New Delhi: This November marks the 25th anniversary of a tour that was called The Friendship Series, as India became the first team to tour a South Africa that was in the process of dismantling apartheid. India had welcomed South Africa back from isolation a year earlier, with a three-match ODI series, and Jagmohan Dalmiya, who would go on to become the sport’s most influential administrator, played a pivotal role in ensuring that the Proteas – as opposed to the apartheid-tainted Springboks – played the 1992 World Cup.
The two cricket boards once sang from the same hymn sheet. No longer though. In the time that Haroon Lorgat has been Cricket South Africa’s chief executive, relations have plummeted, hitting rock bottom in 2013, when India’s tour of the southern cape had just two Tests. Lorgat’s frosty relationship with N Srinivasan, then Indian cricket’s supremo, was cited as the reason, but it now seems clear that he has upset plenty of others too.
As things stand, India will not play the Boxing Day Test at the end of the year, or the New Year’s Test at Newlands in early January. Instead, the first Test of what is likely to be a four-Test series will start only after January 10, with the Indian team management insisting on at least two warm-up matches.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is extremely annoyed at the manner in which Lorgat has gone about finalising the itinerary for the tour. That irritation was exacerbated by the fact that he was staying in the same hotel as BCCI officials during the recent Champions Trophy (in England and Wales), and yet made no attempt to discuss it with them.
Instead, the dates for Australia’s four-Test tour, which only starts on March 1, were rubber-stamped first. After that, a BCCI source told Cricketnext, Lorgat approached the BCCI with a schedule that they were not amenable to. After years of traveling to the southern hemisphere during the Christmas-New Year holiday season, the Indian board is in no mood to give up such a prime slot in the calendar. Even if this season doesn’t have the marquee opponents who toured last year, the full series against Sri Lanka will only finish on Christmas Eve.
After that, the team is adamant that they need adequate preparatory time on South African soil. South Africa are no longer cocks of the Test-match walk, and Ravi Shastri and Virat Kohli are well aware that they have every chance to make history early next year. In 17 previous Tests in South Africa, dating back a quarter century, India have won only two (The Wanderers, 2006 and Kingsmead, 2010).
India have requested two proper warm-up games after a couple of days of acclimatisation. That would mean that the first Test, whether it stays at Newlands in keeping with the January tradition or is moved elsewhere, will only begin towards the third week, with the remaining ones played out almost back-to-back.
It’s a matter for debate whether things would have come to such a pass without the clash of egos at administrative level. But one thing is certain. The days of lucrative Indian tours around Christmas and New Year are over, unless southern hemisphere boards are prepared for some quid pro quo.
Live Score, News & WC 2019 Updates