SA’s India Tests are canned

2009-12-08 00:00

CAPE TOWN — The Proteas’ intended three-Test series in India later this season has been cancelled in a move likely to spark a fresh furore about the sustainability and protection of the five-day format.

It was learned yesterday that the intended series has been shelved, despite no official announcement being forthcoming.

Cricket South Africa media officer Michael Owen-Smith said the visit would be “one-day internationals only” and that fixtures had not yet been set. The Proteas are scheduled to leave for the ODIs at the end of January.

It is fairly common for India’s governing body, the BCCI, to leave international scheduling until fairly late because of the avalanche of obligations — many now of the Twenty20 variety — facing the players from the world’s economic powerhouse in cricket terms.

But the sudden, mysterious jettisoning of the Tests is sure to cause a stir, given that the series would have represented a welcome clash between the world’s newest top-ranked nation and South Africa, who slipped to second at the weekend after India’s 2-0 home triumph over Sri Lanka.

India, assuming the rankings leadership for the first time, moved to a rating of 124 with the Proteas just behind them on 122.

These teams last locked horns in Tests in India in 2007/08, when the series was shared 1-1, but there would have been extra gravitas this time given the enticing “one plays two” scenario.

Test devotees’ hopes have now been dashed and India, ironically, are likely to be toppled from their perch pretty soon, given that they will pay the price for a farcical situation, which sees them set to not play a Test at home for nearly two years.

South Africa will return to No. 1 anyway if they beat England by a two-Test margin over four encounters on our soil, starting at SuperSport Park, Centurion, on December 16.

The recently-published 2009 SA Cricket Annual, official organ of record of CSA, had the Proteas down to play India in three Tests and five ODIs in February and March 2010, in its “future tours” calendar on the last page of the book.

And the Sydney Morning Herald reported yesterday, in a story headed “India rule Test arena while trying to kill it”, that “a scheduled three [Indian] Tests against world No. 2 South Africa has been cancelled, denying all cricket supporters of a major series that would have had significant impact on the rankings — instead the Proteas will play five one-dayers”.

The Herald’s Jamie Pandaram said requests for an explanation on India’s schedule from the International Cricket Council (ICC) and the BCCI were unanswered.

He added: “They won’t admit it, but the fixtures are determined purely by television revenue. Indian broadcast moguls are not interested in Tests because they rate poorly … while ODIs and Twenty20s push their numbers through the roof.

“So there is increasing pressure from the BCCI — which sells matches for a handsome profit to television networks — to scrap Tests for more ODIs and Twenty20s.

“The ICC has not stood up to India for years and clearly isn’t about to start, by the looks of the Future Tours Programme, which has been manipulated from its original plan to accommodate the BCCI’s thirst for short-format games.

“The situation is not helped by the willingness of Australia, England and South Africa to jump at every chance to play meaningless ODIs in India.”

While a blue-chip Test series quietly bites the dust in the interim, the five-day game’s dwindling tally of enthusiasts will bitterly note that firm dates have already been set in stone for version three of the lucrative Indian Premier League T20 event (March 12 to April 25 in India), and then the next ICC World Twenty in the Caribbean from April 30 to May 16.

Has another nail just been rammed into Test cricket’s coffin? — News24.

Jamie Pandaram in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’


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