All the matches are scheduled at little-known centres. The Indian Board must have had their reasons for spreading the game in the hinterland but it does not do justice to the status of number two team in the world.
I doubt if England or Australia were touring and they could have done the same to them. Sri Lanka deserved to play in at least two or three major venues. Our Board has been seen in poor light in accepting such an itinerary. A tour by Sri Lanka after eight years deserved better respect.
The first impression would convey a huge chasm between the two teams. Sachin Tendulkar is just returning; Sourav Ganguly is out for the first two games; Harbhajan has issues with his form; there is a young opener and a middle order batsman; a young wicketkeeper, a young all-rounder and a young fast bowler. India would be anxious to know how good is the new cocktail.
Sri Lanka has no such issues. Despite the hiccup in the practice game in Mumbai, they would be alright in the big games.
I would not say they were casual but a practice game usually does not see enough intensity from touring teams these days. Marvan Atapattu is an extremely intelligent and focussed individual whom we are considering to appoint at helm till the next World Cup.
Rahul Dravid, in contrast, is only assured a run of 12 games. It is a tenuous situation for a secure leader tends to command better loyalty and trust from his men rather than the one who is at the starting block. But he is an intense, committed individual and who knows he might actually be able to forge a young side into a formidable unit.
I have followed, occasionally with interest and mostly with disgust, the recent rumblings in Indian cricket. It would appear there is a rush to toss the seniors into the junkyard and roll out the youngsters with great fanfare. Ideally, one thing does not have to happen at the cost of other.
I remember we did a similar thing in Sri Lanka in the 90s. Most of the seniors were hunted out of the game when they still had couple of good years of cricket left in them. In contrast, the juniors were pushed into the deep end of the pool too soon rather than being eased into the shallow end.
A youngster, like a sapling, need time and space to grow. It does not help to fast-forward the growth. I sometimes feel Asian countries rush young cricketers into the intense cauldron of international cricket too soon. Most of them are never heard again. It is bad management.
However, if the aim is to grow youngsters along with seniors, then it is not a bad idea to groom a team with future in mind. Thus a senior like Ganguly and Laxman; Dravid and Tendulkar could then be allowed to rotate and youngsters brought in to find their feet.
We are planning to do so in Sri Lanka where a Chaminda Vaas and Sanath Jayasuriya would not have to play all matches. Otherwise, it is a crime.
Our cricket committee in Sri Lanka is worthy of emulation. In this committee, we have a virtual who's who of Sri Lankan cricket. Anura Tennokoon, Duleep Mendis, Siddath Wettimuny, Roy Dias, Ranjan Madugalle, Roshan Mahanama, Graeme Labrooy, me and a host of others meet at least once a week where we discuss issues concerning Sri Lankan cricket.
We then regularly call coach and the captain and discuss issues with them. It is not an attempt to curtail their independence. Our only goal is to pass on the committee's views to them. Rest is their call.
In India too, it would help cricket if the selectors do not come to table with their regional agendas. They should help select a team for India rather than their zones. There is nothing wrong if nine players of a state can find place in the national side provided they are good.
It is also important for selectors to listen to coach's views. He doesn't need to have a voting right but he must be heard. In our times, a coach used to present his views and then leave for selectors to get on with their job. Even if selectors have the final say, a coach must be heard.
Sri Lanka thus has an advantage in the series though there is unease about the manner in which they are losing early wickets. I remember in Sri Lanka a few months ago they did not win the series as much as India lost. They need to safeguard against such a possibility.