India in South Africa 2013-14 September 3, 2013

A marriage on the rocks

Recent events have fractured what was a harmonious relationship between India and South Africa. While the BCCI has been perceived as flexing its muscles to have its way, CSA has not handled the situation professionally as it could have

There are few break-ups that can be described as completely amicable and few people who can part ways without harbouring some ill feeling. The tensions between the BCCI and Cricket South Africa (CSA) seem to be ending the way the worst separations occur: with broken glass, and burnt bridges. Looking at them now, it's difficult to believe they once romanced each other with the enthusiasm of teenagers but as recently as three years ago, they did.

The Indian and South African cricket boards have had a special association for years, from the time when India were the loudest voice in banning South Africa from international cricket in 1970 - a deserved punishment for the atrocity which was Apartheid - and in welcoming them back in after unity in 1991. They were the first country to host South Africa after readmission and the first to tour these shores.

The 1992-93 series was aptly called the Friendship tour and consisted of four Tests and seven ODIs - almost as long as the one which was proposed for the 2013-14 season. Ali Bacher, who was the South African cricket boss at the time, explained South Africa wanted to host India before anyone else as a "gesture of appreciation," for the role India played in getting South Africa back into the international game.

The real opportunity to pay the BCCI back only came 16 years later and CSA snapped it up. When the general elections in India made the hosting of IPL 2009 impossible in that country, South Africa offered to organise the multi-million dollar event with little more than three weeks' notice.

Gerald Majola, then the CEO of CSA, said it was an opportunity to demonstrate the closeness of the two boards and CSA went all out. They provided staff ranging from administrative assistants to groundsmen, many of whom, such as Wanderers' pitch doctor Chris Scott, had to have leave cancelled as the South African offseason had just begun. CSA helped in contacting partners, hotels, airlines and security personnel, they sold tickets, they marketed the event with even more gusto than they often did with their own and they pulled it off, start to finish, to perfection.

It was also that IPL which was the source of CSA's biggest scandal since Hansie Cronje's admission of match-fixing almost a decade earlier. Majola accepted R4.7 million (then US$671,428) in bonuses for him and 39 other staff members but did not pass the money through the CSA board, who had already awarded their employees money for their IPL work.

CSA's auditors discovered the indiscretion in 2010 and what followed was a three-year-long saga that involved a series of investigations into Majola's wrongdoing, intervention by the country's sports minister, withdrawal of all major sponsors and eventually, Majola's sacking.

Through all of that, the BCCI did not have the need to respond. In fact, their dealings with CSA got stronger with the formation of the Champions League T20 - a partnership between the BCCI, Cricket Australia and CSA - and an additional tour.

India asked South Africa to play two Tests in 2010, as part of their quest to hold on to their No.1 ranking. South Africa obliged but won the first Test in Nagpur courtesy a stunning Dale Steyn performance, only to lose the second in Kolkata and set a scintillating contest for the return series later in the year. The quality of cricket played in the 2010-11 summer was some of the highest in recent times and the 1-1 draw left a lot of unfinished business ahead of this season's series, which is now in danger of being severely curtailed.

The kernel of the recent friction between the BCCI and CSA appear to boil down to one man: Haroon Lorgat. The parties locked horns over a variety of issues when Lorgat was the ICC CEO and neither side has been willing to disclose exactly what those are.

When he was appointed as Majola's replacement, Lorgat said he was surprised to learn the BCCI disapproved of it and even threatened CSA with a shortened or cancelled tour. He said he regarded the BCCI as "friends" and would do whatever it took to smooth things over, even if it meant sitting across a table and apologising. His words were reassuring but his actions have not been.

To date, Lorgat has made no plans to visit India and has not even been willing to acknowledge the obvious signs that the series will be affected. CSA's only statement is that they will not respond to speculation and that they have not heard from the BCCI about revisions to the existing itinerary. The financial implications are huge for CSA, who stand to lose out on R175 million if a shortened series happens.

While the BCCI was out of place in trying to dictate internal affairs at CSA and reams have been written about the danger their growing hegemony on world cricket poses. But CSA have not dealt with the situation as professionally as they could have.

CSA have been unwilling to address any of the issues related to a possible reduced itinerary. Instead, they've busied themselves with conferences - a CEO's one last week, a sponsor's forum this week - and given their fans nothing to ease their concerns. While it is understandable that CSA do not have answers yet, it is difficult to fathom why they are ignoring the problem to this extent.

It's clear to even the casual observer that CSA are being pushed around and that it is not right but given India's clout through cash, it is also perhaps unavoidable. Under the radar, there are murmurings of CSA being pushed out of the CLT20. This year's fixtures were released without their consultation and their staff who were due to work at the event in India, have been told their services are not needed. There is also talk of another board being invited to replace CSA.

Should they eventually be displaced, both from the CLT20 and India's plans, the losses will be both financial and cricketing. The CLT20 was one of the franchise's most important sources of earning. CSA make at least four times more money off an India incoming tour than any other. And cricket lovers, judging on the responses on social media, want to see at least three Tests between the two teams this summer. What is obvious is that this is not the time for CSA to resort to the silent treatment.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Harmon on September 8, 2013, 22:42 GMT

    @Andre Schutte: Big big lol to you. SA have never agreed for a 3 test series vs India since 1997 when they lost 1-2. The whole of 00s, each time SA came it was only for 2 test series. At the same time, India have toured SA for 3 tests in 00s and in 10s.

