When you look from a distance India and Sri Lanka both look so similar, and yet the two turn out to be so different. At times they are fighting the same demons, filling similar loop holes, building strength on the same foundations, yet they are poles apart.
The current tour made me feel that India and Sri Lanka are like cheese and chalk, and I man that literally. While the cheese is getting better day by day, the chalk is losing its sharpness. The cheese is amalgamating with all forms of breads, place it anywhere and it only makes it taste better. But as the chalk walks on different boards it slides, but doesn’t leave any mark only a hollow sound. The chalk and the cheese both are white, and both are undergoing transformation but the difference is the cheese is embracing becoming soft and in that becomes smooth and adaptable, averse to this the chalk chooses to be hard, turns out brittle and breaks.
Few years ago India and Sri Lanka both were staring at a phase of transformation, where in old and established legends would bid adieu to the game, the not so young, not so old blokes would begin to wear off in the few years that would follow and a totally new generation would take over with a few old bricks in the wall. Eventually both the teams stepped into the phase. Perhaps it was India who entered first.
India let go the players who didn’t fit the scheme of things, which they held in sight for the future. Youngsters were tested on a regular basis, and the once with potential were handled with care. They decided to keep it simple, either perform or perish. India soon had a new core, built carefully, and tested in different seasons and on varying pitches. While consistency and adaptability was rewarded with a fixed spot in all three formats, the rest were tagged as specialists of their forte. The story didn’t end there; there was a change in leadership too, however not all at once but gradually, one format, one tour at a time. Just the way cheese is made. And even after all this was blended with perfection India continues to test every possible deserving candidate on their checklist, building back up and sending out a clear message to anyone and everyone perform or perish.
Even legends like Dhoni are under constant scrutiny and haven’t been exempted. No one gets picked by reputation, but more so by performance. And if at all you doubt this, ever wondered where Suresh Raina is these days? Or the fact that the selectors have let go Yuvraj Singh.
Sri Lanka too entered the phase, a bit later though. However, they chose to continue to bank on those few old bricks for victory, Young potential was welcome but only when an oldie would get injured. Yes they do have a newer crop of players, but they are allowed to be the core only occasionally. And when after a drastic fall, when the leader chose to step down there were leadership changes too, but they were all at once and too many to stabilise their sinking ship. Sri Lanka is a victim of desperate times, and their desperate measures.
There are problems in plenty that Sri Lanka need to answer, for how long will they continue to bank on Herath for victory in tests? Who will be his successor? Will he ever get a chance to learn from the master himself, if the tem changes continue to be more of a lucky draw?
Till how long can Malinga continue to spearhead the bowling unit? Well past his best self, what do we do the next time he gets injured or decides to quit? Whom do we bring in? Which kid can be next pace engine?
For how long will Mathews continue to be the lone one fighting and yet continue to bat at 5 and 6?
When will the captaincy stand stable, and in one settled hand? Because if Sri Lanka continues to play musical chairs with their captains, nothing much can bring them out.
India too has a lot of questions to answer, but their problem is of plenty. As this ‘tour-wash’ has shown us India and Sri Lanka are like chalk and cheese, Sri Lanka have a lot to ponder over in the coming months before they come to India, to compete with the cheese again.