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India vs South Africa: A look back at the many firsts of historic 1992 tour

The BCCI fast tracked South Africa’s rehabilitation within the ICC. A grateful Ali Bacher sent Clive Rice’s team to play one-dayers in India, then invited India to be the first team to play at home.

cricket Updated: Jan 04, 2018 09:27 IST
India vs South Africa,South Africa vs India,Indian cricket team
India's captain Virat Kohli (L) and South Africa's captain Faf du Plessis (R) pose with the 2018 Freedom Series trophy at the Newlands Cricket ground on Wednesday.(AFP)

India’s first tour of South Africa in 1992 was unique considering the political context, and unusual given its cricket background. The Indian team toured a country ‘not recognised’ by the Government of India and cricket was a leap in the dark — nobody had a clue about South African cricket or its players.

READ | India’s winning run under threat from South African green tops

At that time, South Africa was isolated internationally because of its apartheid policy and excluded from sporting engagement at any level. India, an opponent of racial discrimination, banned all contact and Indian passports carried a stamped warning stating the document was ‘not valid for travel to South Africa’.

By early 90s, however, South Africa saw profound social churn. Nelson Mandela was released after years of imprisonment and Ali Bacher, a progressive administrator, sensed an opportunity to use cricket to speed up the process of reconciliation. He united the cricket board by bringing different communities under one banner.

READ | How South Africa avoided Tricolour faux pas in Cape Town

The BCCI supported this inclusive initiative and fast tracked South Africa’s rehabilitation within the ICC. A grateful Bacher sent Clive Rice’s team to play one-dayers in India, then invited India to be the first team to play at home.

Caught up in this game, the Indian team led by Azhar (Ravi Shastri his deputy) embarked on the ‘Friendship Tour’ after a hop in Harare to shake hands with Robert Mugabe and play its inaugural Test. Zimbabwe gave India a fright by almost making it follow on.

READ | Indian cricket team in no danger of losing top ICC Test ranking in South Africa

Cricket in South Africa was much tougher, partly because the Indians had zero information about conditions, wickets, grounds or players. Shastri knew some from the county circuit but most others could barely name eleven South Africans. Lack of preparation meant the mandatory pre-tour MoU wasn’t signed, and playing conditions were left to me (manager of the Indian team) to sort out with Ali Bacher.

He presented two innovative ideas: television replays for line calls and three umpires each day instead of two to reduce fatigue. Azhar and Ajit Wadekar (team coach) were indifferent on both issues but the umpiring experiment was shot down as it impacted consistency in decision making. The TV suggestion was accepted, not thought through carefully but okayed because there was no reason to oppose it.

READ | Ravindra Jadeja may miss 1st South Africa vs India Test, Shikhar Dhawan is fit

The first Test at Durban witnessed many firsts. Kapil Dev dismissed Jimmy Cook first ball of the game, Pravin Amre scored a hundred on debut and SRT became the first batsman ruled out after a TV replay. When Jonty Rhodes hit the stumps at the non-strikers end, the naked-eye verdict was not out but TV cameras found him short.

Overall, India underperformed, blown away by South Africa’s searing pace, which caused disappointment among local Indians who wanted India to win to challenge the myth of white superiority.

The historic 1992 tour was memorable because the Indian team was granted a private audience with Nelson Mandela. (Among the positives: Kapil Dev’s 129 when India was 31 for 6 and Anil Kumble’s emergence as India’s leading spinner). The only glitch on the Friendship Tour was Kepler Wessels’ unfriendly jab at Kapil Dev with his bat while taking a run. But match referee Clive Lloyd let him off because crucial television footage could not be retrieved.

(Amrit Mathur is a senior cricket writer and has been with the Indian cricket team as manager)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author

First Published: Jan 04, 2018 09:26 IST