The likelihood of India playing South Africa in the Boxing Day Test or even on New Year’s looks increasingly bleak due to a packed schedule for the top-ranked India. The Test, originally scheduled to be played at Newlands, looks to be in jeopardy as India won’t reach South Africa and be comfortable with the conditions by then. This would severely hamper the Boxing Day Test which has been the highlight of South Africa’s domestic calendar with Cape Town hosting the second Test from January 2.
But considering Sri Lanka’s tour of India would run till December 24, the chances of India playing anywhere before first week of January looks difficult. As per reports, India will land in South Africa in last week of December to play the four Tests, five ODIs and two T20Is series. They would want to acclimatise with the conditions for at least a week.
“We can’t make it make it in time. The Sri Lanka tour ends on December 24. After that we need to give the boys a few days’ rest,” a board official told ESPNcricinfo. “The South Africa tour is a big one, so they need to play two warm-up games, so it will take at least 10 days [before the first Test].”
In India’s absence, Cricket South Africa are looking at options to stage a one-off Test. Pakistan and Afghanistan are reportedly the two possible options to travel to South Africa but nothing concrete has been set yet.
“I had been aware of the fact that they were unlikely to be there for Boxing Day, but for them not to be here for the New Year’s Day is a major blow to CSA and the fans,” said Tony Irish, head of South African players association. “To lose Boxing Day is a big thing, but to lose both of them would be massive hit for the fans.”
Irish felt India could play a two or three day game ahead of the opening Test to ensure the contest in early January goes ahead but BCCI official said the players could not be pushed.
“If the India Test matches start much after January 2 or 3, there will be a lot of concern about the players’ workload,” Irish said. “You really compound the workload issue.” Irish has raised this concern with CSA. As per the current calendar, as soon as India leave, Australia play a four Test series in South Africa before the players head to India for the IPL. If South Africa do find an alternative for the Boxing Day, they would be playing nine Tests inside two months.