There was a time not too long ago that India toured Sri Lanka - and vice versa - so often that a bilateral series between the two sides made fans cry.
Between Jan 1, 2007 and Dec 31, 2012, the two teams played each other a mind-bending 63 times. But times have changed. Since the start of 2017, the Men in Blue have played their Lankan counterparts just 25 times, and this white-ball tour set to commence on July 18 will, in fact, be the first time India are touring the Island Nation in four years. In theory, four years may seem like quite a short period of time, but, in reality, a lot has changed in the world of cricket. So, how different exactly was Cricket the last time India toured Sri Lanka? Let’s go back in time and find out.
Jasprit Bumrah was a white-ball specialist
Yep, that’s right. The spearhead of the Indian Test attack, who has 80 Test wickets to his name, was a white-ball specialist the last time India toured Sri Lanka (July 2017). Bumrah, prior to the commencement of the 2017 Sri Lanka tour, had played 40 white-ball matches (24 T20Is and 16 ODIs) and, at that point in time, the idea that he could succeed in red-ball cricket was unfathomable.
Kuldeep Yadav had just 1 T20I under his belt
The Kuldeep Yadav of 2021 has endured both the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, but the last time the Men in Blue toured Sri Lanka, he was still an unknown entity. The left-arm wrist-spinner had bowled just five times in limited-overs internationals and was seen as a wildcard that could go either way. A gamble that eventually was totally worth it, eh?
CSK was still banned
Indeed. The last time India toured Sri Lanka, not only was Dhoni an active player who still had plenty to offer, he was representing Rising Pune Supergiant. Of course, the franchise went defunct eventually, but ‘Daddy’s army’ was a non-existent term when India last set foot on Sri Lankan soil.
Ajinkya Rahane was in India's T20I squad
This is not a drill. Ajinkya Rahane was indeed in India’s T20I (and ODI) squad to face Sri Lanka, though he did not get a game in the one-off T20I in Colombo. It’s fair to say that India have since come a long way in T20 cricket.
Oh yes. Australian skipper Steve Smith and vice-skipper David Warner still had their images intact and were unapologetically brash on and off the field. Half the cricketing fraternity did not know what a Sandpaper was, and Australia’s ‘win-at-all-costs’ attitude was glorified, put on a pedestal and seen as the epitome of gamesmanship. Cameron Bancroft, meanwhile, was an uncapped up-and-coming youngster who was grinding out the runs for Western Australia. Time flies.
KL Rahul was still an RCB player
The most prolific batsman in Punjab Kings’ history was, erm, not a Punjab Kings player the last time India toured Sri Lanka. Despite missing IPL 2017 through an injury, Rahul was widely expected to be retained or RTMd by his then-franchise RCB, given his brand and potential. That didn’t happen, and we all know what has since transpired.
Alex Hales was England’s best white-ball batsman
Jonny Bairstow who? Jason Roy who? It was Alex Hales who was, in 2017, England’s best white-ball batsman. Hales endured an outrageous 2016 - an average of 61.91 and SR 101.36 - and was earmarked for great things, particularly given the fact that he was 28, at the peak of his powers. We all know how this story went, don’t we?
Pat ‘glass’ Cummins had played five Test matches in six years
Pat Cummins might currently be the best Test bowler in the world, but that was not the case four years ago. After half a decade of continuous struggle, 2017 was the year in which Cummins played back-to-back-to-back Test matches for the first time in his career. Everyone knew that he had talent, but no one expected his body to hold up. Well, we’re all glad it did.
New Zealand were a punching bag for India, Australia, England and South Africa
The World Champions, umm, were not quite champion-material four years ago. They were ranked fifth - not too bad - but their results in Test cricket against the big sides were woeful. Between May 2015 and April 2017, New Zealand won one Test in 15 attempts against India, Australia, England and South Africa. Their last 10 results against these sides read D L D L L L L D L L.
A 32-year-old AB de Villiers, at the absolute peak of his powers, was giving Virat Kohli a run for his money at the very top of the ODI rankings for batsmen. He eventually did overtake his man in October, and that was when the world labelled the Proteas as a team to watch out for in the World Cup in two years’ time. It is fair to say things DID NOT go as planned.
Prithvi Shaw was yet to lead India to U19 glory; no one knew who Gill, Nagarkoti and Mavi were
Nothing depicts how much Indian cricket has changed in these four years more than this point. The last time India toured Sri Lanka, Shubman Gill was an unknown entity who had not made his first-class debut, and a 17-year-old Prithvi Shaw was busy shattering records in the domestic circuit. No one knew who Shivam Mavi and Kamlesh Nagarkoti were, either, and every journalist in the country was not obsessed with Rahul Dravid’s mentorship.
An 18-year-old Rashid Khan was yet to make his IPL debut and tear franchise cricket apart
Arguably the greatest spinner in IPL history had not made his IPL debut the last time India toured Sri Lanka. He had, of course, already by then, represented Afghanistan 56 times, but no one quite expected the kid who got bullied in WT20 2016 by AB de Villiers to become the world’s best spinner in a span of two years.
Tim Paine had not represented Australia in Tests in 7 years
With a home Ashes four months away, Tim Paine, in July 2017, was the last name on everyone’s mind to take up the gloves for the Aussies come the summer. He hadn’t represented Australia in Tests since 2010 and was seen as a journeyman who was quietly spending the last days of his career in Tasmania. Would he, even in his wildest dream, have expected his career to pan out this way? Probably not.
The world laughed when Jimmy Anderson claimed that he was eyeing playing till the 2021/22 Ashes
“I wouldn’t rule it out, no. I’m very fortunate to have the body I have,” said Anderson in 2017, claiming that he was confident that he would end up playing in the 2021/22 Ashes in Australia. Few took his comments seriously, given he was 35, the age at which pacers, in general, start experiencing a terminal decline. Well, who is laughing now?