Former Sri Lanka skipper Arjuna Ranatunga came down hard on the Sri Lanka Cricket board for arranging a tour with the second-string Indian side, stating that it is an insult to Sri Lankan cricket. Alongside that, he also blamed the board for arranging the tour, purely for television marketing needs.
The unforgiving scheduling of games has led to the Indian team fielding two sides, one in England for the five-match Test series and the other in Sri Lanka for the three-match ODI and T20I series. While the Test team will be led by Virat Kohli, the ‘second-string’ side in Sri Lanka is set to be led by Shikhar Dhawan, with Rahul Dravid stepping in as the stand-in head coach.
With less than a fortnight for the series to get underway, former Sri Lankan World Cup-winning skipper Arjuna Ranatunga has slammed the Sri Lankan Cricket Board for arranging a tour with the Indian ‘second-string’ side. Not just that, the former batsman has also insisted that the Island nation might have gone down in rankings but surely still have their identity and dignity left.
"This is a second string Indian team and their coming here is an insult to our cricket. I blame the current administration for agreeing to play with them due to television marketing needs," Ranatunga said, reported Scroll.
“Sri Lanka may have gone down (in the rankings), but as a cricketing nation we have an identity, we have dignity, we should not be sending our best to play an Indian B team,” he added.
He also insisted that the six-match series, over three ODIs and as many T20Is, has only been agreed for satisfying the TV rights. Ranatunga also came down hard on the board for wanting to make money, even if it meant that their first-team players would be pitted against a ‘B’ team from India.
“The secret behind agreeing to an Indian B team is TV rights. The board wants to make money from this tournament even if it means pitching our players against a B team.”
The former Sri Lankan skipper's comments, however, did not go down too well with SLC, who responded with a media statement condeming Ranatunga's remarks. In the media release, SLC insisted that the touring Indian side have sent a "strong squad", and pointed out that the tourists had to make certain sacrifices due to a parallel red-ball tour taking place in England.
"Sri Lanka Cricket wishes to announce that despite claims by various parties as reported in the Media, the National White-Ball team of India currently touring Sri Lanka is a strong squad. Out of the 20-member India squad, 14 players have represented India across all formats or in some form. (Test, ODI, or T20i), and not a ‘second string team,’ as claimed," the SLC statement read.
"It also should be mentioned that this tour is taking place, whilst the National Test Team of India is touring England to play a 05 match test series, vs England. This is the latest norm in the cricketing world, especially the full ICC Member countries, as they maintain specialist squads and players for each format of the game. The aim of such arrangements is to be competitive in each format of the game by maintaining specialist players and squads.
"Apart from it, maintaining separate squads enable cricketing boards to fulfill their international commitments unhindered, such as the ICC Future Tours Program."