In what is clearly turning out to be a battle of attrition, India is yet to decide on their tour of South Africa scheduled later this year. If the meeting between the Cricket South Africa CEO Haroon Lorgat and Board of Control for Cricket in India secretary Sanjay Patel in Dubai on Monday was expected to find a solution, it simply didn't. The BCCI is just not making any commitment, not until its annual general meeting in Chennai is over on September 29.
South Africa have no option but to wait. The acrimony between CSA (read Lorgat) and BCCI is now well known. While Lorgat must save the tour, BCCI is already making back-up plans and even mulled a tri-nation series featuring Pakistan and Sri Lanka in December. Impossible to antagonize BCCI at this stage, Lorgat has seemingly camouflaged his and South Africa's angst and shot out a diplomatic press release on Tuesday evening.
"I am happy to say that we had a constructive meeting and I would like to thank Sanjay for his friendliness and support in trying to find a way forward," said Lorgat. "After listening to Sanjay, it is clear that we will now have to wait for the BCCI's AGM to be completed before any tour schedule can be confirmed," Lorgat added, the tone of his words clearly indicating a sense of resignation.
"It is key for all of us to make sure that the good relationship between our respective Boards is maintained and, in fact, strengthened and that we also honour the proud history between our two countries," said Lorgat. But India's reluctance to play a full tour as envisaged by the South Africans has only soured the "special relationship" the two countries had enjoyed for more than two decades.
The first hint of trouble came when it emerged that the Indians were not happy about the prospect of Lorgat being appointed chief executive of CSA. He had seemingly upset them while filling the same post at the ICC.
CSA announced in July an itinerary that included three Tests, seven one-day internationals and two Twenty20 internationals. The number of matches were in accordance with the Future Tours Programme (FTP) agreed by ICC member countries more than three years ago.
The Indians complained that they had not agreed to the itinerary -- although South African officials claim they have correspondence proving that there were detailed negotiations about the fixtures.
It came as a shock to CSA when India unilaterally announced a tour by the West Indies -- which was not part of the FTP -- which will end on November 27, nine days after the tour of South Africa is due to start.
A further shock came when it was announced that India's scheduled tour of New Zealand would start with a one-day international on January 19 -- the day when the third and final Test in South Africa is due to finish.
The Dubai meeting was expected to yield an element of finality. It clearly didn't. The BCCI is currently in a state of chaos. The Indian Premier League corruption scandal and a battery of court cases involving BCCI president N. Srinivasan has left the Board in a massive state of anarchy. There are murmurs of dissent and it is still not clear if Srinivasan will get a year's extension as Board chief. His two-year term comes to an end in September.
Will a change of guard help South Africa? Can South Africa afford to cancel the entire series? There are several questions doing the rounds and the odds, ironically, are clearly stacked against the world's No. 1 Test team.
An Indian tour is a massive money-spinner, and South African officials are wary about making any public comment that could jeopardise it. But there is a belief that it would be possible to condense the tour and play most, if not all of the international matches by cutting down on warm-up games and rest days.
More than any cricket Board in the world, the South Africans, of course with a prayer on their lips, will keep a hawk's eye on the BCCI AGM in Chennai on September 29. The drama continues.