Sport24 columnist Antoinette Muller (File)
Over the next few months, the world’s No 1 Test team will get to play just eight Tests. Two against Pakistan in the UAE, three against India and three against Australia, both series at home in South Africa.
At face value, that doesn’t seem like such a bad deal. Many will argue that playing anything more than a three-Test series against South Africa is pointless anyway because the contest is so lopsided.
The match-up of the contest shouldn’t matter, though. Test cricket in South Africa is at its prime and it deserves to be marketed and celebrated as such. Those who have worked hard to make the team rise to the top of the rankings deserve to play and destroy the opposition.
That said, three-Test series are fairly standard and if South Africa manage to maintain their dominance over the coming months, they should be comfortably victorious in those three series.
What is baffling about the summer itinerary is the inclusion of seven one-day internationals against India over the summer. The last time a bilateral series contained seven ODIs was when England toured Australia in 2011. England, so exhausted by their Ashes exploits, didn’t bother to show up for the ODI series and got hammered. This time, South Africa and India will play all the short format stuff first before heading into the Test series.
The seven ODIs were always going to be the case, as per the Future Tours Programme (FTP). When the tour was tabled, it included the schedule as it stands at the moment. The FTP is rarely taken as gospel, though. There was previously talk of truncating the ODI series and including an additional Test. That hasn’t happened and Cricket South Africa insist they followed the “due process” in their communications ahead of releasing the schedule.
After the schedule was released, though, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) stated that they’re not happy with it. They think seven one-dayers are too many, it’s too much for their players. They even went so far as to say that they were not consulted at all. CSA have confirmed that they’ve received a letter from the BCCI tabling their concerns, but only after the dirty laundry was aired in public.
Why is it so hard for cricket administrators to go about their business without argy-bargy? If there was an issue - why not raise it way ahead of time? It’s not like the BCCI didn’t know about the seven one-day games. They were set out as such on the FTP and according to CSA, they were consulted upon prior to the fixtures being released.
The miscommunication, or complete lack thereof according to the BCCI, also begs the question whether the ICC should start intervening a bit more when it comes to tour scheduling. The FTP serves it purpose as a whole, but there is far too much chopping and changing at will. South Africa were due to play a Test series against Sri Lanka this month, alongside their one-day and T20 series. That was cut short because of the Sri Lanka Premier League. That boards want to monetise their premier short-format competition is understandable, but to do so at the price of a Test series is unacceptable. Yet, the ICC have kept mum on the issue.
For all the ICC’s trumpeting of the importance of Test cricket, underscored with a prettily packaged future Test Championship, precious little is being done to ensure the format’s well-being outside of that.
The whole saga is perhaps not that much of a surprise. The BCCI’s relationship with a number of cricket boards has been shaky lately. Their relations with South Africa were reportedly given even more of a rattle when they “informally threatened” to pull out of the tour should Haroon Lorgat be appointed as Cricket South Africa’s CEO. That was earlier this year and it was all very much rumoured and “unnamed source” kind of stuff. They remained as that, just rumours.
Those CEO interviews are scheduled for next week and Lorgat remains one of the top candidates. If speculation is your thing, make of that what you will. Antoinette Muller is a freelance writer who writes mainly about soccer and cricket for The Daily Maverick or anybody else who will have her...
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