Has India Let Down Cricket with Short Tour of South Africa?

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Has India Let Down Cricket with Short Tour of South Africa?
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MS Dhoni faces the media after arriving for India's tour of South Africa.


That's exactly what this tour should be kicking off with, as fans get ready for a strap-yourself-in thrill ride with the world's two most dominant teams ready to face off in a compelling African duel.

But that's not what it is. Not at all.

Instead of that potentially epic encounter, we're set to witness a curtailed Indian visit of South Africa that has been marred by cricket's lopsided political landscape.

Cricket South Africa wanted a lengthy stay from their Indian visitors. The Board of Control for Cricket in India wanted nothing of the sort.

The winner of that battle was more predictable than where Mitchell Johnson was going to aim his first delivery at Jonathan Trott in Brisbane.

Consequently, we're left with a series containing just three One Day Internationals (instead of seven), two Tests (instead of three) and zero Twenty20 Internationals (instead of two). What was supposed to be a year-ending clash of the titans has become a fleeting and rather inconsequential exercise.

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For that, the BCCI is ultimately responsible. 

Such is the weight of the board's influence, that we now have situations whereby India can bulldoze its way to greener financial pastures at the expense of the sport's other governing bodies. Of course, dollars have long-governed the direction of the sporting domain, but it becomes substantially more worrying when the sums written on the cheque books compromise the integrity of the game itself.

Cricket is now in an ever-present battle with other sports to lure fans; the length of matches and lack of truly breathtaking confrontations hurting its appeal outside of series such as the Ashes and this impending meeting between India and South Africa.

For cricket to thrive internationally, it needs to make the most of the precious few diamonds it has.

Yet the global health and long-term sustainability of the game don't appear to be a priorities for the BCCI. That has been most evident in its recent dealings with CSA.

Although an extended tour of South Africa had been outlined on the ICC's Future Tours Programme, such a visit didn't represent the best financial opportunity for India.

Instead, Sachin Tendulkar's retirement provided an ideal chance to throw the Indian great a national valedictory; a home Test series to celebrate the 40-year-old's departure presenting itself as the perfect economic exercise.

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To ensure Tendulkar's farewell was not spoiled ("ensure" being the apt word), the BCCI invited the lowly West Indies to the subcontinent during ongoing talks with CSA about the length of the tour to South Africa.

Of course, a haphazard West Indies Cricket Board couldn't refuse such an opportunity; a fact the BCCI knew all too well. With the Caribbean side's visit to India confirmed, CSA had no choice but to accept the shortened tour itinerary.

Only adding to the situation was the Indian Board's troubled relationship with CSA chief executive Haroon Lorgat, with whom the BCCI had clashed with during his time with the ICC over matters such as the Future Tours Programme and the Decision Review System.

Yet, it's perhaps the BCCI's publicly announced rationale for its bullying of South Africa that is most damaging to the sport. During the tour itinerary dispute, cricket's richest governing body expressed its concerns over the length of the ODI series, as well as the layoff between the proposed second and third Tests.

"We have some concerns over the gap between the last two Tests of the three-match series," Jagmohan Dalmiya of the BCCI said, according to ESPN Cricinfo.

A BCCI insider, also speaking to ESPN Cricinfo, revealed that seven ODIs were "too many" and that with a shorter series, "perhaps the tour can get over a week early and the boys can have a week-long break before flying to New Zealand."

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Somehow, seven ODIs at home to Australia didn't seem to pose an issue to the all-powerful board. Nor did it care for the West Indies' alarmingly short five-day turnaround for their own tour of New Zealand following a pointless three-match ODI campaign in India.

But as mentioned, the prosperity of the game internationally isn't in the board's interest. Ditto for high-quality encounters that fall short of stuffing the organisation's pockets.

It's developments such as these that only highlight the contempt the BCCI shows toward the game and its fans.

Rather than watching a compelling and lengthy showdown between cricket's two most powerful outfits, we have to make do with a series that will undoubtedly provide more questions than answers.

That we were forced instead, to watch an utterly pathetic two-Test series between India and the West Indies for nothing more than financial gain only adds insult to injury.

So instead of this series between South Africa and India kicking off with a bang, the only thing making such a noise is the BCCI's vault of wealth slamming shut.

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