I’ve long puzzled about why the BCCI acted so cooly to Gary Kirsten’s request for an advance trip to South Africa ahead of the Test series there. After all, South Africa has been a tough place for the Indians, who have never won a Test series there. It’s full of bounce, spit, pace, all the supposed bugaboos Indian batsmen can’t handle.
And now, we have a slight hint, c/o Cricinfo:
The coach felt that in the absence of India not playing any warm-up matches before the first Test, it was imperative players be sent early to get used to the conditions. Kirsten had sent in his request earlier this year, stressing to the board that the players needed time to acclimatise and also adjust to the pitch conditions in South Africa. However, the board took months to consider the request, mostly because of any potential objections the broadcaster might raise about devaluing the New Zealand ODI series, before giving permission earlier this month.
Call me naive, but I just blamed the BCCI’s incompetence for the delay, not any crass commercial concern. Honestly, is the New Zealand ODI series so valuable anyway? It’s not a top series, and India has regularly rested senior players of late. So who cares? (I’m also a firm believer in the notion that many Indians will always watch their cricket team, no matter who they’re playing, where, or for what point. But I’m also a cricket fanatic.)
I understand some people think the no-warm-up game thing is not such a big deal. After all, India played both the T20 World Cup and the IPL Season 2 over there, so they should have a sense of what works and what doesn’t. Putting aside the merits of this argument — I don’t think a tournament played years ago, and that too of the T20 variety, counts as adequate preparation for Tests — at least it’s a cricket-based one, not a commercial excuse. Sigh.