Thursday, February 4, 2010


South Africa has expectedly drawn their practice match against the Indian Board President's XI team at Nagpur. Nagpur - the venue that has been written in South Africa's cricket history with bold BLACK letters. Nagpur - the city where Hansie Cronje's wrongdoings came to the notice of the Delhi police, who then went on to reveal their findings to the world.

It seems surreal somehow to remember that match. March 19, 2000. It was the first ever match I had seen live in a cricket stadium. Much like others, I watched with awe as Herschelle Gibbs tore into the Indian attack. Much like others, I was surprised when Derek Crookes, an innocuous off spinner, was given the ball in the second over of the Indian innings. Much like others, even my heart was in my mouth when Sachin almost gave away his wicket in that very over by playing a miscued shot in the air. Much like others, even I was disappointed when Sachin got out in the 90s (I didn't know then that this would be called routine in 2007). And much like others, even I was heartbroken when India lost by 10 runs chasing 321.

When Ravi Shastri was conducting his post match presentation ceremony, I had no clue that on reaching home and switching on the TV, I'll hear an audio transcript of Hansie Cronje's conversation with a match fixer deciding the details of the match that had just gotten over. I was much too young to understand the serious ramifications of what had just unfolded in front of my eyes (I was just 11 then!). Yet, somewhere at the back of my mind, I knew... I knew this was no routine. This was something big.

The world has changed a lot since then. In the current South African team in Nagpur, only Mark Boucher remains from a decade ago. The same Mark Bouher who coaxed Gibbs into revealing the truth of that day in front of the King Commission in South Africa. Boucher, just like Greame Smith, will be hoping that the ghosts of Nagpur 2000, the ghosts of Hansie Cronje's team, do not return to haunt their performance during the First Test.

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