 14 seasons between 1974-75 and 1987-88.
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George Binoy is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo