TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
THE centrepiece of SA’s summer took shape on Monday with the announcement of the fixtures for the tour to India.
The three T20s, five one-day internationals and four tests SA will play in India loom as a significantly higher hurdle than the tour by England that will fill their dance card for the second half of the season.
At 72 days the Indian tour weighs in as the longest of SA’s seven visits there to play bilateral series, starting with a T20 tour match on September 29 and is scheduled to end on December 7, the fifth day of the fourth test. It will be the first time SA will play more than three tests in India.
The suits, then, will be happy that SA’s once close, then strained relationship with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), world cricket’s paymasters, would seem to have been restored.
That signal was sent loud and clear in the gushing tone of a Cricket SA (CSA) release.
“Being a landmark tour in the young history of CSA, Ï wish to thank the BCCI for all the hard work that has been put in to scheduling this tour and I now look forward to the test series becoming an iconic one,” CSA chief executive Haroon Lorgat was quoted as saying.
But the Indians will present a tough challenge for a SA team struggling to assert their undoubted superiority in Bangladesh, where they have lost a one-day series to the Tigers for the first time and were unconvincing for much of the drawn first test.
SA have won only one of their five test series in India – in February, 2000 – and none of their four ODI rubbers. They have yet to play T20s there.
India are currently ranked fifth but they were the leading team from November, 2009 to August, 2011. That adds up to 21 months – the same amount of time SA spent on top of the heap from August, 2012 until they were briefly deposed by Australia in May last year.
The Indians’ rise on and off the field has bred a boisterous brand of supporter. SA came face to face with around 80 000 of them in their World Cup match against MS Dhoni’s team in Melbourne on February 22.
Although no venue anywhere can accommodate as many spectators as the Melbourne Cricket Ground, SA will feel the heat of being on the wrong side of the most passionate crowds in the game.
That said, AB de Villiers could enjoy some respite from the hostility in the second test. Here’s hoping that even India’s hopelessly one-eyed supporters will spare some applause for AB de Villiers, who should play his 100th test in Bangalore.
Besides, as Royal Challengers Bangalore’s star batsman, he’s one of their own.
SA in India 2015-16:
Sept 29: T20 Tour match, Delhi
Oct 2: 1st T20, Dharamshala
Oct 5: 2nd T20, Cuttack
Oct 8: 3rd T20, Kolkata
Oct 11: 1st ODI, Kanpur
Oct 14: 2nd ODI, Indore
Oct 18: 3rd ODI, Rajkot
Oct 22: 4th ODI, Chennai
Oct 25: 5th ODI, Mumbai
Oct 30-31: Tour match, Mumbai
Nov 5-9: 1st test, Mohali
Nov 14-18: 2nd test, Bangalore
Nov 25-29: 3rd test, Nagpur
Dec 3-7: 4th test, Delhi