Durban memories could serve Daredevils better
Delhi Daredevils have emerged as the only IPL team able to adjust sufficiently to South African conditions, which would come as little surprise considering the prowess of their pace attack. But they will find they do not have to do much adapting for their semi-final against the Lions in Durban. In fact, the venue could be to their liking, as it should feel a little bit like home.
For some of them, like Kevin Pietersen, it is actually home. Pietersen grew up in Pietermariztburg, the distance of the Comrades Marathon from Durban: about 90 kilometres. He played for Kwa-Zulu Natal, the team based in Durban, and even returned to them two seasons ago to find form. His parents still live in the region and he visits home occasionally, most recently when he announced his decision to retire from ODIs.
For others, like Irfan Pathan, there are just fond memories. Pathan had an outstanding 2007 World T20 in South Africa and much of his success came in Durban. He scored vital runs and took two wickets in the tied match against Pakistan (which India eventually won in a bowl-out) and claimed three scalps in the win over England.
Although Pathan did not feature as heavily in the defeat of South Africa and the semi-final triumph over Australia, both those milestones came in Durban. He went on to be named Man of the Match for his 3 for 16 in the final against Pakistan in Johannesburg and will no doubt see South Africa as being the place that provided a major stepping stone in his 20-overs career.
Flashbacks of success are also to be found in Durban for Virender Sehwag, who scored 68 in the World T20 match against England. Perhaps he would prefer to be reminded of India's Test win over South Africa at Kingsmead two years ago. Mahela Jayawardene will definitely still remember Sri Lanka's. It was not even a year ago that Rangana Herath bowled the team to a win to give the Sri Lanka its first ever Test victory in South Africa.
That result is believed to have prompted the move to cancel this year's Boxing Day Test - usually held in Durban. Instead of the traditional fixture South Africa will play a T20 against New Zealand in Port Elizabeth because it is the better revenue option. Many believe it is actually part of a plot to save South Africa from another defeat the ground where they have not managed to win once in the last four years.
All of the above points to one thing: of all the venues in the country, Durban has been the one that foreign teams could count on for a little bit of help. The absence of an overwhelming partisan crowd has been one of the reasons they have prospered, as the immigrant community comes out in their numbers.
Durban, like Trinidad or Guyana, was one the cities Indian immigrants were taken to most frequently during the time of indentured labour. At one point, it was reported to have the largest number of people of Indian descent outside the motherland itself. When subcontinent teams tour South Africa, Durban could easily be mistaken for Delhi and Kingsmead for the Kotla as Indian flags, bhangra and Bollywood tunes would come out to play.
The main reason Champions League matches were held there was not to compensate for the lack of Test this year - Durban will not host one of the summer's five Tests - but because the organisers hopes to pique the interest of this group of people. And they did. Despite the seemingly endless rain in the city, the stadium sold 14,000 tickets for the match between Delhi and Auckland - which was washed out. Doubtless, most of those people would have been cheering for Delhi.
While Delhi may feel completely welcome in Durban, it could be the opposite for Lions. Despite being the home franchise of the two, Lions are not from Durban and they have had some tense relations with them in recent times. Player movements between the two franchises have been numerous with Robbie Frylinck and Jonathan Vandiar moving from Durban to Johannesburg and then back to Durban, Imran Tahir going from the Dolphins to the Lions and Vaughn van Jaarsveld the other way round.
Those matters are unlikely to have any effect on support for Lions though, and they should receive some quarters backing them. Some, but certainly not as many as the fierce home crowd who will turn out to shout for Titans against Sydney, something Matthew Maynard and some Sydney players have said could have an effect on the game. For Delhi then, there is probably nowhere better they could play their semi-final, besides home, and nowhere in South Africa where it will be more appreciated if they can hold high the IPL reputation.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent