The last time India fielded two different national cricket teams at the same time, there was a logistical nightmare, not to mention the defeats on the field.
India is the first country to be able to field two national cricket teams, Inzamam ul Haq said, referring to India’s itinerary of playing a Test series in England and a limited-overs series in Sri Lanka at the same time. However, the last time India did field two different sides at the same time, Inzamam himself had been at the opposite side of one the teams.
In 1998, the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lampur clashed with the Sahara Cup tournament against Pakistan. On this occasion too, the Indian team had been split up. 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.
“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 wrote in an editorial.
The two-team experiment, which got off on the wrong foot because of BCCI’s initial reluctance to send their best players and an ugly ‘medal vs money’ discourse, did not improve much as the action began.
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The Commonwealth Games featured 16 teams, including Malaysia, Jamaica, Antigua and Northern Ireland. India were pit in Group B with Antigua, Australia and Canada. The matches, which had List-A status, were played with red balls and in white clothing.
India lost to Australia and won against Canada but rain forced a no-result against Antigua. India’s CWG campaign thus ended in early defeat as one win, one loss and one no-result meant that they were out of the event in the group stages.
More controversy followed. After India’s early exit from the CWG, BCCI decided to send the players to Canada for the last two matches of the Sahara Cup. However, Pakistan were opposed to allowing India to field players who weren’t part of the original squad.
The BCCI initially said four players — Sachin, Jadeja, Kumble and Robin Singh — would join the Indian team playing against Pakistan. After some back and forth, a compromise was reached and BCCI announced only Sachin and Jadeja would be making the trip.
Jadeja played the fourth game of the Sahara Cup with Pakistan leading the series 2-1. In further embarrassment for the BCCI, it couldn’t trace Tendulkar, who had gone to Khandala on a trip with his family, prompting Sunil Gavaskar to sing his own version of the popular song ‘Aati Kya Khandala’ before the match.
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Tendulkar only came in for the final game, by when Pakistan had already sealed the series 3-1. .
In the last match, Tendulkar smashed a 77 opening the batting with Sourav Ganguly and an Azharuddin hundred helped India to 256-9 but Aamer Sohail made an unbeaten 97 to take Pakistan to a 4-1 series win.
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