Various cricket experts, including former Pakistan skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq, believe that India is the only team that can simultaneously field two different squads that can compete at the international level. And the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) actually made it happen this week.
It announced a separate team for India’s tour to Sri Lanka, scheduled for July. Led by Shikhar Dhawan and coached by Rahul Dravid, this unit will represent the blues, in tandem with the Virat Kohli-led side that is already in England. The latter will play the World Test Championship final versus New Zealand in June, followed by five Tests against the hosts. (Scroll down for full squads)
🚨 NEWS 🚨: The All-India Senior Selection Committee picked the Indian squad for the 3-match ODI series & the 3-match T20I series against Sri Lanka in July. #TeamIndia
— BCCI (@BCCI) June 10, 2021
Some millennials might recollect, but few of the Gen Z cricket followers would know that this situation has previously occurred once in Indian cricket, of which Inzamam was a part too. In 1998, the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lampur had clashed with India’s bilateral Sahara Cup tournament against Pakistan in Canada.
A ‘medal versus money’ narrative had surrounded team selection ahead of the CWG. Fans wanted India to field the strongest side for the Games, but BCCI allegedly had interests in keeping the sponsors of the Indo-Pak series happy.
“After jousting pointlessly with the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), the BCCI eventually gave in and sent half the Indian team to Kuala Lumpur, half to Toronto,” Harsha Bhogle had written in a column for India Today.
Eventually, a team led by Ajay Jadeja took off for Malaysia, while Mohammad Azharuddin’s side landed in Toronto for the Sahara Cup. The former comprised the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Anil Kumble while the latter contained Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and Javagal Srinath.
Pakistan had also sent a team for the CWG, but the Pakistan Cricket Board had had its priorities set straight, by fielding a weakened unit in Malaysia. Spinner Arshad Khan was the most recognisable name on the roster.
1998 Commonwealth Games STEVE WAUGH edition!
Here’s the great man bringing up his 100 vs India, off the last ball of the innings! pic.twitter.com/UAG7MiN0c4
— Rob Moody (@robelinda2) March 23, 2020
The Commonwealth Games featured 16 teams, including Malaysia, Jamaica, Antigua and Northern Ireland, as the matches were granted List-A status. India were pit in Group B with Antigua, Australia and Canada while Pakistan faced New Zealand, Scotland and Kenya in Group D.
India suffered a humiliating 146-run defeat at the hands of Australia, won against Canada, but rain forced a no-result against Antigua, where India had lost two wickets for 30 in pursuit of 165. One win, one loss and one N/R meant India crashed out of the event in the group stages. Pakistan were knocked out too.
On the other hand, more controversy followed the Indian unit in Canada that was trailing Pak 2-1 in the five-match series. BCCI decided to send Sachin & Co to strengthen the team for the last two matches, but their was massive confusion regarding the names as well as their travels.
The Pakistanis were not too happy with the idea of a new group of Indians arriving either, according to Bhogle. Their team was on a roll and as former captain Rameez Raja said, “Pakistan would like to play against this team. They don’t want Tendulkar to come and hammer them all over the park.” Then the rule book surfaced.
After a prolonged tug of war, the Pakistanis finally agreed to two Indians – Tendulkar and Jadeja – taking the flight to Toronto. Jadeja played the fourth game, which India lost, but BCCI was ‘unable to trace’ the whereabouts of Tendulkar, who was in Khandala with his family.
He finally landed in Toronto for the fifth ODI, smashing a 77, alongside an Azhar century. But Aamer Sohail’s unbeaten 97 ensured a 4-1 series win for Pakistan.
It’s been almost a quarter of a century since, and BCCI is now considered one of the best-run boards in the world. India’s domestic cricket pyramid has also witnessed remarkable improvement, led by Rahul Dravid’s coaching and increased international exposure for youngsters via the Indian Premier League.
Indian fans can expect better results from India’s two-team experiment this time around.
Squad for Sri Lanka: Shikhar Dhawan (capt), Bhuvneshwar Kumar (vice-capt), Prithvi Shaw, Devdutt Padikkal, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Suryakumar Yadav, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Nitish Rana, Ishan Kishan (wk), Sanju Samson (wk), Yuzvendra Chahal, Rahul Chahar, K Gowtham, Krunal Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Varun Chakravarthy, Deepak Chahar, Navdeep Saini, Chetan Sakariya
Squad for England: Virat Kohli (capt), Ajinkya Rahane (vice-capt), Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (wk), R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Washington Sundar, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Shardul Thakur, Umesh Yadav, KL Rahul (subject to fitness clearance), Wriddhiman Saha (wk; subject to fitness clearance). Standby players: Abhimanyu Easwaran, Prasidh Krishna, Avesh Khan, Arzan Nagwaswalla
Image credits: Twitter/BCCI