When the Indian cricket team leave for South Africa in November,if indeed there isn’t a peremptory BCCI communication that completely does away with the program in the meanwhile,it will have been a year and ten months since the side last played a Test outside the country.
Tours outside the subcontinent are sufficiently rare for them to remain events that are looked forward to in a calender crammed with meaningless fixtures and overabundant T20 leagues. But the South Africa tour owes its pre-eminence to other factors too.
The opposition is strong,and the conditions challenging. There was precedence the last tour ended in an exciting 1-1 draw,leaving fans wanting for more. There were pragmatic considerations too. The Tests and ODIs could ideally have proven a benchmark by which the selectors could have judged how far the side had progressed from the overseas humblings at England (2011) and Australia (2011-2012),and how prepared it was for the 2015 World Cup.
Until not too long ago,the importance of the fixture was not lost on the selectors or the senior players of the side. The challenge that the South Africa tour represented,along with its farawayness,was what perhaps convinced Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman (perhaps nudged by selectors) to retire in favour of the rebuilding exercise in early 2012.
Fans,secretly and wistfully hoping that the initial three-Test itinerary would somehow be expanded in keeping with the significance of the tour,were first disappointed,then aghast,when successive BCCI announcements trimmed the number of games from 3 Tests 7 ODIs and 2 T20s to 2 Tests and 3 ODIs with practically no room for practice games. Not that such a decision would have been greeted with cheer at any other time,but the board particularly disappoints with its timings.
With questions over its own credibility unanswered,the BCCI,in its latest general body meeting,saw it fit to flog a dead horse in Lalit Modi and make a point to its counterparts in Cricket South Africa,all over an ego-wrangle.
Raakesh is a principal correspondent based in New Delhi