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Past Panorama Part One
When The Proteas Came to Eden
By S Zeyaur Rahman  

Past Panorama Part Two   
Past Panorama Part Three   

All conventional wisdom says that past is past, dead and gone, buried beneath the avalanche of the contemporary. But more often than not this old age adage is defied by none other than us, we who bury the past only to dig it up later and resurrect it.

Let me use this prerogative and excavate the events of July 1991, when under a sudden turn of events South Africa was welcomed back to the fold of cricket playing nations by the very same organisation, the ICC, which had shown it the door in 1969. It was politics then and it was politics now. Nothing could be more symbolic of the changing equations than the initiative by India, a nation of coloured people moving the resolution in the ICC, which paved the way for the Apartheid nation.      

Dr Ali Bacher was indebted with gratitude and in a spontaneous gesture which came straight from the heart a short trip to India was organised. That was the first time that India and South Africa were to meet on the cricket field.

On the 9th of November 1991 the first ever South African airline touched down the Indian soil at the Dum Dum airport. A sea of humanity, overflowing with enthusiasm bubbling with spirit gave a rousing welcome to the team under Clive Rice. It was a momentous occasion for Calcutta which has more than its fare share of cricketing history.

Rice thought that it could get no better. He was shocked the very next day as an unprecedented crowd turned up at the Eden Garden. The official number was 90,800, a world record. That is without taking into account the numerous officials, pressmen, policemen and vendors! The setting was electric.

The Proteas were jittery and unnerved, perhaps shaken and overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of almost everything. The Calcutta crowd, which is synonymous with deafening crackers went berserk and scalped Hudson in the very first over. Wickets fell at regular intervals and when they did not, the run rate was too slow. Wessels, the only player who was not making a debut, needed 95 balls for his 50 and his team ended at 177-8 in 50 overs.

That was a very moderate target but Donald made a point that fast bowling was poorer by his absence. He had 3 wickets in 4 overs. With Azharuddin gone at 60 a match was on the cards.

Cometh the hour cometh the man. India’s teenage prodigy, Sachin Tendulkar scored a fluent 62 off 73 balls and was ably assisted by the debutante Praveen Amre, who also scored a fifty and India romped home with three wickets and ten overs to spare. But not before Donald had registered 5-29 And walked away with the Man of the Match prize.
Another day another time. But nothing had changed except the venue. Roop Singh Stadium Gwalior did not leave any stone unturned in making the occasion a historic one. This match marked the comeback of Srikkanth on his captains insistence. Everyone knew that Azharuddin was repaying an old debt. But Srikkanth did not disappoint and rattled up a stroke filled fifty and added 130 for the first wicket with Sidhu. The next man Manjrekar got run a ball 52 and India was heading for a big total. Suddenly there was a slump and India could manage only 233 runs, Donald breaking Amre’s off stump with the last ball of the innings and had figures of 3-36.

Indian bowling was extremely disciplined. Kapil Dev yet again got a wicket in the first over, this time Jimmy Cook. He and Prabhakar gave away only 46 runs in 18 overs and South Africa was stifled. Wessels stood tall among the ruins getting 71 off 96 balls, too less for a victory but good enough to fetch him the Man of the Match prize.

The series was already decided and South Africa had not done anything special. Still a capacity crowd turned up at the Nehru Stadium, Delhi. And all of them would be thanking their stars for it.

India tried its third opening pair in as many games. Srikkanth opened with Shastri and got yet another fifty and with that booked his place in the team for Australia. Shastri acting as the skipper got 109 but the surprise package was Manrekar’s 105 off 82 balls only. This was the first time that two Indians had got a century in the same match. India set up at a target off 288 runs and the match was as good as over.

South Africa had other plans. At last they displayed their might and restored their pride. Their entire batting line up clicked and they hammered the Indian attack. Wessels got his thirds consecutive 50. His 90 off 105 balls and Peter Kirsten’s 86 off 92 balls were the foundation of South Africa’s strong reply. Cook got a sedate 35 and Kuiper was explosive getting 63 in 41 balls. South Africa made a mockery of India’s huge total, winning with 8 wickets and 3.2 over to spare.

That was the icing on the cake. Both the teams generated tremendous goodwill and enthusiasm and left everybody yearning for more. The Proteas were bowled over by the warm reception and they in turn won many a hearts. A beginning had been made. There was a pledge for a Continuum but for the time being there had to be an Interregnum.

Past Panorama Part Two
When India Went To Durban
By S Zeyaur Rahman

Past Panorama Part One   
Past Panorama Part Three   

The South African tour to India was history. The hurriedly arranged three one day match series was remembered for more non cricketing reasons than otherwise. But that had initiated a process and which gained momentum with every passing day. The South Africans were once again overwhelmed with Indian hospitality and Dr Bacher's sense of gratitude was renewed. He had not forgotten the fact that India had moved the resolution in the ICC for South Africa's entry. He had reciprocated by choosing India as the first destination. After the tour to India he made a public proclamation that India would be the first country to tour South Africa and he fulfilled his promise.

The warm reception that the Proteas had got all over India was a benchmark and Dr Bacher knew that it would be very difficult to match the standards. It was his one point agenda to give an equally befitting reception to the Indian team. He was once again as good as his word. The day the Indian team landed in Durban, was a historical day not only for South Africa or cricket but in entire sporting history. No team was ever given such a royal treatment, given such a regal welcome anywhere in any sport. An entourage of cars received them at the Durban airport and they were taken in a procession. Azharuddin could well have mistaken himself for Caesar and Durban for Rome. To be honest Calcutta was not only history, it paled into history that very moment. That set the ball rolling for the Friendship Series.

The tour opened with a friendly game against the side of the avid sports lover and millionaire Nicky Oppenheimer. Since then it has become customary for any touring side to South Africa to begin with a game against Nicky Oppenheimer XI. On the day of the match it had rained, but Oppenheimer would have none of it. His private helicopters rained petrol on the pitch, which was set alight so that it dried quickly. It was one of the many examples of all that had never happened before in the history of the game.        

The first test was scheduled for Durban. There was no way to avoid history that day. It was the first time that a non-white team was playing an official match in South Africa. It was for the first time that a black player was representing South Africa. Omar Henry made his debut at the age of 40 years and 295 days. It was the first time that television umpiring was introduced in cricket. The first official ball in South Africa after a gap of 22 was no less historical. Kapil Dev got the veteran Jimmy Cook, obviously making his debut, caught behind and one was left wondering as to what else lay in store.

South Africa stopped playing the gentle hosts then and there. The skipper Kepler Wessels took charge and scored a dashing stroke filled century. With history all over Wesels sense of history did not ditch him. He became the first player to score centuries for two different countries. He had earlier done that while representing Australia. That was the only high point of the innings. None of the debutants rose to the occasion and South Africa was bundled out of 254.

India soon realised that it is not always necessary to use petrol to set the pitch on fire. Donald and Co were enough for that. They had run through the top order in no time. Debutant Jadeja, little master Tendulkar, marathon men Shastri and Manjrekar were back and it  was 4 down for 38. History was very circumspect in choosing its tools. The first ball magic was created by the legendary Kapil Dev and the legend-in-making, Sachin Tendulkar was the first man to be adjudged run out by the TV umpire, CJ Mitchley.

The Indian skipper tried to emulate his counterpart but all he could do was to play a supporting role in a 87 run partnership with the debutant Praveen Amre. Amre played an innings of the highest order and took India to safety from a very precarious situation. He got an unexpected support from one of the least thanked players. The little wicketkeeper Kiran More added 101 runs for the 8th wicket and India managed a 23 run lead over their opponents.

Bad light and rain then played spoil sport and the 4th day play was washed out and by the 5th day morning it became clear that a draw was inevitable. With no interest left in the game, the South Africans chose to have a batting practice and painfully laboured to 176-3 in 82 overs. There were talk of a pair when Jimmy Cook came out to bat, The commentators decided to give him a King's pair if he did that on debut. Since it was the first test of his team they later on decided to call it an Imperial pair if he managed that. Cook would have none of it and got very good 43 runs. For all the action and drama, Amre's effort was superlative and he won the Man of the Match award and his portrait was put up in the Stadium Museum. What a way to begin a career with.   

The caravan shifted to Johannesburg for the second test match. This time Wessels won the toss and elected to bat. Indian bowling became lethal all of a sudden and none of the top five batsmen could get into double figures. It was 5 down for 71 at lunch. At 61 for 4, Jonty Rhodes survived a run out appeal. Umpire Bucknor refused to consult the third umpire and Rhodes went on to score 91 and along with Macmillan, the last man out on 98 took the score to 292. The decision changed the course and the tempo of the series. Much of the talk about the Friendship series went down the drain and the bearing on the result was obvious for everyone to see. Mayerick Pringle's felling by a Srinath bouncer did not do any good to anyone either.

Indian batsmen were no match for the accurate and of late hostile bowling. Tendulkar was the only one who rose above the ashes and scored a memorable 111. India finished at 227 and Macmillan made his mark as an allrounder grabbing 4 wickets for which he was to be adjudged the Man of the Match.  

At 2 down for 138 on the fourth day South Africa was in command. Another addition in the controversy list was the running on the pitch episode. First Kapil Dev and then Macmillan earned warnings for that. Under the circumstances it was strange that Kumble was brought from the Corlette Drive end instead of the Golf Course end. That decision clicked and the bespectacled spinner walked away with 6 wickets. His 6-53 applied the brakes. South Africa ended at 252 but they took enormous amount of time in scoring them, which later on proved crucial.

India were set a target of 318 runs in approximately 96 overs, not an easy task by any standards. For the first time the visitors got a decent start by putting 68 runs for the first wicket. That was soon to be undone and the score read 4 for 73 and it was a struggle for survival all over again. The time factor saved India but not before Amre (35) and Tendulkar (32) had added 70 runs in almost three hours.

The teams took a break from the test matches and a seven match one day series was played, which will be dealt in a following article. India was badly mauled 5-2 and were very low on morale when they appeared for the third test at Port Elizabeth, billed to be the fastest pitch in South Africa. The hangover of defeat, the traditional vulnerability to quality fats bowling etc coupled to set up an Indian defeat.

Lightening does not strike a place twice, but the White Lightening struck as many as five times and India were bundled out for a meager 212. That too was possible only after Azharuddin got 60, and stuck his lips all the way to the pavilion when he was wrongly given caught behind. India promised a befitting reply when Prabhakar got the tormentor in chief Wessels for naught. The next wicket fell at 117 and that sealed the fete. Young Hansie Cronje got 135 and that was the turning point. He did not get any support later in the innings and it was all due to his efforts that his team finished at 275.

The showing in the second innings was all the more dismal. Donald assumed the role of one man demolition squad and he had reduced India to 5-27. That set the stage for one of the greatest innings of modern times. Kapil Dev's 129 was remarkable for the sheer audacity of stroke play. It was a memorable tussle between the White Lightening and Haryana Hurricane, which the latter won hands down but the former ended on the winning side. Kapil Dev single handedly got 60 percent of the runs and in extremely difficult conditions.

India set a target of 152 runs and the South Africans seized it with both the hands. Once again Wessels and his sense of history took command of the situation. He finished unbeaten on 95 and guided South Africa to a comprehensive and decisive 9 wicket victory.

The New year began with the final test at cape Town. Both the teams were apparently worn out at the end of a long three month tour and that accounted for an absolutely colourless and unexciting match. Having won the series South Africa could be forgiven for their laxity, but India disappointed one and all by not pushing for a victory. It was as if that they did not have any will to win.

South Africa were put into bat and they meandered agonisingly slowly to 360, the highest score of the series. Without being attractive Rhodes and Mcmillan scored 86 and 52 runs respectively and Kumble laboured assiduously for his three wickets. India in their turn fell one short of their highest score of the series and ended up at 276. Sachin Tendulkar got a sedate 73 and Prabhakar got 62 as an opener. Bad light had wasted a lot of time and nobody seemed to mind it.

One can get an impression of the South African batting performance when they got 130 runs in 97 overs before declaring. They wanted to play safe and succeeded in their intentions. Srinath, who was back in the side, bowled his heart out and got 4 wickets an effort for which he was given Man of the Match. That is a pointer to the quality of cricket played in the match. India was asked to bat in the last hour and were given a target of 215 runs. Every one was glad when they got 29 of those and the match was called off.

With that the friendship series ended. It was along journey from Durban to Cape Town and one saw all kinds of contours and landscapes even on the cricket field. Kepler Wessel's side won the test series but the series as such was a very poor advertisement for test cricket in South Africa.

For India it was problems galore. Earlier on the Zimbabwe tour they had drawn the only test match and somehow managed to win the solitary one dayer. As a matter of achievement it was a blank slate. The future of many players was at stake. Above all it was a leadership in question. Azhar's record as a captain looked pathetic, having won only one test and lost seven. A change of guard for the forthcoming home series against England was on the cards. It did not happen and it is a different story now.

Past Panorama Part Three
Indians Mauled In The One Day Series
By S Zeyaur Rahman

Past Panorama Part One       
Past Panorama Part Two       

It had become almost impossible to avoid the word historic while commenting upon practically anything during India's first tour to South Africa. There were a number of firsts both in terms of past and the present and nobody knew how to term it. But the abundance of the h word had become so monotonous that the journalists covering the series decided that they would be imposing a fine of $1 on their colleagues each time they use the word historic in their reports. And believe me they indeed had a huge party at the end of the tour because of the rather decent sum that the reporters had shelled out as fine. So I will consciously avoid the word in my article though the law has elapsed nine years ago.

After the first two tests at Durban and Johannesburg ended in draws, the teams locked horns in a seven match one day series. Very much like the tests the one dayers were not great in terms of quality but they were a huge commercial success. The UCBSA got a pointer regarding the direction in which cricket was moving in South Africa.

Obviuosly enough it was the first one-day international on the South African soil. The atmosphere was electric at the Newlands, Cape Town when Donald ran into bowl to Jadeja on 7 December 1992. As I said, none of the matches went to the wire but when history (see you cant avoid it) is in question other things take a back seat and the crowd loved every moment of it.

India won the toss and elected to bat. Jadeja and Raman were at sea against the disciplined South African attack of Donald, de Villers, Matthews and McMillan. They found scoring too difficult and added 92 runs for the first wicket in 27.2 overs that created enough pressure on the rest of the batting order, which simply perished in a bid to accelerate the pace. Indians were desperate to hit out and they identified Cronje as the weak link. In the process, Cronje ended up with 5 wickets and India was all out for 184.

184 is not undefendable in South Africa but neither is it formidable. They found it extremely easy to handle Kapil, Srinath and Prabhakar. It was with the introduction of the slow bowlers Kumble and Tendulkar that the scoring slowed and the match went to the 50th over. It was never difficult for South Africa and they won comfortably by 6 wickets. Cronje got the MOM award for his 5 wickets and a 6 off the last ball that settled the matter.

The next match was at St. George's Park, Port Elisabeth, supposedly the fastest surface in the country. The skidding and bouncing ball was not music to Indian ears and they were 7-84 at one stage. Kiran More took 69 balls for his 32 and India managed 147 in 50 overs. McMillan did most of the damage by claiming four victims for 32 runs.

With such a mere target in sight, the home team batted with all the time in the world and inched to victory at a snails pace. The no nonsense attitude saw them reaching the target in 46.4 overs. Callaghan was the top scorer with 45 but the MOM award went to McMillan. This is the match in which Kapil Dev mankaded Kirsten, after warning him repeatedly earlier in the series. Wessels bat on the shin followed and much of the theory regarding the Friendship series went down the drain.

South Africa won the toss at Verwordburg and the 200 mark was crossed for the first time in the seroies. Hudson had grafted a patient innings of 87. With Wessels and Callaghan chipping 34 and 32 respectively, the Indians were set a target of 215, which appeared to be huge in view of India's batting performance.

Surrprisngly enough India managed to win the match and the series became alive if not colourful. The man responsible for the turn around was W V Raman who got his maiden hundred. The entire innings revolved around him and the next highest score was 27 by Ravi Shastri.

India batted first at Johannesburg and it was back to business by South Africa. They literally stifled the batting order and conceded only 161 runs. Azharuddin needed 84 balls for his 49 and the only other significant score was 21 by Tendulkar.

The discernable pattern of steady approach and victory with minimum fuss was on display again. South Africans valued their wickets immensely and progressed steadily all the more because of the absence of any real pressure. The victory margin was 6 wickets and Jonty Rhgodes got the MOM for his 42.

The fifth one dayer was crucial for the result of the series depended on it. India managed to cross the 200 mark while batting first for the first time mainly because of Azhar's 86. Tendulkar 32 and Parabhakr batting at number 3 contributed 36.

South Africa did not want the 200 plus target to bother them and that is why they came out blazing. They got 22 runs in the first 4 overs and Azhar had removed the slips by then. The bludgeoning continued and the first wicket in the 33rd over. Hudson got his century but could not carry the bat through. The match was decided much earlier and so was the series.

India had nothing but pride to play for in the 6th match at Durban. The sense of pride did not really help as the result was yet another comprehensive defeat. South Africa set a target of 217. Kirsten played the anchor and goprt 78 and which was the foundation of the big target.

Chasing the target, India were 3-116 at a stage but the middle order collapse saw them finishing short of the target by a good 40 runs. Kapil Dev promised something with a quick fire 30. Earlier he had bowled beautifully for 10-4-23-3 and was adjudged the MOM.

The series was dead by the time the teams assembled at East London for the 7th match. Every one expected another dead performance from India but somehow they, managed to turn the tide for a face saving but inconsequential win.

The South Africans were bogged down by very disciplined bowling by India. Kapil Dev was once again in his elements and returned with figures 10-4-27-1. Wessels and Cronje got 57 and 55 but the momentum was missing and India had to chase 204 runs for victory.

The top order did not click but of couple of batsmen got to the 20s. Amre produced a delightful innings of 84 and in the company of the hew wicket keeper Vijay Yadav (34) saw India through to victory.

The series ended at 5-2 and the result was a clear indication that the South Africans were a force to reckon with in the shorter version. Their semifinal appearance in the world cup earlier in the year was vindicated and the warning bells were sounded for the top teams like Australia and Pakistan. 

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