Proteas get chance to flourish in India

The awe and wonder that used to bedazzle, confuse and distract South African cricketers on tour in India has gradually disappeared in the near quarter of a century since Clive Rice led the historic first one in November 1991.

Rice said after the bus journey from Calcutta airport into the city that he understood what Neil Armstrong must have felt like when he first stepped on the moon. It really was that alien to the players, even to a man with Rice’s 40 years of life experience.

But it was a flying visit, in and out in less than 10 days. Full of extraordinary scenes and experiences but, as Andrew Hudson recalls, “… all a bit of a blur. When we arrived home we wondered whether it had actually happened. There wasn’t time for anything to really sink in.”

Not so this time, at least not for the management team and the elite players who feature in all three squads: AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy, Imran Tahir and Kagiso Rabada. They will be in India for 72 days. Morné Morkel will miss only the first week while the three T20s are being played before joining up for the five-match ODI series and the four Test matches.

As exciting as the prospect is for players and fans, the most important aspect of the tour is what it heralds over the next eight years: more than a billion rand in income for Cricket South Africa (CSA), which will place the game in its healthiest state ever, and a thawing of the icy relationship between CSA and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)that infamously cost CSA more than R200-million when India’s last scheduled tour here was cut from 12 matches to just five.

Changing the face of cricket
CSA won’t make a cent this time, but a memorandum of understanding for two reciprocal tours before 2023 will change the face of cricket in this country. The rapidly changing economic landscape and fluctuating currency notwithstanding, both tours will be worth in excess of R500-million in television rights’ revenue alone.

Former BCCI president Naraya-naswami Srinivasan’s hostility towards CSA chief executive Haroon Lorgat threatened to cost millions more in lost revenue but, remarkably, Lorgat managed to turn the relationship around before Srinivasan’s forced removal by the Indian high court and succession by veteran administrator Jagmohan Dalmiya.

A heart attack ended Dalmiya’s life earlier this week but not before he applied his signature and endorsed a Test series to be played later this year for the Mahatma Gandhi–Nelson Mandela Freedom Trophy.

Much may change on the field during the next five months, too. England arrive in South Africa barely a week after the Proteas return from India and embark on an almost identical tour, just one T20 match short of the India itinerary. Some careers will be made and reputations established – others may be ended and broken. Injuries will play a part and attitudes will be tested.

By the end of the season, which ends with the T20 World Cup back in India, various players will have given up on some formats and others may even retire from international cricket altogether to extend their lifespan as ‘freelance’ mercenaries earning healthily from the domestic T20 circuit.

Those who make the greatest effort to enjoy the sights and sounds of India, however, are most likely to flourish in that country. The infrastructural modernisation, which has so transformed the country since South Africa’s first full tour in 1997, has done nothing to diminish or dampen the population’s enthusiasm for the game and its gladiators.

In fact, the rebuilding of most major airports to three or four times the capacity of their 1990s versions has allowed the growing middle class to travel more easily to more venues and inadvertently inflate the price of tickets at matches. The only thing that has changed is the autograph request. No Indian does that anymore. Only a selfie with a celebrity will do these days.

With expansion to travel and logistic options has come a huge improvement in the standards of hotels and food hygiene, meaning the sort of mass outbreak of poisoning that recently laid low 10 members of the South African ‘A’ squad is a rarity. And despite a burgeoning class of nouveau riche young Indians, the prevailing trend among the vast majority of the population is a profound desire to be of assistance.

In 1997 all-rounder Brian McMillan was not alone in his frustration at the failure of the main sponsor’s product to arrive at the team hotel. Crates of it had been driven to three cities but just missed the national squad as they took off to their next destination.

“Where is the Castle? Is the Castle here?” McMillan asked a man in a suit at reception. “Yes! Yes! Come with me!” he replied before signalling for a hotel car. Assuming he was required to help release the precious cargo from customs somewhere, McMillan climbed into the car and was driven to an old colonial-era military garrison on the outskirts of town. The assistant manager was grinning from ear to ear. “Here is the castle!”

The tour starts with three T20 games:
October 2: Dharamshala
October 5: Cuttack
October 8: Kolkata

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Neil Manthorp
Neil Manthorp works from Cape Town. Talk and write about cricket,golf and most sports. Executive Coach. Cook for the family when at home. Neil Manthorp has over 27405 followers on Twitter.

Coalition politics and law: The fight over Tshwane

With coalition politics on the rise, particularly in local government, this kind of court case is likely to become more common

High court declares Dudu Myeni delinquent

Disgraced former SAA chairperson Dudu Myeni has been declared a delinquent director by the...

SANDF inquiry clears soldiers of the death of Collins Khosa

The board of inquiry also found that it was Khosa and his brother-in-law Thabiso Muvhango who caused the altercation with the defence force members

No back to school for teachers just yet

Last week the basic education minister was adamant that teachers will return to school on May 25, but some provinces say not all Covid-19 measures are in place to prevent its spread

Press Releases

Openview, now powered by two million homes

The future of free-to-air satellite TV is celebrating having two million viewers by giving away two homes worth R2-million

Road to recovery for the tourism sector: The South African perspective

The best-case scenario is that South Africa's tourism sector’s recovery will only begin in earnest towards the end of this year

What Africa can learn from Cuba in combating the Covid-19 pandemic

Africa should abandon the neoliberal path to be able to deal with Covid-19 and other health system challenges likely to emerge in future

Coexisting with Covid-19: Saving lives and the economy in India

A staggered exit from the lockdown accompanied by stepped-up testing to cover every district is necessary for India right now

Covid-19: Eased lockdown and rule of law Webinar

If you are arrested and fined in lockdown, you do get a criminal record if you pay the admission of guilt fine

Covid-19 and Frontline Workers

Who is caring for the healthcare workers? 'Working together is how we are going to get through this. It’s not just a marathon, it’s a relay'.

PPS webinar Part 2: Small business, big risk

The risks that businesses face and how they can be dealt with are something all business owners should be well acquainted with

Call for applications for the position of GCRO executive director

The Gauteng City-Region Observatory is seeking to appoint a high-calibre researcher and manager to be the executive director and to lead it

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday