India gives SA middle finger
Cape Town - The Indian cricket juggernaut has fired a particularly cynical shot across South Africa’s bows.
Cricket South Africa suddenly faces potentially one of its most serious diplomatic crises of the post-isolation era as once staunch ally the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) threatens to rip this country’s intended keynote series of the 2013/14 summer to shreds.
In a move that will have major implications for CSA’s coffers and the good humour of their Proteas-supporting public if it proceeds, the Indian authorities have approved rival tours both preceding and following the scheduled Indian visit to South Africa - ones which only seem to indicate that almost half of the proposed, keenly-awaited international clashes between these strong foes will be scuppered by them.
The BCCI announced on Sunday that it had given the green light for a previously unscheduled tour of India by moderate West Indies (comprising both Tests and one-day internationals) in November, while also approving an itinerary for India’s trip to New Zealand which curiously and glaringly encroaches on the roster for the supposedly blue-chip SA safari already revealed by CSA to domestic enthusiasts.
A few weeks ago, CSA unveiled a packed programme of SA-India clashes (the Proteas top the global Test pile, whilst India head up the ODI category) across all three major formats, scheduled to begin on November 21 and only ending on January 19.
But the West Indies tour now clearly threatens to overlap with the start of that combat, whilst an itinerary released by the New Zealand authorities on Monday indicates the first ODI against India starting on January 19: that is supposedly the final day of the third and last Test between the Proteas and MS Dhoni’s outfit at the Wanderers.
The New Zealand tour also now starts - ominously from a South African perspective - more than two weeks earlier than previously thought.
The BCCI is yet to formally approve the itinerary for the SA tour, which CSA says will include three Tests, two Twenty20 internationals and as many as seven money-spinning ODIs.
Instead the Indian bosses now reportedly want a mere two Tests (always a brew that irks followers of the purist form), three ODIs and the two T20 matches.
According to The Times of India on Monday, the BCCI considers CSA to have “unilaterally” issued the initial fixtures without Indian consent.
The newspaper said the South African safari had “run into serious trouble” as a result of the West Indies tour initiative.
That visit will also now probably be the party-pooper for SA fans who had wished to see Sachin Tendulkar become the first cricketer to reach the 200-cap mark in Tests in the traditional New Year Test at Newlands: it now appears the 40-year-old batting icon will reach the landmark in his home city of Mumbai against the significantly weaker Caribbean outfit.
But by far the more worrying issue right now is the fate of the whole Indian visit to these shores - bilateral relations have been so tetchy since CSA’s appointment of Haroon Lorgat
as CEO that the entire mission being in peril cannot be discounted.
The BCCI made warlike noises even before Lorgat’s appointment, because they had locked horns with him while he was serving as chief executive of world body the International Cricket Council (ICC) and made clear to the SA authorities that they would not take kindly to his installation domestically.
Sadly, it seems that a mouth-watering series - one taking place slap-bang in South Africa’s peak summer holiday time - is now teetering as a result primarily of a bout of “silly buggers” and clashes of egos between administrators.
Some deft diplomacy and perhaps even the deliberate display of an olive branch - whether it is justified or not - may be required by Lorgat and company to salvage even a curtailed tour out of the BCCI, which knows it is the real power of world cricket commercially and sometimes luxuriates in that very position quite infuriatingly.
It is not as though CSA can quickly concoct a suitably glamorous Plan B for peak summer: other fierce traditional cricketing rivals England and Australia will be locked in the second of back-to-back Ashes series Down Under at the time the Indian tour is meant to be commanding intense attention here.
Just as irksomely, Test cricket will be the biggest loser yet again if the Indian visit is slashed to two Tests rather than three - remember that only a few months ago there had even been hopeful talk of hiking the Test portion to a more desirable four, something the No 1-ranked Proteas are well overdue for.
Are CSA going to take off their cap and put it humbly in their hand - even if quietly muttering blue murder as they do so - before the BCCI mandarins?
That seems the million-dollar question right now.
Maybe, too, it is the only way to wriggle out of a frightful mess ...*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing