Cricket South Africa’s premier summer event, a three-Test series against the world’s third-ranked team, is in danger of being truncated. So is the T20 and one-day portion of the tour. The BCCI are bullying their way to getting what they want, mostly because of their issues with one man. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.
What would have been a bumper edition of cricket in South Africa over the summer months is at the risk of being curtailed. The Board of Control for Cricket in India on Sunday announced their schedule for a impromptu home series against the West Indies and moved forward their away series against New Zealand. However, it did not mention anything about their tour to South Africa.
India’s tour to South Africa was meant to begin on 21 November with two T20s to kick off the tour, but the BCCI announced that they had proposed a previously unscheduled tour against the West Indies for November. The tour will consist of just two Tests, but the dates have not yet been announced. India are due to play a seven-match series against Australia in October which will end on 2 November. In order to allow for adequate rest and preparation for the two-Test series, logic would dictate that the Tests cannot begin any earlier than 10 November. That would push out the time the squad can travel to South Africa to begin their tour.
The random scheduling has a few possible explanations. The most logical explanation is to allow Sachin Tendulkar to reach 200 Tests on home turf, and perhaps offer him the opportunity to retire afterwards. There is a massive commercial aspect attached to such a venture, but that would not be the sole reason for their decision. India need a win, despite a win over Australia earlier in the year, the loss to England in 2012 still stings. With South Africa likely to be a very tough tour, perhaps they are looking for a soft take off, so to speak. Whatever the reason – the BCCI have not bothered to provide an explanation.
The governing body also released their fixtures for an away tour to New Zealand in January, a tour which was originally scheduled for February. Instead, India will now start their series away in New Zealand on 19 January – the exact date which the third and final Test against South Africa was due to end. India have groaned and grumbled about their fixtures against South Africa since they were released. Most notably, the BCCI were not pleased about the seven one-day internationals scheduled for the tour. Cricket South Africa insist they have followed protocol with regards to releasing the fixtures, while the BCCI sing a different tune. CSA also say they have not yet heard anything from the BCCI with regards to their latest disregard for the fixture list.
By advancing the tour to New Zealand, it is clear that India will not stick to the schedule as it was originally announced and will now most likely offer CSA an ultimatum. The tour could be truncated to two T20s, three one-dayers and two Tests and the South African governing body have little choice but to accept it. All other Test nations barring Zimbabwe and Bangladesh are already busy over the summer and cancelling the tour will cause a massive loss in revenue for CSA. The truncated tour could already see CSA lose up to R150 million. It leaves Cricket South Africa in a near impossible position. Cancelling the tour would be a massive loss, not only to their coffers, but also to the public who have been looking forward to the return of the traditional Boxing Day Test. CSA have no choice but to buckle to the BCCI’s demands in order to ensure they have a profitable summer.
Once again, this will bring the International Cricket Council’s governance under the spotlight. While it is up to the boards of the respective nations to negotiate fixtures as stipulated by the FTP, the ICC do have the power to mediate negotiations. The BCCI have, since the schedule was released, made noises that they are not happy with the schedule because of the workload of players. The Indian board insists it wants its “players to rest” and that it was not consulted on the planning of the schedule, despite it all being stipulated exactly as released in the original FTP. The Indian board also never contested the somewhat meaningless seven-match ODI series against Australia. This tour was only announced in May this year, before the fixtures against South Africa were released, but with the knowledge that it would be a long tour.
The current situation is a logistical nightmare for everyone involved trying to plan towards a cricket summer. From the fans looking to purchase tickets, the grounds selling them, the broadcasters and the sponsors. It is unlikely that a meeting between the two boards will take place any time soon and everyone involved will simply be left guessing while the BCCI throw their weight around.
Every ounce of logic would suggest that India’s bully-boy tactics stretch far beyond their issues with CSA’s recently appointed Haroon Lorgat. But cricket and logic have never really been bedfellows. The BCCI object to Lorgat’s position as CEO and hinted that they would not be too pleased with the appointment. The BCCI locked horns with Lorgat many times during his stint in charge of the ICC, from issues ranging the Decision Review System (DRS) as well as the Woolf Commission, initiated by Lorgat. The commission sought to do an independent review of the ICC following the 2011 World Cup.
The Woolf report suggested big changes in the functioning of the ICC, one of which was a restructuring of the ICC’s executive board to make it more independent and less dominated by the bigger countries. It also called for transparency in dealings between the ICC and its members. The BCCI rejected some of the key recommendations in the report, mostly with regards to the restructuring of the ICC.
After Lorgat’s appointment, the BCCI even went so far as to consider cutting CSA’s stake in the Champions League, but the teams would not be kicked out. Another meeting regarding the stake is scheduled towards September, and Lorgat himself has apparently been invited.
As things stand, CSA have their hands tied and the sport’s world governing body are washing theirs. That the tour will be completely cancelled is unlikely, but that everyone in South African cricket will be short-changed seems inevitable. DM
Photo: International Cricket Council (ICC) Chief Executive Haroon Lorgat speaks during a news conference at National stadium in Karachi August 12, 2008. REUTERS/Athar Hussain