Sri Lanka's tour of the West Indies one of the rare ones in cricket

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Sri Lanka begin their first tour of the West Indies in 10 years with the opening Test in Trinidad on Wednesday.

You have to go back all the way to the time left-arm swing ace Chaminda Vaas was still playing to look at the last visit by the Sri Lankans to the Caribbean. Not only the visit, Test clashes between the two teams are so few and far between there is hardly any history to speak of.

In the last ten years, Sri Lanka have played the West Indies in Tests just twice – at home in 2010 and 2015. The only other team the Sri Lankans have played so few Tests against is Zimbabwe. Australia and South Africa have played three Test series against Sri Lanka in the same period, New Zealand and England four, Bangladesh five, India six and Pakistan eight.

When it comes to Sri Lanka and the West Indies, it is finances that have dictated their Test history. Since both boards are not flush with funds, broadcast money has a say in which series goes ahead and which doesn’t. And since there are very few takers for a SL-WI Test series from a commercial point of view, the teams simply don’t play each other, especially in the Caribbean.

And it’s a shame because it was against Sri Lanka that Chris Gayle – the king of T20 cricket – hit his highest Test score of 333 in 2010.

Just to shine some light on the commercial impact on cricket schedule, just look at India-Sri Lanka clashes last season. India travelled to Sri Lanka for a full tour of three Tests, five ODIs and a T20 in July last year before inviting the islanders for three Tests and as many ODIs and T20s in November.

Following India’s visit, the Sri Lankan board registered 33 fold increase in net profit in one year while doubling revenues.

Recently, Cricket Australia cancelled the tour of Bangladesh to the country later in the year as it was not found to be commercially viable after signing a record $1 billion TV deal.

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England call up Jake Ball to replace injured Chris Woakes for ODI series against Australia

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Jake Ball returns to the England fold for the ODI series against Australia.

Jake Ball has been given an England recall after the pacer was called up as cover for the injured Chris Woakes ahead of the ODI series against Australia.

Woakes suffered a thigh-strain in the second Test against Pakistan and will be out of contention for the one-off ODI against Scotland and the initial part of the subsequent series against Australia.

Pacer Tom Curran has also been called up a replacement for Woakes in the squad for the Scotland ODI on June 10.

Ball, 27, was part of the England Ashes and limited-overs squad in the tour of Australia last year. The Nottinghamshire seamer has played four Tests and 17 ODIs for England so far in his career. Ball has picked up 21 wickets in the 17 ODIs he has played at an average of over 45.

Woakes’ absence means England have lost two of their all-rounders to injury in the past week with Ben Stokes being forced to sit out of the second Pakistan Test due to a hamstring injury.

England have now lost both Stokes and Woakes to injury.

England have now lost both Stokes and Woakes to injury.

“Nottinghamshire seamer Jake Ball has been drafted into England’s ODI squad for the Royal London series against Australia as cover for all-rounder Chris Woakes,” an England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) statement read.

“Woakes, who will be unavailable for the first part of the series with a right quad strain, joins Ben Stokes (left hamstring tear) on the injured list. Both players have commenced their injury rehab programmes and will be hoping to respond to treatment with the aim of featuring in the latter stages of the series,” the statement went on to add.

England and Australia are slated to play five ODIs with the first of them taking place at the Oval on June 13. The ODI series will be followed by a one-off T20I at Edgbaston on June 27.

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Chance for Australia and Justin Langer to change the narrative as ODI series against England beckons

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An ODI series against England is Langer's first assignment.

Australia will be keen to strike the right tone from the outset when they go public at Lord’s at the start of their one-day international tour.

When new captain and coach Tim Paine and Justin Langer address the media on Wednesday, they will be speaking for the first time in the UK since the ball-tampering fiasco which brought about their appointments.

Previous incumbents Steve Smith and Darren Lehmann will be thousands of miles away when Paine and Langer undertake a series of high-profile interviews.

Smith, like his former deputy David Warner and Test opener Cameron Bancroft, is serving a cricket Australia ban after admitting his part in a plot to alter the condition of the ball in the Cape Town Test against South Africa in March.

Bancroft was deployed with sandpaper to do so, and was caught red-handed by television cameras covering the match, while Warner and Smith were complicit.

Captain and vice-captain were stripped of their positions, and punished with 12-month bans – while Bancroft’s suspension will last for nine months.

Lehmann resigned as coach in the aftermath of a sorry saga which rocked world cricket. It left Australia wringing hands in regret and vowing to address underlying cultural problems in the national team.

It is a story which will not go away quickly, and is sure to dominate a three-week mid-summer tour which starts with a day-night warm-up match against Sussex at Hove on Thursday.

Tim Paine has been tasked with leading the Australia ODI squad.

Tim Paine has been tasked with leading the Australia ODI squad.

Echoes of the controversy have been a near daily occurrence over the past two months – and even as Australia were making their way over to England, via a visit to the First World War battlefields of western France and Belgium, Smith was speaking again about the personal impact of his own behaviour.

During a school visit in Sydney on Monday, he recalled his experiences after having to fly home from Australia’s tour of South Africa in disgrace.

“To be honest, I probably spent four days in tears,” he said.

“I was really struggling mentally and I was really lucky that I had some close friends and family members that I could speak to at all hours of the day.”

Paine and former Test batsman Langer have both spoken several times already about a new era for their team, and acknowledgement that they will be ‘copping’ inevitable flak from English crowds this summer.

Similar pronouncements of intent and expectations will doubtless be on the agenda on Wednesday lunchtime too.

But in the hallowed surroundings of Lord’s, they will be that much more resonant as Australia begin a short tour which may prove to be as much about PR management as success or otherwise on the pitch.

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