February 18, 2000

A historic tour in more ways than one

The Indian tour of South Africa in 1992-93 was historic in more ways than one. Not only was the visit the first by an Indian team to that country, it was also the first series to be played in South Africa since its excommunication 23 years before. The tour will also be remembered for the introduction of the ICC panel of independent umpires and the decision of the United Cricket Board of South Africa to experiment with TV replays to settle difficult line decisions - an innovation that has come to be known as the third umpire.

Unfortunately much of the cricket played during the `Friendship Tour' - as it was billed - was not in keeping with the historic aspect. There was much slow scoring and negative captaincy, the games were generally played on moribund pitches and the teams were far from evenly matched. South Africa were decidedly the superior side even though their final victory margin in the four Test series was only 1-0. Their superiority was more marked in the one day international series which they won 5-2.

The Indians came to South Africa after a short tour of Zimbabwe. The first Test played in Durban had surprisingly little impact, watched by a total crowd of about 30,000 despite a large Indian community. The match started in interesting fashion but petered out into a tame draw after rain washed out the fourth day's play. The South Africans led off with 254 with skipper Kepler Wessels top scoring with 118. India's reply of 277 was built around a courageous 103 by debutant Praveen Amre. South Africa on the final day scored 176 for three in their second innings. The Test was however a milestone for two other reasons. In South Africa's first home Test since March 1970, they included a non white player, Omar Henry, for the first time. At 40 years and 295 days, he was their oldest debutant. The game also saw TV replays being used for the first time to settle awkward line decisions and Sachin Tendulkar became the first batsman to be given out, run out, by the third umpire.

The second Test at Johannesburg followed the pattern of the first Test in that after four days of fluctuating fortunes, the match ended in a tame draw. South Africa scored 292 thanks largely to the efforts of Jonty Rhodes (91) and Brian McMillan (98). India's reply of 227 was built around a superb 111 by Tendulkar. Two half centuries by Andrew Hudson (53) and wicketkeeper Dick Richardson (50) highlighted South Africa's second innings total of 252. For India, Anil Kumble first showed glimpses of his skill and growing stature by capturing six wickets for 53 runs off 44 overs. Requiring 318 for victory in a little over a day, India declined to chase the target and played for a draw, closing at 141 for four.

After four eventful days, South Africa won the third Test at Port Elizabeth by nine wickets. The architect of the victory was Allan Donald who took 12 wickets for 139 runs as India were bowled out for 212 and 215. The captain Md Azharuddin bolstered the first innings with a timely 60 while the second Indian innings was all Kapil Dev. Coming in at 27 for five with India facing an innings defeat despite being only 63 runs behind on the first innings and in spite of batting with an injured right hand, the experienced all rounder hit a brilliant 129 but it was a hopeless cause. South Africa who had gained a valuable first innings lead, thanks in the main to Hansie Cronje's 135, coasted to victory for the loss of only one wicket with Wessels leading the charge with an unbeaten 95.

Needing only a draw in the final Test at Cape Town to clinch the series, South Africa achieved their objective. Rhodes top scored with 86 as the hosts led off by scoring 360 for nine declared. India, with half centuries from Manoj Prabhakar (62) and Tendulkar (73) replied with 276 but by this time, because of slow scoring by both sides, it was already the fourth evening. The match petered out into a tame draw with South Africa declaring at 130 for six and India scoring 29 for one.

In the ODI's, there was no doubting South Africa's superiority. They were always ahead in the seven match series and ultimately won by a margin that brooked no argument. Unfortunately the series was marred by an unsavoury incident in the second game at Port Elizabeth. Kapil Dev ran out Peter Kirsten for backing up before he bowled the ball. Kapil did not warn the batsman, having done so three times previously on the tour. Kirsten reacted angrily before walking off. Later in the same over, Wessels appeared to collide with Kapil as he turned for a second run. India lodged a complaint that Wessels had hit Kapil on the shin with his bat. They also claimed that Kirsten had shown dissent and incited the crowd. Clive Lloyd, the match referee announced that Wessels had admitted his bat had come into contact with Kapil but said it was unintentional. Lloyd had not seen the incdient and as the TV cameras had been following the ball, he said the truth could not be established. Kirsten was fined 50 percent of his match fee for unacceptable conduct. It was a sorry incident and one that brought into focus the increasing petulance in the players' behaviour and the greater role the match referees would play later in the decade.