Now that the Indian team, after relatively easy assignment against West Indies at home, is on way to a month-long encounter in South Africa where they play three ODIs and two Test matches, we enumerate herewith some of the highlights of India-South Africa series over the years and what to expect this month:
South Africa’s emergence from more than 21 years of political exile attracted a crowd of at least 90,000 at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on November 10, 1991. Most of the spectators were armed with fireworks which coincided with Diwali celebration. South Africa’s inaugural limited-overs international was also their first ever encounter at any level with India.
South Africa’s first home Test match for 22 years was played against India at Durban in the month of November, 1992. It was also the first Test in which television replays monitored by a third umpire off the field were called upon to adjudicate in line decisions. Sachin Tendulkar incidentally became the system’s first victim when he was adjudged run-out.
Kolkata’s first floodlit match attracted a crowd of around 90,000, vast swarms of insects which were dispersed by smoke bombs and one mongoose, on November 24, 1993 during the five-nation Hero Cup. Vinod Kambli was first to be despatched run-out in the ODI by a video-assisted third umpire, S.K.Bansal. South Africa needed six runs off the final over to proceed to the all-important final. Sachin Tendulkar who till then had not bowled a single over in the match conceded just three runs as India emerged victorious by two runs.
Australia and South Africa are the only two countries where India has so far failed to win a Test series. India has so far played ten series Down Under (lost as many as seven) and five in South Africa (lost the first four) without any success as far as the rubber victories are concerned. The forthcoming two-Test encounter gives India an excellent chance to set right that record in South Africa.
With number one ranked South Africa and number two ranked India facing each other in Tests, it is but natural to expect top players from them in different categories: AB de Villiers & Hashim Amla as top two batsmen, Dale Steyn & Vernon Philander as top two bowlers and Ravichandran Ashwin as top all rounder! On the other hand, India is at top notch position in the ODI team rankings with Virat Kohli as the top ODI batsman being closely followed by AB de Villiers.
As expected the top Indian run-getters in Tests in South Africa are Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Sourav Ganguly and Virendra Sehwag. But all of them are not part of the touring squad – the first four having retired and the fifth one being sidelined due to indifferent form. The next in the list is skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni who has aggregated 283 runs in five matches.
On the other hand, member of the touring party with the highest wicket tally in Tests for India in South Africa is the comeback man Zaheer Khan with 23 victims from six outings. At 35 years, he also remains the oldest player in the team.
Both India and South Africa have won the most and identical number of Tests – six each in the current calendar year. But India enjoys one more distinction of being the only unbeaten team during the year. On the other hand, India has registered the highest number of ODI victories this year – 22 out of 31 matches for the winning percentage of 70.97.
India and South Africa have so far appeared in ten different Test series – five in each country over the years. After the first seven engagements produced definite results in which South Africa held the upper hand by virtue of five wins as against just two defeats, the last three encounters were all drawn – by identical margin of one-all which gives an idea that the forthcoming battle will be keenly contested indeed.
The forthcoming first Test at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg from December 18 to 22 will be first ever in the history of Indian cricket that a Test match will be played without the presence of any of the fabulous four batsmen in it, namely Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. Ever since Tenulkar made his Test debut on November 15, 1989, India has appeared in 217 Tests and one of the four players was always a member of the playing XI. Just for the record, India played 25.