    Btw, last time India drew the series 1-1 and had a very good chance of winning the 3rd test to win it 2-1.

    Now who is afraid and who is not?

  • Dummy4 on September 8, 2013, 14:11 GMT

    What is happening BCCI? A sudden change with the SA schedule without negotiations. An invite to the WI out of the blue. Fans in SA and around the world were looking forward to India's tour of SA. It had the makings of an exciting series. That is now in jeopardy. Rumours abound the changes are because of Sachin to accommodate yet another of his records by facing easier bowling. All in front of Indian crowds. I doubt Sachin has any part in this insanity This rift could have serious ramifications for international cricket in the future and the BCCI is in the middle of it, as with the Board scandal, the match fixings and other issues. I thought the day of the bully was over. Maybe not.

  • Dummy4 on September 7, 2013, 10:57 GMT

    Mr hillbumper, it is indeed bad to see BCCI behaving the way it is and it is uncalled for. But please understand the economics of the game before thinking you can boycott team India. An overwhelming demand for the game comes from India. India can play internally and still be extremely profitable. If, on the other hand, India had to reverse-boycott other teams, they would get a financial hiding and would find it difficult to sustain.

  • Yogesh on September 7, 2013, 3:36 GMT

    As an Indian fan based in the US, I am embarrassed and ashamed at the behavior of the BCCI. They have lurched from one low to another, sinking lower and lower. They are the most powerful (and monied) cricket body in the world and care not a whit for the fans, for the cricketers, for the broader development of cricket itself, and definitely not for their reputation. This latest series of incidents is shameful beyond belief. Soon, I predict, Indian cricket will be nothing but overpaid cricketers strutting around in their own backyards and winning "world" championships in T20 tournaments that involve..... other Indian teams. Much like baseball's "World" Series in the US. Any real cricket fans are weeping and in shock at BCCI's behavior.

  • Biso on September 6, 2013, 17:39 GMT

    A lot of rubbish is being written by some readers like BBCI is scared about India loosing in South Africa and hence there is need for some excuse to curtail the itinerary. The fact of the matter is that CSA altered the itinerary without keeping BCCI in picture, obviously to earn more revenue. They cannot hope to earn as much from any tour involving England or Australia. Haroon Lorgat might have said re conciliatory statements in the press but he has not taken any concrete steps to address the problem. What is BCCI expected to do? Let CSA have their cake and eat it too?

  • Biso on September 6, 2013, 16:46 GMT

    @Sandeep Manjrekar. You are spot on. It is amazing to see the kind of bias and blinkered view many readers have been expressing here. It seems hating BCCI has become a fashion. The problem is Haroon Lorgat thought he could get away with the lions share. Did CSA officials really believe BCCI would keep mum over the altered itinerary which favored CSA heavily with no concern for BCCI's interests? BCCI has better business brains than any other board. It is not merely the large viewership base in India that is behind BCCI's financial success. They may have many skeletons in their cupboard, but they sure know how to earn and keep their players well paid.

  • Dummy4 on September 6, 2013, 14:59 GMT

    The real reason here is that India is scared of SA. They know they are going to get a big hiding so they are trying to limit it as far as possible. 2 tests only and they might be able to draw one so a 1-0 series loss does not sound so bad. If this was a SA tour to India it would have been 5 tests.

  • Jayaesh on September 5, 2013, 12:02 GMT

    @LillianThompson, first of all let me correct certain facts and figures which you stated, first of all BSkyB are paying ECB 300 mllion Euros for 4 years not 900 million , CA have done a deal with channel 9 for 400 million US Dollors and 100 million deal with channel 10 for BBL,that way if i include the IPL deal Indian cricket is worth 1.6 billion US Dollors and if i add 1.1 billion which Espnstar paid for ICC rights and another 1 billion US for cricket version of CL then Indian cricket is worth an astounding 3.7 billion US dollars for an 4 to 8 year period !!!

    World cricket is like La Liga TV market and BCCI are Madrid and Barca rolled in to one and other test playing nations are equivalent of Valencia ,Atletico etc. You still didn't respond to my statement regarding Spanish league being more skillful and about the irony bit regarding your fondness for money driven soulless, foriegn dominated EPL while contrasting that with your disdain of BCCI's love of lucre..

  • stuart on September 5, 2013, 10:24 GMT

    BCCI have all the skills of an old gunboat diplomat.The time will come when people will turn their back on them and then what? They can keep playing Sri Lanka for ever but the reality is that the team has a limited shelf life.Is the reason why they are causing issues is because they know they will lose in South Africa? this is not new behaviour by them either.

  • Dummy4 on September 5, 2013, 10:00 GMT

    Which counties should India tour and which countries should India host.If we see the history of Indian Cricket, England hosted us the most in the days of our stuggle both cricketing and economic.However, when England toured India, even as late as 1973, many top cricketers and regulars stayed away.It is the opening up of Indian economy, post 1991 and a presence of a sizable number of Indian nationals with Indian passports all round the world who can uninhibitedly support their team from Durban to Hambantota, without getting involved in Tebbit Tests.It also helps that the NRI and PIOs often get clubbed together.India now should possibly chose teams like the West Indies who show potential as England did from 1932 to1973 and tour countries playing whom helps our cricket and keeps the audience interested.From the number of people following A tours South Africa is one such country.The two Boards should work in tandem.