Bhuvneshwar Kumar will be in the frame to get selected for the Sri Lanka tour.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar will be in the frame to get selected for the Sri Lanka tour. © Getty

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has confirmed that an Indian team will tour Sri Lanka for a brief white ball series in July. An office-bearer of the BCCI has endorsed what president Sourav Ganguly indicated on Monday (May 10). “We have planned a white ball series for the senior men’s team during the month of July where they’re going to play T20 Internationals and ODIs in Sri Lanka ,” Ganguly told PTI and therefore the office-bearer confirmed that an Indian team of white ball specialists will play three ODIs and three T20Is within the island nation.

With the likes of Shikhar Dhawan, Prithvi Shaw, Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Navdeep Saini, Khaleel Ahmed, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, all internationals available, the Indian selectors have sufficient depth to field a robust team for the series during which it are often confirmed that those that would be in England won’t participate there’s also some talk that Rahul Dravid and his staff at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) are going to be asked to accompany the group as coaches. The office-bearer didn’t rule out that possibility either.

But the move has raised a bigger question of two teams playing at two different corners of the planet which was first envisaged by James Sutherland, a former CEO of Cricket Australia (CA). “While hosting Tests here, Australia could have its Twenty20 team touring elsewhere it’s difficult to not see a generation of players coming through with an eye fixed to becoming Twenty20 specialists. As more Twenty20 cricket is played there are clearly opportunities for players to settle on to be specialists,” Sutherland had told the Australian media in 2010. When contacted on Tuesday within the context of the BCCI fielding dual teams, Sutherland said he always saw it coming. “This was inevitable,” he told Cricbuzz.

It is not unprecedented that two Indian teams would be at two different countries. In 1998, India had fielded one team for the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur and one for the Sahara Cup in Canada. More recently, an Australian white ball team had travelled to New Zealand while its Test side was to go to South Africa . That the Test series was cancelled due to Covid situation may be a different point. Last summer, an English side took on Ireland during a three-match white ball series which was sandwiched between the primary and second Tests featuring England and West Indies .

The dual team issue has delivered to the fore a crucial debate if the International Cricket Council (ICC) should create a parallel Future Tours Programme (FTP), one specifically for the red ball games. More so because there are 20 countries under the ICC with ODI status, including members just like the Netherlands, Oman, Scotland, Nepal, UAE, Namibia, us and Papua New Guinea . These countries hardly play the larger nations.

“The FTP is cluttered,” said Sutherland joining the subject and acknowledged the worth of the Indian team and therefore the difficulty of other nations’ ability to field two national teams. “International cricket is very valuable for the host nation…and India’s team is that the most wanted (and the busiest) within the world. (I’m) unsure that a lot of other countries could field quite one team — but India have the talent and depth, perhaps England and Australia too could,” Sutherland observed.

Ramiz Raja, a former Pakistan captain and also a former CEO of the PCB who was once involved in drafting the ICC FTP, was guarded, stating that each one countries might not be capable of fielding two national sides while Haroon Lorgat, a former CEO of ICC who had overseen many FTP drafting, thought the parallel calendar might be how forward for the sport .

Lorgat has felt that the challenge here is to retain the fan base of the teams. “There is an increasing likelihood (of two FTPs) because the sport grows and players prefer to specialise, that different red and white ball national teams will play at an equivalent time. The challenge are going to be around retaining or growing fan and commercial interests,” the veteran Cape Town-based administrator said.

“I would wait and watch,” Raja told Cricbuzz cautious that the Test format shouldn’t be tested further. “To have FTP of white ball cricket and run it simultaneously with Test FTP, teams would wish to churn out a selection of vast talent which, barring two or three countries, could also be a touch difficult immediately . Also pitting Test cricket against white ball cricket goes to further put pressure on Test cricket.”

One school of thought is that a white ball FTP could give boost to the ODI Super League that the ICC started last year. At this stage it’s only 13 teams – 12 Full Members and one Associate Member (Netherlands). The Super League can’t be expanded because the complete Members are mostly busy. The second FTP, in future, could enable an England team taking over a Namibia or an Indian team clashing with Papua New Guinea which could lead on to the spread of the sport .



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