India and South Africa cricketers share a good rapport and the two nations share a similar history: fight for freedom through non-violence. It is befitting that the series between Team India and the Proteas are named Freedom Series in honor of perhaps the 2 most iconic figures of the 20th century-Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela.
In the 1991-92 season, after a long hiatus of 22 years, the South African team staged a comeback in the international arena. Clive Rice lead the side for a 3-match ODI series and they were warmly received by the host nation India. Mohammed Azharuddin was the captain and the epic picture of Clive Rice and co appreciating the warm gesture by the Eden Gardens crowd will never be forgotten.
Thereafter, both nations visited each other on a regular basis and entertained cricket fans by providing innumerable moments to cherish. Sehwag’s test debut ton and 319, Sachin’s 50th test ton and first ever ODI 200, AB’s magnificent 217*, Amla’s marathon run in 2010, Steyn Gun’s 7/51, the battle for the top rank are few of a never-ending list of events that come to our mind. Isn’t this already building up nicely for the 2018 Freedom Series that gets underway in a few hours?
These two teams last played the Freedom series in India in 2015-16. India lost a bilateral series at home. Quite rare, isn’t it? Proteas won the ODI series 3-2. But, the hosts comprehensively won the test series post the limited-overs leg of the tour.
India is yet to win a test series in the rainbow nation. The best result was a 1-1 draw in 2010-11. The previous visit to 2013-14 saw one of the greats Jacques Kallis bidding goodbye to the longest format of the game. He scored a 100 in his last test match and ended on a high as South Africa won 1-0.
Virat Kohli and Faf du Plessis unveiled the Freedom series 2018 trophy earlier and perhaps selecting the final XI of their respective teams would be the most arduous task for them given the quality and value that each player brings to the fore. Indians would be eager to perform well in the foreign conditions against a formidable all-around Proteas unit.
Let us hope that the Freedom Series garners as much interest and following as say the Ashes or Border Gavaskar trophy does, if not more.
– by Nikhil Vadapalli