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Friday, Aug 23, 2019

India vs South Africa: Durban gets raw deal despite substantial Indian population

Durban will get to see only one ODI between South Africa and India and the reason behind this is because Kingsmead missed out due to Cricket South Africa’s rotation policy.

cricket Updated: Jan 31, 2018 17:07 IST
Khurram Habib
Khurram Habib
Hindustan Times, Durban
Durban will see only one ODI between India and South Africa and this has not impressed the local Indian population.
Durban will see only one ODI between India and South Africa and this has not impressed the local Indian population.(Gallo Images)

The practice area at the Kingsmead on Monday morning had the home team Dolphins undergoing a full session with Keshav Maharaj, the left-arm spinner, who was part of the Proteas Test squad till a day back, rolling his arm over. He is the star player here.

Maharaj’s forefathers docked here back in 1874, having arrived from India as indentured labourers. He and Hashim Amla are the only Indian-origin players to have played a significant number of Tests for Proteas since readmission and they both come from Durban, known as the city with most Indians outside an Indian city. There have been others like Imraan Khan, who too comes from this city, but they disappeared after playing a Test or so.

That Maharaj took up spin or Amla imparts plenty of wrists in his strokes was a natural corollary.

“You see, we always had Indian cricketers or Asian cricketers as heroes,” says Professor Ashwin Desai, a chronicler of cricket in Kwazulu Natal province. “The reason was that there was no connect with white cricketers due to apartheid. So we had to look at players from our motherland.”

It was no surprise then that the first international South Africa hosted, in 1992, since readmission was given to Durban as the hosts were playing India.

There is a plaque of captains inside the Kingsmead Stadium, commemorating that “Friendship Series’. Durban became a regular fixture since then, hosting a Test and at least an ODI every time India came to the country – barring in 2001-02.

Durbanites, however, will see just one game on this tour – the first ODI on February 1. This despite the tour having 12 internationals with Centurion getting four and Johannesburg and Cape Town three each.

“The anecdotal reason given was that a Test against England, one-and-a-half years back, did not pull enough crowds. It was a lame excuse, because with India you guarantee crowds,” says Desai, 59. “Frankly speaking, it has been a public relations disaster between the Indian and South African boards. One of the quid pros was to have a Test featuring India in Durban. My father and I had been waiting for it.”

Yahya Godil, who runs a sports equipment business here, had ordered T-shirts and merchandise from India. However, when his son – an MS Dhoni fan, who has framed a jersey given to him by the ex-captain on his bedroom wall – told him that India will play just one game, he had to cancel it. “One ODI isn’t enough,” he said.

The official version is that Cricket South Africa follows a rotation policy and this wasn’t Durban’s turn.

Durban’s turn though isn’t far away – it hosts an Australia Test in March which Professor Logan Naidoo, another chronicler of province’s cricket, says could have been exchanged. “Durban wants to see India, Pakistan. It has less interest in Australia. But no thought was given to it.”

The ODI has, however, seen an interest. Faeez Jaffer, President of Kwazulu Natal Cricket Union said that the corporate boxes were sold out a while back and that there has been a huge interest for tickets too. The capacity is 16,000-17,000 but as Naidoo puts it, “there’ll be more people wanting to get in”.

First Published: Jan 31, 2018 08:45 IST

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