There can’t be a South African supporter in the world who isn’t thrilled by the BCCI’s wondrous and unexpected decision to backtrack on its shameful decision to make South Africa’s February tour an ODI affair only.
The news that India’s leaders contacted Gerald Majola on Thursday with a request to change the itinerary to a Two-Test and three ODI series was greeted with unanimous delight in both countries which now have the delicious prospect of seeing the world’s number one and two ranked teams going head-to-head, something which happens as often as full eclipses of the sun, or moon. Or both.
For Proteas supporters it will be an even rarer treat having already experienced the thrill of seeing Graeme Smith’s men overcome Ricky Ponting’s team in an unofficial world Test championship less than a year ago.
Final plans are still to be made for the Tests to be accommodated but Majola was optimistic that, given the amount of support and good will for the revised schedule from players and administrators, a way would be found. The major stumbling block is that an extra week in India would, as things stand currently, clash with the semi-finals and final of the domestic Standard Bank Pro20. And even if Standard Bank forgave the absence of the country’s biggest names in their flagship tournament (and why should they?), the Franchise chief executives wouldn’t consider doing so for a second.
The semi finals of the Pro20 now represent a chance to change lives. Winning a semi final means qualification for the cash-laden Champions League and, as the Cobras administrators and players will happily testify, a decent run in that tournament puts a big smile on everyone’s faces, especially the bank manager’s.
“We are investigating all the possibilities and everyone is very optimistic that we can work something out. Standard Bank is an extremely important sponsor to us and they must not be compromised,” Majola said soon after India’s approach. “But the prospect of playing India in Test match cricket, on their soil again, is very exciting.”
Amidst all the joy and excitement, however, I can’t help wondering whether the sudden change of heart in Delhi would have happened without India’s dramatic and well deserved rise to the number ranking following their hard-fought, high-scoring series win against Sri Lanka. There had been absolutely no indication of a change of heart at any stage after the decision was made in June to play seven one-dayers.
“It would appear that being ranked number one in Test cricket, for the first time in India’s case, might have changed a few perspectives,” said the ever diplomatic Majola. With a Mona Lisa smile. “Either way, we are delighted with the change of mind and will do all we can to make it happen.”
Finally, we now have an answer to the question of Test cricket’s future survival. Given that it depends on the whims and financial machinations of the BCCI, compounded by their boredom of the ‘iconic’ Ashes and Australia’s hitherto unbroken domination of Test cricket, the solution is simple. Keep India close to the top of the rankings. While they languished in 5th or 6th place and kept being bounced out on seaming pitches in Australia, England and South Africa, its administrators were only interested in making money from the one-day stuff.
But now, just maybe, we have seen a sign that, deep down in the vault where the BCCI counts its money, there is still a flicker on interest in the pride and honour that comes with being the best cricket team in the world – in its toughest and most time-honoured format.
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