However, to reinstate itself on the international stage as a hostile Test team, a menacing display away from home was what the doctor ordered and the home season was looked at as a dress rehearsal for the much anticipated South African tour at the end of year 2013.
When Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay sent Australia on a leather hunt in the recent home series, people breathed a sigh of relief as India could settle down with an opening pair for South Africa after the experienced Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir were shown the door. Also, when India found an able swing bowler in Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, the first thing which traversed our mind was that the South African conditions are tailor-made for him.
The respect which Indian team lost, along with those series’ away from home in 2011, could only be earned back away from home. And in this context, this crucible series in the den of the world number one Test team was as significant as a Real Madrid-Barcelona classico. Alas, the BCCI has reduced this eagerly awaited event to a farce.
The plan to play four Tests in South Africa, which was later chopped to three Tests, is now confronted with a cloud of uncertainty. BCCI, via a two-test series against West Indies, wants Sachin Tendulkar to play his 200th Test in front of his home crowd and as a result, the window for South African test series has become tenuous. And now the series which we awaited for two years needs to be ‘squeezed’ in.
I have no problems with BCCI trying to fathom a way to make Tendulkar’s 200th Test a grand occasion in his backyard but the moot question is, at what cost? If a personal milestone is considered more important than the South Africa Test series, then there is something seriously wrong with our priorities. Squeezing in South Africa in between West Indies and New Zealand is like squeezing in Wimbledon between ATP tournaments. Anything less than three tests, will be a joke.
The South Africa series, in all likelihood, is to be chopped. And our young guns have every right to feel cheated. It is highly unfair on the inexperienced players as they would be deprived of a high quality contest. Neither is it beneficial for the little master. There are speculations he might retire and not go to South Africa. If that is the case, what should be his last mission?
A timid West Indies at home or a fiery South Africa away? And even if he has no plans to step aside, should he not have a substantial chance of winning a series in South Africa which has eluded him and India? Tendulkar, in his illustrious career, has notched up all personal records but has not won a test series in West Indies, Australia and South Africa. While series wins in West Indies and Australia will mock Tendulkar forever, BCCI has increased his chances of not tasting a victory in South Africa as well by cutting it short.
If there was anyone who could put an end to this nonsense, it is Tendulkar himself. But that would have been unlike Tendulkar. Things might have been different if someone like Rahul Dravid was in the picture. However, BCCI, with their greed, is not going to squander this once-in-a-blue-moon chance of hosting the 200th Test of our legend and mint money via Tendulkar.
Not for the first time has BCCI espoused greed and taken fans and players for granted. Neither will it be the last time. Fans must be inured to their parochial and odious functioning. BCCI, with the ocean of money at their disposal, has become like the sun in the solar system but has ensured an eclipse of democracy and integrity in Indian cricket.
When the notoriously incompetent Prime Minster of Sierra Leone, Siaka Stevens stepped down in 1985, his tenure was described as ‘17-year-plague of locusts’. Looking at the way BCCI has been bullying other international governing bodies, seems like it is slowly getting there.