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Such a shame


South Africa’s tour of India back in 1991 is thought of by many as heralding a fabulous fresh start for the game in South Africa. It really was the beginning of a new chapter in terms of the country’s cricket. Inclusive participation was to be the way forward and this was welcomed by the Indians who were only too happy to be the ones to receive South Africa back into the world cricket fold.

To say that the Calcutta public arrived in their droves at Eden Gardens to see only their own team would be untrue. They knew what a huge deal it was, and wanted to witness such a momentous occasion. India therefore holds a special place in the hearts of many an older fan of the Proteas.

The remark made by Clive Rice that he knew then what Neil Armstrong felt when he stood on the moon, spoke to the arrival in uncharted territory and his own surprise at the welcome.

Twenty-seven test matches, 67 one-day internationals and seven T20 internationals have been played between India and South Africa since 1991, and by and large, they have been contests that have stirred up interest from many quarters.

India’s most recent tour to South Africa, in 2010, was great to witness, with the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, who are legends of cricket, turning up and giving a champion South Africa side a run for its money under the tutelage of a former Proteas stalwart, Gary Kirsten.

The atmosphere at the test matches in that series, as many special things occurred, was just incredible. It led many pundits and fans alike to comment that it would be a good idea for the two nations to play each other in more than three-test series each time they met – akin to the Ashes played between England and Australia. If five tests couldn't be accommodated, then at least four should be scheduled to present a more exciting prospect than the maximum of three matches per series that seems to be the current standard.

Nothing came of those hopes, and today Cricket South Africa finds itself in a position where there may well be fewer than the three test matches which were seemingly insufficient before. All of this is because of the publicly souring relationship between the two nations’ cricket boards. This situation needs resolution sooner rather than later. The issues at hand have been splashed across the media and the speculation will continue until a final stance is made clear.

It seems such a shame for the public, who would have geared themselves up in anticipation of a really good series between two nations who currently are among the top three test-playing teams in world cricket.

The relationship between the two countries has in general been a happy one and both sides have an interest in getting the current scheduling issue resolved amicably. Cricket South Africa would not like to lose the monetary benefits of a good relationship with the BCCI; from India's point of view, if they just fulfil the future tours progam to the minimum standard, their conquest (should they manage to topple South Africa at the summit of the test table) would seem hollow without a proper contest between the two top nations.

And then there is the Indian Premier League and Champions League T20 to consider in all this. These tournaments are a big deal to both India and South Africa. The players supplied by South Africa are among the superstars of these tournaments and it would be a shame if it got to a point where they had to be withdrawn due to the breakdown of the relationship between CSA and the BCCI.

If the spat remains unresolved, there would be dire consequences for both countries. South Africa would undoubtedly suffer financially, but the cricketing public of both India and South Africa would be left yearning for a real contest between the two top teams. Whatever happens, let’s just hope there will be a meaningful series in South Africa at the end of the year.

The 17th of September is awaited by many with bated breath.


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