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BCCI gives Tests a short shrift on South Africa tour

India, the No 1 ranked team, should have agreed to play a four-Test series against formidable hosts South Africa instead of pruning the series to three.

cricket Updated: Dec 29, 2017 15:22 IST
Somshuvra Laha
India’s first Test against South Africa will begin in Cape Town on January 5.
India’s first Test against South Africa will begin in Cape Town on January 5.(AP)

India finally touched down in South Africa for the most anticipated year of Test cricket in recent times, yet there lurks an unsettling thought that the longest format of the game may not have been allowed to stand out on this tour.

Nothing else explains why India will play only three Tests in a 59-day tour. Originally, this tour was scheduled to have four Tests, five ODIs and three T20Is, but one Test was dropped for an extra ODI. That even the sole practice match was done away with after a last-minute change of heart robs the Test series of a much-needed buildup.

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Cricket South Africa (CSA) is no stranger to such rapid change of stand by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). The fallout between BCCI and Haroon Lorgat, when he was ICC CEO, saw the South Africa tour in 2013 -- comprising four Tests, five ODIs and three T20Is -- pruned to two Tests and three ODIs after Lorgat took over as Cricket South Africa CEO.

Power game

Interestingly, Lorgat stepped down just 24 hours after this India-South Africa tour was finalised on September 27. Later, BCCI announced their plan to play more than half their matches against South Africa, England and Australia when the next Future Tours Programme (FTP) is finalised. This series though remained unchanged.

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With the World Cup almost 18 months away, there is no reason to believe India are getting into preparatory mode by playing six ODIs. But South Africa being the only country, apart from Australia, where India have never won a Test series, it’s puzzling to see BCCI squander the opportunity to play a four-Test rubber and try to make a statement.

In fact, never has their bilateral tour featured a four-Test series in South Africa since 1992. Having hosted South Africa in 2015 for a four-Test series, BCCI was expected to extend the same cooperation when it was CSA’s time to make money at home. They however had to settle for playing a rather brief Boxing Day Test against Zimbabwe after India expressed inability due to an unduly long home series against Sri Lanka.

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On India’s part, it made no sense to play four Tests against an underperforming side like West Indies in 2016 and six Tests against Sri Lanka in a year but not a four-Test series in South Africa.

The CSA too had copped some blame for not providing BCCI with a big enough window by announcing the Australia tour -- comprising four Tests -- from March 1. Everything points to strained administrative relations that BCCI and CSA have clearly not done enough to mend. As a result we have on our hands a Test series that may leave us asking for more when it’s over.