Indian tour of SA loses its shine

2013-10-16 00:00

CAPE TOWN — An announcement is awaited, probably later this week, but there seems no going back now on India’s intended headline tour of South Africa this summer being greatly curtailed.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announced yesterday the itinerary for a hastily-compiled visit to their shores by the lesser-light West Indies in November … and it clashes with at least five of the fixtures originally revealed for the SA safari by Cricket South Africa several weeks ago.

The tour by the Caribbean side was primarily designed to ensure that soon-to-retire legend Sachin Tendulkar plays his 199th and 200th Tests on home soil, including a poignant swansong in his home city of Mumbai (the second and final Test from November 14 to 18).

But it is also being seen as confirmation of frosty relations between the BCCI and CSA, with the former playing a “political” waiting game which is causing havoc with plans for the 2013/14 domestic season.

It says so much about the unfortunate impasse between the countries boasting the World Cup champions and No. 1-ranked Test sides respectively that the SA tour is the last of financial juggernaut India’s assignments over the coming months to boast an agreed itinerary.

All that is known is that India are now definitely committed elsewhere right until the end of November — the third ODI against West Indies is to be played on November 27 — and then get into action in New Zealand, another lesser global power, from January 19 with the first ODI of the tour there.

It means, by logical process of elimination, that as many as six Indian matches initially boasted in between by CSA for our turf are now to be shelved at the BCCI’s insistence — they claim they never properly agreed to the full-length roster.

That is roughly half of the programme CSA had intended going up in smoke: they first trumpeted three Tests, two Twenty20 internationals and seven money-spinning ODIs.

It seems South Africa may have to settle for a bare minimum of two Tests and three ODIs, unless “olive branch” talks held a few days ago between senior officials of the two boards — though pointedly minus CSA’s chief executive Haroon Lorgat — have somehow involved a compromise that slightly elongates the itinerary anew.

Test connoisseurs, in particular, would dearly love to see a three-Test series, rather than the Proteas be involved in another imperfect two-game one — they are currently playing a series made up of only a brace of five-dayers against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates.

Originally CSA-intended tour matches that now glaringly overlap with confirmed other Indian commitments are: the November 18 warm-up against a SA Invitation XI, two T20 internationals scheduled for Johannesburg and Cape Town on November 21 and 24 respectively, the first ODI in Durban (November 27) and presumably also the second in Port Elizabeth (November 30 — an unrealistic three days after India have wound up their home series against West Indies).

The proposed third Test at the Wanderers, which was due to end on January 19, will also be shelved or, at very best, re-arranged because the Indians are in New Zealand by then.

Discussions at the weekend between BCCI bosses and CSA’s president Chris Nenzani and lead independent director Norman Arendse were described as “fruitful” by both parties, and a finalised itinerary may be revealed in the next few days. But local fans hoping for the earlier jam-packed feast are sure to be disappointed — South Africa’s administrators will clearly have to grit their teeth and simply take what they are offered — and there will also be big consequences for CSA’s coffers.

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