x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Old cricket friends India and South Africa still feuding

Sachin Tendulkar's record pursuit of his 200th Test is not helping things when it comes to scheduling between the two countries.

Some India cricket fans think their side’s upcoming Test schedule has been influenced by the records Sachin Tendulkar takes aim at. Indranil Mukherjee / AFP
Some India cricket fans think their side’s upcoming Test schedule has been influenced by the records Sachin Tendulkar takes aim at. Indranil Mukherjee / AFP

On the sidelines of an International Cricket Council meeting in Dubai next week, India and South Africa will look for a solution to the tour impasse.

Once the best of friends, the relationship is on the rocks. Without reading too much between the lines, it seems a simple cause-and-effect story.

Cricket South Africa recently appointed Haroon Lorgat as its chief executive. It then found the Indian board not agreeing to the itinerary that it had released for the marquee tour later in the year.

Dr Ali Bacher, chief of the United Cricket Board of South Africa at the time when the country returned from apartheid-prompted isolation, is one of many voices urging an amicable resolution.

During his time, Bacher had a good relationship with Jagmohan Dalmiya, the man who was to take the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) on the road to financial superpower status.

"What we must realise is that when we made our comeback, there was still no democracy [in South Africa]," wrote Bacher in The Hindustan Times.

"Yet the BCCI and ANC [African National Congress] backed us. I hope history teaches administrators the lessons they need. Whatever is happening today between Haroon Lorgat and BCCI must end."

Whichever way it ends, it seems certain that Sachin Tendulkar – fitness permitting – will play the 199th and 200th Tests of his illustrious career against West Indies at home.

Unwittingly, he has become something of a lightning rod for anger against the BCCI.

Even India fans, or those that call themselves that, have ripped into him on Twitter and online message boards, citing his "selfishness" and "obsession with records" as the reason for the schedule change.

If only Tendulkar and other big-name players had that level of influence in the corridors of power.

The riches that have flooded Indian cricket in recent years have come with a price. That is silence.

If you wish to hear a legendary player's views on the burning issues of the day, you might have to wait a long time.

To suggest that players could tweak itineraries that many of them have privately expressed dissatisfaction with, is to reveal utter ignorance of how Indian cricket works.

Whatever happens with the South African tour, Indian cricket must put its house in order.

That there were no home Tests planned for this season tells you how poor and ad hoc the planning has been. For the most powerful board in the world to realise that so late in the day is just evidence of administrators sleeping at the wheel.

Australia usually play six Tests every home summer. For England, even with no games in May next year, the tally is usually seven.

There are also the traditional Tests fans can plan a holiday around – Boxing Day in Melbourne, Lord's in mid-July.

India, more than a decade after taking control of the game's finances, still cannot arrange a proper home season.

There were six home Tests in 2008-09 and five each in the following two seasons. In 2011-12, there were just three Tests - against West Indies.

Then, in 2012-13, there were 10. Schedules made on a whim, with little thought of how a robust cricket culture can be built around a Diwali or Pongal Test.

More than the stalemate with South Africa, the poor approach to planning is what the Indian fan should be most concerned about.


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