The fact that there were immediate question marks over the remainder of India’s tour of South Africa following the passing of Nelson Mandela gives you some indication of the man’s stature.
As the world pays tribute to Madiba, as he was popularly known, I am reminded of how privileged and honoured I was to have had the opportunity to meet him on two occasions.
The first experience was during my first trip to South Africa with the Indian team in 1992. We spent a memorable evening, and I distinctly remember how much he spoke about Mahatma Gandhi. Our team also presented him with a bat signed by all the players.
It was an experience none of us will ever forget, after all, such occasions usually come once in a lifetime. Fortunately, for those of us who were again part of the touring party to South Africa in 1996, we enjoyed a second meeting with the monumental man.
And I have to say, had it not been for cricket, I would never had this privilege. International cricket does grant you the privilege of meeting world leaders, but meeting Madiba quite easily stands out for me.
His contribution not just to South Africa but to the whole world is simply immense. Besides his inspirational political journey, he also cared deeply for sport. In fact, South African cricketers will remain eternally thankful for the pivotal role he played in their return to international cricket.
Why, the first country South Africa toured upon their return to the international stage was India in the winter of 1991. And as a cloud of sorrow hangs over the current series involving the two sides, you can surely expect that the entire nation will be all the more behind the home team as they look to dedicate a victory to their late great leader.
As far as India is concerned, both, batsmen and bowlers will have to quickly adapt to the conditions. The batting requires a sound start from the openers who must find a way of negotiating the first 10 overs after which, run making should get easier.
They will surely know that the same game plan which worked wonders in India isn’t going to do the same here. As for the bowling, the tendency to bowl length must stop. On South African pitches, you have to hit the deck, which I’m sure they will soon realise.
In this regard, I believe Ishant Sharma, who’s in a similar mould to a Morne Morkel, is just the kind of bowler who can lead the way. Including him will also help season him for the two Test match battle that lies ahead.
Professional Management Group