CSA, CA willing to discuss Boxing Day impasse
South Africa and Australia could play festive-season Tests against each other before 2021 as the boards of both countries are willing to discuss the current scheduling. Australia are due to host South Africa in November 2016, and Pakistan over the holidays, but the fixtures could be switched after Cricket South Africa (CSA) indicated a willingness to tour Australia over Christmas and New Year.
If a rearrangement is agreed upon, it will be a change from CSA's announcement two years ago, when chief executive Gerald Majola said the teams would not meet in that period until 2020 at least because both boards wanted to host Boxing Day and New Year Tests. With Majola no longer in office, acting CSA chief executive Jacques Faul said South Africa would consider revisiting the issue. "We can always discuss the option as long as it is mutually beneficial," Faul said.
Apart from the ongoing tour, South Africa had always visited Australia over the holiday season. They made five trips after readmission before Majola convinced the ICC not to include another visit in that period in the 2012-2020 FTP. His reasons were driven by Australia's refusal to tour South Africa over the same time.
"When the FTP was being discussed we brought forward a proposal that we would play them once in Australia and once at home. They didn't accept our proposal," Majola said in November 2010. "We thought if they don't want to tour here, we will also say we don't want to tour there during that time so we can host our own Tests."
Majola's rationale seemed to make sense but South Africa brought the policy into question when they scheduled a Twenty20 instead of a Test on Boxing Day this summer. New Zealand will be touring South Africa and will play three Twenty20s on December 21, 23 and 26. CSA thought that would be the best way to maximise revenue over the period, given the opposition. However, they gave an assurance that there would be a Boxing Day Test in future seasons.
While the Boxing Day Test is regarded a grand tradition in South Africa, as it is in Austalia, it not particularly profitable for CSA, with numbers dwindling after the first day. In contrast, festive-season Tests draw the biggest international crowds of the summer in Australia. For that reason, CA would prefer if South Africa travelled to Australia and not vice versa. Hosting South Africa would also be to CA's liking because, along with England and India, they are big draw cards.
"We have a long-held view that our preference is to play South Africa during that festive season," James Sutherland, CA chief executive, said. "We understand the background and the reasons why that hasn't happened this time, but it's not as easy as that. There's a future tours programme that is in place until 2020. While we might like to try and engineer something, if that was a possibility, the knock-on effects all around the calendar would be quite significant. But it would be a nice conversation to have. Both commercially and in terms of the promotion of the game here, it's something that we have wanted to preserve."
The FTP has already been planned for the next eight years and Australia will host the Ashes, and series against India, New Zealand and West Indies over the next three. South Africa are due to tour in November 2016 with Pakistan to follow later that year. That could be an opportunity for the boards to agree to move the fixtures so South Africa visit over Boxing Day and New Year. Sutherland and Faul will meet at the ICC Chief Executive's Conference in Dubai this week and Sutherland said it would be "something to add to the agenda."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent