India vs Sri Lanka: Has there really been an overkill of contests between the two sides?

Upul Tharanga

Is there an overkill of Sri Lanka-India cricket? Fans seem to think so! India toured Sri Lanka recently for three Tests, five One-Day Internationals and a solitary T20 International. In a matter of months, the two teams will face off again with Sri Lanka’s return trip scheduled for November-December. The problem with India-Sri Lanka cricket isn’t the quantity but the scheduling for they tend to come in big clusters. Between 2014 and 2017, the two teams did not play each other too many times but all of a sudden, they have had two back-to-back series.

Let us have a look at the numbers once. Here are the number of games India have played against various opposition since January 1, 2007:

Image and stats credit: ESPNCricinfo

As you can see, India have played Sri Lanka 91 times across the three formats during the last ten years. Now, one may say that they too have faced Australia 84 times, but there doesn’t seem to be an overkill of contests between the two teams. One must note that India and Australia’s contests have come in chunks and are well spread out. There have been as many as three seven-match ODI series between the two teams, three tri-series and the Test matches have been played in sets of four apart from a solitary two-match series in 2010. Also, Australia have tended to separate their one-day and Test tours in two segments.

In contrast, India and Sri Lanka have not only played too many bilateral series one after the other but have also faced off in tri-nation tournaments. Consider this, between 2008 and 2009 alone, the two teams played four five-match bilateral ODI series’, six tri-nation series and three Asia Cups. The two teams were not only visiting each other almost every year but then played in those other tournaments which only increased familiarity. Another interesting detail is that out of the three tri-series India have played Down Under since 2007, Sri Lanka has featured in it twice. There was a bit of a breather of sorts between 2013 and 2017 as they only had a T20 and an ODI series, both in India.

In fact, India visited Sri Lanka this time after a gap of five years and in international cricketing terms, it was a long gap and a series was needed. However, scheduling a return trip so soon is what fuels the argument of the overkill. It is perhaps due to the hangover of the 2008-2012 period that one feels there has been an overdose. Had we not had that phase, many may not have complained about this. Remember, New Zealand played in India last year but have returned again. Not many mind that! So, India-Sri Lanka carry a historical baggage which will take time to lay off.


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