Cape Town – Stop short of marking it yet in the earliest pages of your 2018 diary, but Thursday, January 4 may be shaping up as the “compromise” date for the beginning of Test hostilities at Newlands between South Africa and India.
The whisper to Sport24 from people usually in the know is that what would often be day three of the iconic New Year Test at the famous venue – assuming a more orthodox January 2 start – may instead represent the beginning of the contest, and simultaneously the four-match series.
Under such circumstances, at least a reasonably healthy festive-season feel would remain, and the game would also feature the handy characteristic of often pivotal days three and four being a Saturday and Sunday, ensuring attendance by any spectators who might otherwise be back at work.
“That would still be a pretty good result … although nothing is set in stone yet,” said a well-placed source. “A Friday start is also possible.”
Cricket South Africa CEO Haroon Lorgat had told this writer just over a week ago that it would be “a big disappointment for us if it doesn’t begin on the second or third”.
He added: “In the climate currently, where we are trying to promote and even save Test cricket, it (endangering the traditional start) is not the best thing to do.
“This is not a fixture you should be tampering with, because it is one that works. People look forward to that event. It is a sought-after date.”
But a start on January 4 (or even 5) would not represent too much of a climb-down for CSA, which is at the mercy to a large degree of the whims of influential counterparts the BCCI.
India have stubbornly, to this point, resisted signing off the roster, which will feature generous activity in all three formats, given their own squeezing-in of a swift return series between their national side and Sri Lanka, who have just hosted them.
That will only end just before Christmas, making it massively unlikely that – assuming the customary need for a short break and then at least one warm-up match on South African soil, likely to be at nearby Boland Park in Paarl – the first Test could begin as early as January 2 or 3.
It is increasingly more frustrating and difficult to believe that, featuring as it does the current top-two ranked Test nations in the world, the series continues to hold “to be confirmed” status in itinerary terms.
More than anything, maybe, the situation only highlights the extent to which juggernaut India really rule the roost in global cricket, rather than intended main governors the International Cricket Council.
It is bizarre enough that the prior India series is yet to boast a fixture list, whereas the Proteas’ next visitors in the Test format, great southern rivals Australia, have had theirs (March to April 2018, also four Tests) in the public domain since as early as January 4 this year, now more than eight months back.
But fixtures were also revealed earlier this week for India’s tour of England next July and August, only adding to a sense of impatience among South Africans for the much earlier activity against them on our shores to be revealed.
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