India vs South Africa: History, thrilling ties, friendship and much more

India, South Africa, Cricket, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, Sachin Tendulkar, Clive Rice, Kepler Wessels, Hensi, Hansie Cronje, Jonty Rhodes, Shaun Pollock, Allan Border
The two nations bolster of a long grown friendship

With Tests and ODIs against Sri Lanka coming to an end, the focus has slightly shifted to the much anticipated oversees tour.

On the onset of New Year 2018, India is slated to play three-match Test series in South Africa along with 6 ODIs and 3 T20Is. India’s trip to South Africa is always something which Indian fans like me look forward to. Since decades, real test of Indian Test squad has actually been playing in South Africa and Australia (can add England also after drubbing in 2011 and 2014).

Lush green and nicely manicured grounds, fast and bouncy tracks and formidable opponent, this is how we define Test Cricket in Australia and South Africa. It is for this very reason, Indians regard India’s Test victories at Adelaide (in 2003), Perth (in 2008) and Johannesburg (in 2006) as the finest ever in recent years.

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But let’s put Cricket aside for a moment and touch upon a different facet. South Africa always had a special bond with India, on and off the Cricket field. It is in South Africa where father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi, as a common man embarked upon a journey which transformed him into the greatest Asian ever after Buddha. At Pietermaritzburg railway station in South Africa, a 24-year-old young lawyer from India, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was thrown out of coach by white TTE as Gandhi was travelling in a coach reserved only for the whites. This was a seminal incident, which ultimately shaped the lives of millions of Indians, saying it shaped India to some extent won’t be wrong either. (Pietermaritzburg hosted an ICC World Cup match in 2003)
India was one of the biggest supporters of anti-apartheid campaign of native blacks of South Africa. By virtue of long oppressive British rule in India, India was a country which had zero tolerance policy against apartheid. In 1974, India was up against South Africa in the final of Davis Cup. India refused playing the title clash and forfeited the Cup. South Africa was boycotted by almost whole world till the onset of decade of nineties and thus there was no international Cricket involving South Africa for more than twenty years.
During eighties, when I was following games as a teenager, we knew little about South African Cricket. What we knew was it had produced legends like Berry Richards, Graeme Pollock (uncle of Shaun Pollock), Clive Rice and few others. These legends could have been great Test cricketers had South Africa played international Cricket during all those years.
That was the hefty price which South Africa and its citizens paid for tyrannical policy of apartheid. International exposure to South African cricketers was limited to rebel tours by disgruntled international cricketers to South Africa.

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In February 1990, Mandela was released, changes ushered in and oppressive white’s rule and apartheid came to an end. South Africa was all set to join world fraternity as all restrictions were revoked.
India was first to take the lead and as epic goodwill gesture India invited South African team for an ODI series, which took place in November 1991. It was first international Cricket series of South Africa after decades of boycott. I remember the grand welcome extended by Kolkata crowd to South African in Kolkata.

South African side was led by veteran Clive Rice, who was 42 years old during that series. Clive Rice was bit of known face for ardent Cricket followers in India because of his flamboyant stint with Nottinghamshire in English country Cricket. However the best known player in that South African side was Kepler Wessels. Kepler earlier represented Australia in international cricket. When Australia hosted India in World Championship in 1985, Wessels was in Australian playing eleven.

In the very first ODI, we got to see the genius of Allan Donald. He was ferociously quick and damn alluring to watch. Donald claimed 5-wicket haul and almost pulled the game for South Africa.

South Africa showed its class just after it was off the block. India won first two ODIs but South Africa registered an emphatic victory in third ODI in Delhi.

South Africa reciprocated to the Indian gesture and India became first country to play a Test series in South Africa during 1992-93 after more than two decades. It was huge moment for South African Cricket. When India landed in Durban, they received rousing welcome; team drove from hotel in open cars, were given civic reception. Team met Nelson Mandela. India was decimated both in Tests and ODIs.

Indians always struggled in Tests played in South Africa during nineties. India won the home Test series in 1996-97 against South Africa but soon they capitulated in Test series in South Africa again. In Durban Test of series, India lost its twenty wickets for just 166 runs.

Sachin Tendulkar’s last instinct as the skipper of India was against South Africa in 2000, a series that is more known for infamous match fixing scandal involving South African captain Hansie Cronje. Tendulkar scored his last Test century against South Africa in January 2011.

One of India’s most prolific Test batsmen in recent times Virender Sehwag made his Test debut against South Africa in 2001. He scored century in his debut Test. When in 2009, Indian Premier League looked doubtful due to General Elections in India, South Africa came up as an interesting option. IPL received colossal reception in South Africa and it was hugely successful edition of IPL in 2009.

India’s two finest Cricket moments in recent times have uncanny South African connection. In 2007, India lifted inaugural ICC T-20 World Cup played in South Africa. Four years later when India lifted, ICC World Cup in 2011, it was under a South African coach Gary Kirsten. We can also add India’s glittering performance in 2003 ICC World Cup played in South Africa in this list when team ended as runners up.

There are plenty of other things which shows the friendship level between the two countries. Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers, two modern day greats, are always full of praises for each other. Proteas legend Jonty Rhodes named her daughter India. Mr 360 degree finds a special place in the hearts of Indian fans.

At last, a very interesting connection. Hashim Amla has been one of the finest batsmen to play for South Africa. After more than 50 Tests at an average of 50, Amla is already a legend and hall of famer. Amla is of Indian origin and has his roots in Gujarat. His forefathers migrated to South Africa from Gujarat.

A strong Indian side is visiting South Africa and an exciting Test series is on the cards. But beyond Cricket, let’s enjoy and relive the eternal bonhomie between these two nations.


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