Cricket South Africa (CSA) CEO Haroon Lorgat has confirmed that South Africa will play on Boxing Day, despite India not touring till early 2018. "We will have content for Boxing Day but we're not yet in a position to announce that. We need to secure it first," said Lorgat as media reports suggest. The CSA CEO also said that a Test match is preferred over other formats for the Boxing Day and New Year.
"First prize is a Test match. We would love Boxing Day and New Year to remain as Test content. I know in the past there have been one-day matches and there has been discussion internally to consider one-dayers, but personally I would love to see a Test match played," he said.
It is believed that India are most likely to begin their tour to South Africa with the New Year's Test on January 5 or 6 next year in Cape Town. As per reports, both BCCI and the CSA are on the brink of finalising the details for the tour, comprising four Tests, three ODIs and three T20Is.
The Boxing Day Test, which has switched between Durban and Port Elizabeth in recent years, is fairly poorly attended. However, it still remains a popular television event. In 2012, CSA chose to play T20s over the same period and following the outcry of their breaking with tradition, the Boxing Day Test has been held every year since.
It was believed that the CSA might be interested in inviting Pakistan for the Boxing Day Test but with their series in New Zealand starting early in the new year, that seems unlikely.
And now, it looks like they can invite Zimbabwe for a one-off Test during that period. If that happens, Zimbabwe could make their first Test appearance in the country since 2005.
West Indies are the other team available during that period unless CSA reaches out to Test newcomers Afghanistan or Ireland.
Despite India's tight time frame, the CSA is confident the tour will not be reduced from its original itinerary and hopes to be able to announce match dates soon.
It should be remembered that the BCCI and the CSA have been engaging in discussions since the beginning of this year, however, they have failed to finalise the schedule yet.
Last month, the BCCI had informed CSA that the Virat Kohli-led side would not tour the country until the last week of this year as their home series against Sri Lanka would only end on December 24.
With the New Year's Test traditionally being played at Newlands from January 2, the CSA is reportedly trying to convince the BCCI to play the first Test from January 4 in a bid to maximise gate money.
According to a BCCI official, India are expected to arrive in South Africa in the last few days of December and would surely play one practice match ahead of the opening Test.
"Now they (CSA) are trying to fit in everything within a short window," the official said.