SA to return to happy hunting grounds in India

Times Media


PLAYED four, won three, lost one. That’s SA’s test record at the grounds where they will again cross bats with India in the five-day format this year.

Last week the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) confirmed SA’s tour of four tests, five one-day internationals and three T20s. No further details were revealed.

Now the BCCI have said the tests would be staged in Ahmedabad, Delhi, Nagpur and Bangalore. However, a release cautioned that “the table does not indicate the sequence in which the matches will be played”. Neither have dates been specified. Perhaps the BCCI will get round to that next week.

Of the four grounds Ahmedabad is the only one where SA have been beaten – in their first ever test in India, in November, 1996. According to a veteran of that 64-run loss Ahmedabad itself was a key factor in India’s success.

“They took us there for a reason,” former SA off-spinner Pat Symcox said on Monday. “The toilets at the ground and the dressingrooms were a disgrace. I couldn’t wait to get out of the place. But I’ve been back and it’s changed a lot now and been modernised.”

The same goes for much of India, where travel has become a smoother experience for foreigners while hotels, service levels and internet connectivity are often better than in first world countries. But success on the field remains challenging for the unaccustomed.

“You need elasticity of the mind to understand how things work in India; little nuances like the fact that scoring a hundred is not a three-hour process,” Symcox said.

“The pace and tempo of the game varies dramatically and players touring India for the first time might not understand that. Batting takes patience, bowling takes patience; just crossing the road in India takes patience.”

SA’s players will no doubt enjoy Delhi, a bustling metropolis where they will play a test for the first time, and Bangalore, India’s most westernised city.

But Ahmedabad is in the dry state of Gujarat, a fact that has on tours past been flouted creatively by SA with help from some of their sponsors. Nagpur, the geographical centre of the country, is a provincial backwater notorious as the place where Herschelle Gibbs and Henry Williams accepted Hansie Cronje’s illicit offer of cash to under perform in a one-day international in March, 2000.

That match was played at a modest ground in the centre of the city. SA erased some of the bad memories in February, 2010 when they won a test by an innings at Nagpur’s elegant new stadium on the city’s outskirts and overcame a century by Sachin Tendulkar to win a rousing 2011 World Cup match there.

Venues for SA’s tour to India:

Tests: Ahmedabad, Delhi, Nagpur and Bangalore.

ODIs: Chennai, Kanpur, Indore or Gwalior, Rajkot and Mumbai.

T20s: Kolkata, Mohali and Dharamsala.


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