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When India split the national team to participate in two simultaneous series as early as 1998

by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

BCCI are sending a second-string India team for the Sri Lankan series with the main team in England. But it’s not the first time this is happening.

In 1998, India had to split the teams into two with the Sahara Cup against Pakistan coinciding with the Commonwealth Games (CWG) in Kuala Lumpur. BCCI were under pressure to send a competitive team to the CWG, which had List A status, but also couldn’t compromise in a series against Pakistan.

As such, they ended up splitting the main team into two. Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble and VVS Laxman were part of the squad led by Ajay Jadeja that was sent to the CWG. For the Sahara Cup, the board sent Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Javagal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad among others in a team led by Mohammad Azharuddin. The decision around sending Tendulkar for a List A series when he was in red hot form sparked controversy at the time.

Pakistan, on the other hand, sent an A team to the CWG. Wasim Akram and Saqlain Mushtaq were involved in the climax stages of the County Championship in England. Saqlain, though, turned up to play three matches in Canada.

The Commonwealth Games featured 16 teams including ones from Malaysia, Jamaica, Antigua and Northern Ireland. India were pit in Group B with Antigua, Australia and Canada. India lost to Australia and won against Canada but rain forced a no-result against Antigua and their tournament came to a halt right in the group stages.

With the CWG over early, the board decided to send the players to Canada for the last two matches of the Sahara Cup. This was already rumoured about before the start of the CWG although Ajay Jadeja vehemently denied it before the start of the series in a press conference. The Canadian Cricket Association President Dr. Geoff Edwards had also hinted at last minute changes to the squads.

India sent players from the CWG to Canada after the team failed to make it to the semi-finals of the tournament. Pakistan were opposed to allowing India to field players who weren’t part of the original squad. After some back and forth at the time, Jadeja played the fourth game of the Sahara Cup with Pakistan leading the series 2-1. Tendulkar only came in for the final game by which time Pakistan had already sealed the series 3-1.

In the dead rubber in Toronto, Tendulkar smashed a 77 opening the batting with Sourav Ganguly to give a whiff of what could have been had he been available from the beginning. An Azharuddin hundred helped India to 256-9 but Aamer Sohail made an unbeaten 97 to take Pakistan home by five wickets to complete a 4-1 rout.

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