South Africa cannot afford the luxury of Tests and rests if a cricket schedule is to be salvaged.
Cricket South Africa's hopes of confirming the status of India's end-of-year tour to these shores have again been put on hold by the Indian Supreme Court.
This is despite having waited patiently for the Board of Control for Cricket in India's annual general meeting to conclude on September 29.
Narayanaswami Srinivasan was re-elected, unopposed, as president of the board but was prevented from taking office by the court, which decreed that his alleged involvement in betting and match-fixing during the Indian Premier League should be resolved before he can do so.
The court set aside October 7 to rule on whether an investigation into the scandal should be implemented. Until then, nobody at the board is prepared to make a decision on anything without Srinivasan's covert approval. So CSA, and South African fans, will have to carry on waiting.
Strong legal case
Last week's news that Srinivasan's predecessor, Shashank Manohar, had signed a contract committing India to play the 12 fixtures (three Test matches, seven one-day internationals and two Twenty20 matches) as documented in the International Cricket Council's future tours programme means that CSA has a strong legal case to seek compensation and damages.
The Indian board of control would be the major recipient of such a suit but the West Indies Cricket Board and New Zealand Cricket could also be asked to contribute to CSA's losses after agreeing to tours against India that encroach on the window set aside for South Africa.
But that remains the last resort for CSA, who would be better served making the best possible use of the time that appears to be left for the tour after cuts were made by the Indian board of control at both ends.
A hastily arranged tour to India by the West Indies in November, ostensibly to ensure that Sachin Tendulkar's 200th Test match is played on home soil, extends at least a week past the time India had been due to start the South African tour.
India's subsequent tour of New Zealand has also been brought forward, cutting into the time that had been scheduled for the third Test at the Wanderers. In all, the window has been cut from 60 days to about 40, allowing for travel days and the board of control's desire for their players to have at least a week at home between series.
So what is possible in that time? It has been widely assumed that the International Cricket Council's "minimum requirement" to meet programme obligations will be played.
It is an assumption that needs challenging, especially in light of the recent announcement that India and England will play five Test matches in just 43 days next English summer.
International schedules are subject to guidelines by the Federation of International Cricketers' Associations and the International Cricket Council to ensure adequate recovery time for players and to guard against burnout.
But according to South African Cricketers Association chief executive Tony Irish, who also sits on the board of international associations, "significant departures could be made from those guidelines on a one-off basis – like this tour".
In other words, a day of rest between two ODIs might be considered or back-to-back T20 internationals; perhaps three days between Test matches rather than four. If only the Boxing Day Test at Kingsmead and the New Year Test at Newlands are played, then the "old-style" two-day break could be reintroduced.
CSA's marketing department would be required to make concessions with some of the most "desirable" dates missing out and some matches played on random, working-day Tuesdays. Other concessions might involve mixing ODIs and T20s rather than playing them as separate, successive series.
As much as traditionalists (or purists as they like to call themselves) may prefer to see three or even four Tests played and nothing else, CSA cannot afford such a luxury. Each ODI is worth around R25-million, more than a Test match, even if it lasts five days. Splitting the tour would be messy – and finding a window for a Test series in the next two years would be almost impossible. A window in India's calendar, that is.
The original schedule was relaxed to the point of being luxuriant. Indeed, the nine days off between the New Year Test and the third Test at the Wanderers was one of India's initial objections. They do have to travel to New Zealand afterwards.
If CSA's president, Chris Nenzani, and chief executive, Haroon Lorgat, are able to convince Srinivasan that they have learnt their lesson (subservience), then the tour can be salvaged and need not be the financial train crash it threatens to be.
A great deal of give-and-take will be required, domestic competitions will have to be sacrificed and very few domestic unions will be satisfied with their international fixtures, but the long-term financial future of the game will not be as compromised.