The Leading Edge

South Africa and India's complicated relationship spans beyond the field

10 December 2017 - 00:39 By Telford Vice

Against England it's the legacy of colonialism and the importance of being better than those who taught you the game.
Against Australia it's the ongoing arrogance and the sure-fire truth that beating - or trying to beat - a bloody good team is always going to raise emotional temperatures far beyond the boundary.
Against India it's complicated.
South Africans' ire is raised when their team's opponents are India in ways different from when the poms or the Aussies are in the other dressing room.
Or anyone else.Pakistan have been better entertainers than India over the years, and they continue to be popular and respected as explosive players who struggle to perform as a team consistently.
New Zealand's cricketers are clever little okes who are, mercifully, a long way off the pace set by their rugby siblings.
Sri Lankans are good-natured but lack confidence away, just like Bangladesh.
West Indies and Zimbabwe? Hopeless as teams, wonderful as people.
None of the above applies to the Indians, particularly to the current generation of players.
Sachin Tendulkar remains as revered in South Africa as he is anywhere else.
Virat Kohli, who is respected as a captain, admired as a batsman, and despised as an annoying, entitled brat.
Kohli does himself no favours when he falls victim to a cartoon haughtiness, most often seen at his media conferences. Then again, who wouldn't lose their rag having to deal, regularly, with too many Indian reporters - and there are always too many - who's idea of a question is to quote a string of your stats at you and then ask what your girlfriend had for breakfast and with whom.
We do not see or hear from Kohli when he is not putting up with such silliness, and so we don't know if he is indeed the annoying, entitled brat he appears to be.
But that would seem the widely held view of India's captain by South Africans.That's at least because Kohli makes an easy and obvious lightning rod for the reaction in countries like ours - where cricket is neither a religion nor outrageously profitable - to the reality that India have colonised the game.
They have done so through the alchemy of exactly those factors in their society: the religion and profitability of cricket.
The Indian Premier League involves, largely, a bunch of mediocre cricketers playing on ramshackle grounds. It is saved from being a joke by a sprinkling of world-class talents, made mercenaries at great expense, and a massive media presence.
As a test team, India have made a mockery of the rankings by all but refusing to play outside of Asia. How is that not cheating? Accepting India as the world's best side is like accepting that fish are the height of evolution. Water? What's that got to do with anything?
Money is the problem, of course. The Board of Control for Cricket in India have, thanks to all that religion and all that profit, been able to make too much of the stuff for everyone else's good.

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