West Indies' Replacement, Sri Lanka, Have Problems of Their Own
Cramped schedules, fitness problems, payment irregularities, suspect bowling action and injuries: West Indies' replacement for the tour to India - Sri Lanka - are grappling with numerous issues of their own.
In the era of cramped cricket schedules and massive commercial interests in otherwise pointless bilateral series, Sri Lanka have emerged as India's saviour. Just a couple of hours after the news of West Indies' dramatic pullout from the India tour due to a long-standing payment dispute sent ripples across the cricketing world, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) confirmed Sri Lanka as the 'replacement.'
Having lost one ODI, one-off T20I and three Tests due to West Indies' unceremonious and untimely exit, India will now host Sri Lanka in a five-match ODI series, starting on November 1. (India Can't Afford Hardline Approach Against West Indies)
While Sri Lanka Cricket extends its friendly arm to provide a healing touch to distressed neighbours India, the national team has issues of its own to deal with.
Just hours after Sri Lanka confirmed that their national side will 'step in' and help India minimise their losses, star player Kumar Sangakkara did not mince words while criticising the sudden addition to the schedule.
Our 6 weeks of pure fitness work ends abruptly. Have a week to do a months requirement of skill work before India. Planning ahead anyone?- Kumar Sangakkara (@KumarSanga2) October 18, 2014
They may be replacing a side riddled with internal turmoil, but they are not devoid of problems themselves. Before the India tour came into the picture, Sri Lanka were scheduled to play as many as 14 ODIs (seven vs England at home and seven vs New Zealand in New Zealand) and three Tests before the World Cup in February 2015. The number now goes up to a staggering 19 ODIs.
The national squad was under an intense fitness programme under the watchful eyes of former national rugby union skipper Chandrishan Perera which was brought to an abrupt end due to the latest 'addition' in their schedule. With that, the motive of the programme to condition the players for a busy schedule ahead, also died an untimely death.
While the dropping fielding standards are a big concern leading up to the World Cup, a handful of players like Tillakaratne Dislhan and Thisara Perera are also struggling with niggles. A few extra matches stuffed into the busy schedule will seldom help them on their road to recovery.
One of Sri Lanka's most potent weapons in limited-overs cricket - Lasith Malinga - has already played more matches and bowled most number of overs when compared to all his top contemporaries from all over the world in 2014. Spinner Sachitra Senanayake is racing against time to correct his 'illegal' bowling action.
To top it all, Sri Lanka also have payment issues of their own. The stand-off between the Sri Lankan board and the players had even reached a point where the board considered sending a second-string side for the WorldTwenty20 in 2014. The first-choice team that eventually went to Bangladesh returned with the coveted trophy. A month later, they made peace with the board and reached a middle point with the authorities. They agreed to take 10% cut of the ICC and ACC-events participation fee for the next five years. They doubled it up with more on-field glory.
Freshly-crowned World T20 champions who beat Mahendra Singh Dhoni's India to the title, went on to get the better of another sub-continental giant Pakistan to win the Asia Cup. The victorious Sri Lanka side also tasted victory on unfamiliar shores, as they beatÂ England in England in a two-match Test series. Their most recent success came in the form of an Asian Games gold medal for the Lahiru Thirimanne-led side in Incheon, South Korea.
And yet, despite all their success in 2014, 2011 World Cup runners-up Sri Lanka might just turn up as the most broken side in Australia when the 2015 edition starts.