External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s virtual meeting with Sri Lanka’s Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa on Saturday, with an assurance that India will support Sri Lanka “in all possible ways for overcoming the economic and other challenges posed by COVID-19 pandemic”, was significant and timely. A crucial week lies ahead for the Sri Lankan economy, when President Gotabaya Rajapaksa must make a decision on whether to service debts to bonds with an instalment of $500 million due on January 18, or to default for the first time ever, given the island’s precarious finances. Mr. Gotabaya is expected to address Parliament this week on how he will deal with the economic crisis. This includes a credit crunch, a slump in GDP spurred by COVID-19 losses to tourism, exports and remittances, foreign reserves that dwindled from $7.5 bn in 2019 to $1.6 bn in November 2021, and pending debt repayments of more than $7 bn expected in 2022. The most immediate problems come from rising unrest. In the

Sport throws up surprises and cricket is not immune to it. The latest twist transpired at Cape Town’s Newlands where South Africa registered a seven-wicket victory in the third Test and won the series 2-1 against India. In recent cricketing history, this was a script-altering moment. India was the fancied team even if it missed the injured duo of Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja. Virat Kohli’s men had a swagger gained from defeating Australia in its backyard and leading 2-1 over England in an unfinished series at the Old Blighty. The loss to New Zealand in the World Test Championship final was deemed an aberration. This squad had quality batters, fearsome pacers, Rishabh Pant’s x-factor and R. Ashwin’s guile. In contrast, South Africa was in transition and after the first Test loss at Centurion, Quinton de Kock prematurely retired. Leading 1-0, India was expected to twist the knife in and win the series, an accomplishment that eluded it since the maiden tour of South Africa in 1992-93.

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