India and South Africa are at a curiously similar place as they start a month-long tour with a three-game T20 series from Sunday. Both teams will view the ODI World Cup with a bittersweetness. Both teams had issues before the big event but South Africa dazzled against Australia in a home series as did India at the Asia Cup. And they forced the world to gape at them later during the ICC event. Now both teams look at fresher faces in the T20 series to take them forward.
Off the field too, both nations are casting their nets in similarly diverse places for unearthing talent. For a while now, South Africa have been social-engineering their teams with black quotas to reflect the larger populace of the country but have been facing criticism for it. One of the less-convincing condemnation has been that the black population isn’t interested in the game. Telford Vice, a senior South African journalist, corrects the misconception.
“Claiming black South Africans aren’t keen on cricket is like arguing that Indians aren’t keen on football. Of course they are, just not as much as they like cricket. Cricket isn’t any race of South Africans’ favourite sport, but it is a major game for all race groups,” Telfor says.
First practice session in South Africa
Interaction with Head Coach Rahul Dravid
Fun, music & enjoyment with teammates
P. S. – Don’t miss @ShubmanGill‘s special appearance
— BCCI (@BCCI) December 9, 2023
“If that’s true, people in other countries watching cricket in South Africa might ask, why have the crowds been so white? Because all but one of the major grounds are located in what were, until the 1990s, areas strictly reserved for whites. Those laws have gone, and if you look at our crowds now you will see they are the most diverse in the world.”
India’s catchment area too has been diverse for a while now; it’s the age of the Mofussil cricketer. With data that says that 54 percent of Indians will still be from the hinterland by 2040, it makes eminent sense that the Indian cricket board has been tapping this base for a while now. The advertising brands that pop on television screens during live India games too tell a story. Many B2B – Business to Business – products like cement and tiles are seen trying to catch the eyeballs of vendors and dealers.
It’s in this exploratory, market-widening, nation-encompassing context that the cricket in both countries are tending towards, and now starting a cricket series that couldn’t have come at a financially better time for South Africa.
— BCCI (@BCCI) December 8, 2023
“For the past three financial years CSA have declared financial losses that amounted to $28.5-million. This tour should put $68.7 million into CSA’s banking accounts. That’s more than double their losses. The situation really is that stark. Boards like CSA live hand to mouth from one India tour to another. Without tours by India, professional cricket in South Africa would likely go out of business,” Telford says.
Fresh faces in both teams
In cricketing terms, too, apart from the World Cup loopback, there are similarities. Both countries had been a bit slow in adapting to the all-out attack T20 mode that became commonplace elsewhere. India’s shyness was particularly egregious as it’s the home to the most celebrated T20 league in the world. But of late, they have shown enough signs that they want to inhabit the brave new world. Same with South Africa.
Faf du Plessis highlights the age-old factor that the Indian batsmen have to overcome if they are to succeed in South Africa. “If India can get adapted to the bounce on offer, it is going to be a good white-ball leg, Du Plessis told this newspaper. “Both India and South Africa are coming on the back of a very good World Cup. From what I have seen they have the right sort of players. Them coming against each other is going to make for some fantastic cricket.”
Focused on the task at hand this Sunday
New faces and new opportunities for the Proteas
— Proteas Men (@ProteasMenCSA) December 7, 2023
India have youngsters in Yashasvi Jaiswal, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Tilak Varma, Rinku Singh, Jitesh Sharma who can drag them to the current bold T20 template. It’s in the bowling, especially in the pace department, that the youth have to step up. They have the youngsters Arshdeep Singh and the slider-specialist Ravi Bishnoi in the T20 squad and the importance of the South Africa series for them cannot be emphasised enough.
South Africa too are looking at new faces to brighten the shortest format, especially in the absence of Quinton de Kock, Kagiso Rabada, and Lungi Ngidi. Their white-ball coach Rob Walter made an interesting statement the other day: “Let me throw it out there to create media hype – there are guys like Faf [du Plessis] and Rilee [Rossouw] as well as Quinny [Quinton de Kock] who could well be considered for the T20 World Cup. The SA20 will be an important competition as far as the World Cup goes. There are three [T20Is] against West Indies prior to the World Cup, at the end of the IPL. So there’s plenty of T20 cricket between now and the T20 World Cup.” It’s up to the youngsters to ensure South Africa don’t hark back to the past, and their time starts with the series against India.
Names like Nandre Burger, the left-arm pacer who will feature in all formats against India, Tristan Stubbs will be watched in the T20 series. So will Donovan Ferriera, who had nearly quit cricket after selection disappointments, before Stephen Fleming picked him for the JoBurg Super Kings recently, reviving his career and ambition.
Then there is Gerald Coetzee who had an outstanding world cup and will be backing himself to repeat the magic against India on home tracks.
Matthew Breetzke, who is a wicketkeeper batsman, too will get a chance though it will be Heinrich Klassen who will get the ‘keeping gloves. Breetzke played one game in the series against Australia. “I only got one shot at it, in the last game of that series,” Breetzke said. “This time, hopefully I will get all the shots. It frees me up to be the best that I can be.”
3⃣Days To GO !
The much-anticipated 𝐅𝐫𝐞𝐞𝐝𝐨𝐦 𝐒𝐞𝐫𝐢𝐞𝐬 gets underway this Sunday
A series of 2⃣ Titans honouring 2⃣ global icons . It will all be decided on the battlefield
Show your support for the Proteas with a in comments… pic.twitter.com/Ml4j9IwvDi
— Proteas Men (@ProteasMenCSA) December 7, 2023
The ‘Baby AB’ Dewald Brevis hasn’t been selected after his failures against Australia in the series that preceded the world cup. “The better the player who is getting left out the better our system. There isn’t space for all of the young batters to play all of the time. Dewie will definitely play again and I have communicated that with him. He got his opportunity on the back of Markram, [David] Miller and [Heinrich] Klaasen missing out. That is not the case for this series,” was how coach Walters put it recently.
Not just youngsters, but uncapped players with domestic cricket experience are being tried out. The 30-year old seamer Ottniel Baartman too finds a place, and it remains to be seen if he finally makes his debut, having been part of squads in the past but without playing. The 33-year old fast bowler Beuran Hendricks too has been named in the T20 series.
India too have the 31-year old Deepak Chahar and the 30-year old Mukesh Kumar in their T20 ranks. Two countries who are trying to take the positives from the World Cup and forget the heartbreak, and investing in widening their talent pool will go at each other from Sunday.
South Africa T20 squad:
Aiden Markram, Ottniel Baartman, Matthew Breetzke, Nandre Burger, Gerald Coetzee, Donovan Ferreira, Beuran Hendricks, Reeza Hendricks, Marco Jansen, Heinrich Klaasen, Keshav Maharaj, David Miller, Andile Phehlukwayo, Tabraiz Shamsi, Tristan Stubbs, Lizaad Williams.
India T20 squad:
Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shubman Gill, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Tilak Varma, Suryakumar Yadav (C), Rinku Singh, Shreyas Iyer, Ishan Kishan (wk), Jitesh Sharma (wk), Ravindra Jadeja (VC), Washington Sundar, Ravi Bishnoi, Kuldeep Yadav, Arshdeep Singh, Mohd. Siraj, Mukesh Kumar, Deepak Chahar.