Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Great series: No hype

Rivalries are an interesting thing in world sport. Sometimes they develop for no reason other than geography, as is the case with Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal, where there is a massive chasm in success rates between the two historically. For the majority of their existences, success-wise, their rivalry has been a rivalry in the way the hammer and the nail has been a rivalry. Ie because we are told it was a rivalry, and no other reason.

Other rivalries develop because of a history of competition. The Ashes is a great example. Of course, the element of the antipodes being a former colony and helps, but the United Kingdom colonised half the world, and yet only the Ashes has truly captured imagination. In a similar vein, South Africa vs New Zealand (historically anyway) has been the granddaddy of rugby clashes, despite a complete lack of historical context. This is largely because traditionally, these two present the two best rugby nations on the face of the earth, and the Boks are the most successful nation in Rugby history vs New Zealand.

This brings us to India-South Africa. Given the sizeable Indian diaspora which exists in South Africa, as well as more than a few great Test matches, this series has never quite grabbed the imagination as a signature clash. Why is this? In truth there are probably more than a handful of reasons. For one, there is, for better or worse, just no cricketing history between the two nations. Yes, India was the first side South Africa faced in their re-integration to the global arena back in 1991, but that was the first ever time South Africa faced off with India. Ever. That was nearly 30 years ago, which may seem like reasonable amount of time, but in the context of a game which started in the late 19th century internationally, it really isn't all that long ago. So we have no historical context. What about geographic? Well, we're quite literally on two completely different hemispheres. You need a connecting flight to get to India. So geographically, that's a no. What about political animus? Again no. We are great trade partners and have never been on opposing sides of anything of value.

Finally, and maybe the most pertinent reason; yes, this is a clash between two of the top 3 Test nations in the game today, but I honestly don't think anyone, without exception, thinks South Africa stands more than a puncher's chance. It's hard to be hyped up about a series when the two sides don't hate each other and the conclusion seems pretty foregone.

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