Five months ago India were in Sri Lanka to play five one-day internationals,no more than two months after having played them in the Asia Cup. Now they are back,even able to continue a conversation they may have left unfinished. If you believe therefore that there arent enough teams going around in international cricket,you wouldnt be too far from the truth. Meanwhile England play the West Indies in four Tests and five one-day internationals and less than a month later host them for another series. It must seem a bit like a reunion. It cannot work. Cricket needs more variety,fresher competition. Its bad enough having such few teams,its worse when feuds emerge and some teams cannot play against others.
Interestingly,India go to Sri Lanka with five seamers. That is at least one too many and seems to reinforce the suggestion that a couple of them have been picked so that they can be with the coach and the trainer and start getting ready for New Zealand. Having said that there is a fair amount of flexibility in the side with one of the seamers,Irfan Pathan,and one of the spinners,Ravi Jadeja,capable of batting in the middle order. So India could play either Pathan brother at number seven with Jadeja at eight and accordingly play either another spinner and two new ball bowlers or three quicks. Given that Sehwag and Yuvraj pick themselves anyway,and that Yuvrajs bowling is the captains flavor of the month,it would seem that Yusuf could well play ahead of Irfan and allow Zaheer Khan,Ishant Sharma and Munaf Patel to make up the last three in the order.
It is flexibility like this that captains crave for and that is why the arrival of young Jadeja is so exciting. He has scored a lot of runs from number five this year,has bowled enough to be among the leading wicket takers and unless his fielding has fallen away in the last few months,you are going to enjoy watching him in the field. He has a brilliant throwing arm which allows him to patrol the deep and he would be welcome inside the circle as well.
The interesting inclusion is Praveen Kumar who did quite well in Australia and has been fairly unrecognizable since,going so far as to admit that he has lost his swing. He seemed to be getting it back in the Ranji Trophy final,where one of Indias two brightest bowling hopes RP Singh,took another step downwards,but you would have expected more from a player in the national team. Clearly the selectors and the captain are looking for swing bowlers in New Zealand and both Pathan and Praveen are the right kind in theory.
The itinerary for that tour is interesting. India have added an extra Test,a win-win situation for both teams,but it has come at the expense of a warm up game. Now,normally that would have been frowned upon,especially because New Zealand presents a very different challenge. But such is the convergence taking place in Indian cricket these days that it would seem to affect only two players,Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. Almost all the others would be in the one-day squad anyway and would have been in New Zealand for just under a month. It would make sense therefore to ask these two to travel earlier than they otherwise would have so they can acclimatise,a word normally frowned upon in Indian cricket!
Meanwhile I am waiting to watch how Sreesanth plays for South Zone. With the afore mentioned RP Singh he is the bowler with the greatest potential now that Ishant Sharma has carved a place for himself. He would seem to be just the bowler the team could do with in New Zealand,provided of course he has matured well in the months outside the game. Often a little spell on the sidelines,either forced or voluntary,is not too bad because it tells a player what he is missing and what,therefore,he might have taken for granted. Maybe that has worked with Balaji as well,a big hearted man who has had to endure much and for whom every wicket in the Ranji Trophy must have seemed as exciting as the best dark chocolate!
But for the moment let us hope we see good cricket in Sri Lanka,a tour that seems like a quick stop at a takeaway because the restaurant you wanted to go to was shut!