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Ranatunga wronged

Just before Dhawan and his peers flew into Sri Lanka, the hosts had, playing unbelievably poorly, lost limited-overs series to Bangladesh and England, which had Ranatunga saying that it was time his compatriots stopped watching the national team’s matches.

SNS | New Delhi |

It was open season with critical guns coming to be trained on Arjuna Ranatunga once Shikhar Dhawan & Co., tutored by Rahul Dravid, started winning their white-ball matches in Sri Lanka, with pundits perceiving a slight ~ one erstwhile Indian stalwart going to the extent of detecting a rude overtone ~ in the way the former World Cup-winning captain of the island nation had described the visiting squad as second-string.

“India’s victories rub it in” was the burden of the partisan message in glowing New Delhi-datelined reviews of the individual and collective exploits of the touring contingent.

“We are so rich in talent we can send several equally strong teams everywhere” was one loud and brash comment. Another was: “If the team in Sri Lanka went to England now, they could beat the boys Virat Kohli was leading there in some matches.” The second riposte appeared to imply that a first-choice representative Indian XI in July 2021, could leave out, for instance, Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, the pacemen and Ravichandran Ashwin out without any difference being felt either by fans or the team management.

A willing suspension of disbelief is what you will require to fall in with this point of view, and that will not really suffice to persuade everyone that the ones touring England are not really the best India are in possession of – whatever the format – at the time.

People will chuckle over it all years later. Ranatunga, of course, knew what he was talking about. And there was no put-down laced into his comments, which, very crucially and clearly, had had the entire matter viewed from a purely Sri Lankan perspective. Ranatunga criticised his own country’s cricket board for organising – purely for the money television would give it – a two-in-one white-ball series that would not showcase the best that India were capable of.

The insult was being inflicted on the hosts by their own board, and not the Indian one. If anyone failed to grasp it, they would have been in a hurry to catch the last cab home. There was no way Ranatunga could have rued – unless he is deemed someone who had been dropped on his head as a baby – the lack of a worthy enough bunch of rivals for Sri Lanka to face in the India series.

Just before Dhawan and his peers flew into Sri Lanka, the hosts had, playing unbelievably poorly, lost limited-overs series to Bangladesh and England, which had Ranatunga saying that it was time his compatriots stopped watching the national team’s matches.

The current, spectacular slump in the country’s performance, Ranatunga has said, is a measure and symptom of the administrative ineptitude and regrettable levels of corruption in Sri Lanka Cricket, allowed to persist for years at a stretch. That the International Cricket Council considers the idyllic island the game’s most self-degrading outpost was revealed by a Colombo politician ~ and no busybody in the game ~ who suggested how rotten things were.

Those in Sri Lanka who said that a world afflicted with Covid-19 would in due course see more such series featuring up and coming players, given the necessity of the bio bubble, did have a point. Senior Indians have already spoken of their discomfiture. But Indian experts got it quite wrong, probably by permitting themselves little time adequately to go into the background.