India will commence South Africa tour with four Tests    AFP
India will commence South Africa tour with four Tests AFP

India are set to tour South Africa later in the year. But with a packed home schedule, Virat Kohli-led side may not be available for the Boxing Day and New Year’s Test in the African nation. This will be a major jolt to Cricket South Africa as Boxing Day Test is usually the highlight of their cricketing calendar, whereas the New Year’s match (January 2) coincides with the summer break. India is expected to arrive only in the last week of 2017, after hosting Sri Lanka. The Indian cricket team will play four Tests, five ODIs and two T20Is in their tour to South Africa.

It is believed that India will land in South Africa in the last week of the year and will need time to acclimatise for at least a week before commencing the tour. As a result, Boxing Day and New Year’s Test seems to be under threat. According to a BCCI official, India cannot reach South Africa for the Boxing Day Test which starts on December 26 because their home series versus Sri Lanka will wrap up by December 24. “We can’t make it make it in time. The Sri Lanka tour ends on December 24. After that we need to give the boys a few days’ rest,” the board official told ESPNCricinfo. “The South Africa tour is a big one, so they need to play two warm-up games, so it will take at least 10 days (before the first Test).

BCCI has already cautioned CSA about the scheduling difficulties. Both boards expect to sort out the matter by next week. On the other hand, CSA has accepted the fact that India will miss the Boxing Day Test, and, hence, have started looking for alternatives; hosting a one-off Test versus Pakistan or Afghanistan. Nonetheless, nothing is final as of now.

Tony Irish, head of South Africa Players Association, stated that if the Newlands Test fails to start on January 2 or 3, it would be a “major blow” as it coincides with the holiday season. “I had been aware of the fact that they were unlikely to be there for Boxing Day, but for them not to be here for the New Year’s Day is a major blow to CSA and the fans. To lose Boxing Day is a big thing, but to lose both of them would be massive hit for the fans”, concluded Irish.