Cape Town – You don’t need anybody in officialdom to provide
sound-bites to work out that bilateral cricket relations between India and
South Africa are back on an even keel.
That confirmation has come through the weekend revelation
from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) of four domestic venues
for Test matches later this year between the game’s commercial juggernaut and
the No 1-ranked Proteas.
Hashim Amla’s side will tackle the Indians in five-dayers at
Delhi, Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Nagpur.
Although the actual itinerary for the October/November tour,
also including fixtures in both one-day formats, is still awaited, South Africa
will suddenly be tackling the hosts in their unique, challenging environment for
their longest ever series there.
The Proteas have played five prior Test series on those
shores since their return from the isolation era in the early 1990s -- winning
one, sharing two and losing two – but none has been of more than the three-Test
Sides like England and Australia, who tend to play series of
longer duration there, will testify that touring India is an examination of
endurance, as much as anything, so South Africa’s world-leading Test troops
ought to relish this opportunity to put their own mettle under a lengthy
It will also be the Proteas’ first series in 18 against any
foe that includes more than a trio of Tests, so perhaps this news is not before
time for the planet’s leaders – their last four-Test series was the 1-1 home
outcome against England in 2009/10.
Particularly heartening and just a bit ironic is that the
drought-breaker of this nature will come against India, given that in recent
times relations between Cricket South Africa and the BCCI had been fractious.
Following residual tensions between CSA chief executive
Haroon Lorgat and senior Indian officials during his prior tenure as
International Cricket Council (ICC) supremo, the Indians brutally slashed their
required 2013/14 safari to South Africa, with the Test portion curtailed to a
meagre two and the limited-overs portion also reduced, with big financial
implications to the home board.
But bygones appear to be quite thoroughly bygones, no doubt
aided by the fact that the controversial N Srinivasan no longer calls the shots
as BCCI chief.
There have been 11 Test series in total between South Africa
and India thus far, with the Proteas winning six (five home, one away) and
India not yet able to win here.
The only one previously of four-Test duration came in South
Africa as far back as the 1992/93 season, when the home team edged a tedious,
slow-scoring series 1-0.
Amla’s outfit have a two-Test series in Bangladesh in July,
which will help them re-acclimatise to Subcontinental conditions after their
winter break, and ahead of the longer challenge against the fourth-ranked Indians.
The next few months represent a broader treat to South
African connoisseurs of the threatened five-day format, as England visit in the
local summer also for four Tests.
In prestige terms, there is still no substitute for statistical
achievement at Test level, so the pedigreed likes of Amla, AB de Villiers and
Dale Steyn will relish the welcome emphasis on the elongated format.
It will also help, to some extent, to allay fears about the
Proteas being gradually muscled out of opportunities for extended, blue-chip
series through the disputed new influence of the ICC’s “big three” powers at
boardroom level – India, Australia and England.
That said, South Africa appears to stay some way off the
radar for the time being for major multinational tournaments.
But an olive branch with India, however it has come about,
is nevertheless something to be celebrated ...
*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing