India ask South Africa to play two Tests
Widespread fears over the future of Test cricket have been partly assuaged by the news that the BCCI has asked South Africa to play two Tests in India during their tour early next year, dropping two one-day internationals from the schedule to make space for the five-day matches.
India's change of mind - the tour was just going to comprise seven ODIs before being cut to five - came about after they ascended to the ICC's No. 1 ranking in Tests for the first time. Cricket South Africa chief executive Gerald Majola confirmed the request and said they were now trying to make space for the Tests, which would lengthen the tour by a week.
"They [India] have requested we play two Tests and three ODIs and we are still considering it," Majola said. "We still have to consult with the South African Cricketers' Association, the team management, our playing regulations and fixtures committees, as well as the board. It would extend the tour by another week, but we would like to accommodate them and I don't foresee a problem with it."
The dramatic about-turn came only four days after Majola was forced to issue a statement saying the Tests in India had merely been postponed, after a storm of criticism in South Africa that the No. 1 and 2 sides in the premier version of the game would not meet in that format.
It is believed CSA is calling on the sponsors of their Twenty20 domestic competition - the Standard Bank Pro20 - to agree to a postponement of their semi-finals and final by a week in order to accommodate the Tests in India and ensure the country's top players are back for the knockout stages of the Pro20.
The first round of Standard Bank Pro20 semi-finals are due to start on February 24, with the second round beginning on March 3 and the final on March 12. Those dates would all need to be shifted back by at least a week now, meaning the last two rounds of the four-day Supersport Series would have to be moved into April.
The two teams that advance to the Standard Bank Pro20 final land themselves a lucrative place in the Champions League Twenty20, so the franchises are understandably eager for their best players to be available.
India's newly-acquired position atop the Test rankings was under threat because they were only scheduled to play two Tests in the next 11 months, which explains its sudden interest in playing more Tests. Cricket South Africa has invariably tried to ensure they don't land on the wrong side of the BCCI, so it is likely India will get its wish and Test cricket will have a stellar showdown to look forward to.