[OPINION] War of words could ignite SA's cricket summer

The Proteas will resume their cricketing summer when they take on the number one ranked Test team in the world, India, for three Test matches, six one-day internationals (ODI’s) and three Twenty20 (T20) Internationals, starting at the iconic Newlands cricket ground on 5 January 2018.

The South African summer has been a rather lacklustre one, and one that has been robbed off quality cricket. In fact, the past two South African summers have been lacklustre. Sri Lanka were dispatched in the summer of 2016/17, were they were whitewashed in the three-match Test series, as well as the five-match ODI series.

Bangladesh also left our shores with their tails between their legs in August, in a series where opener Aiden Markram announced himself on the international scene.

The mess that was the postponement of the Global T20 League was also a mood changer this summer. It was like a parent promising a child candy and presents for their birthday, and then not following through with the promise, and with no clear explanation as to why the promise wasn’t fulfilled, leaving the child disgruntled and displeased.

Then the farce of the Boxing Day filler, which was disguised as an historic four-day, day/night Test match against Zimbabwe which, and I speak on behalf of all cricket fans, was an utter waste of time.

So it is without a doubt that the cricket summer in South Africa has lacked in quality on the field for the local fans of this beautiful game.

In 2018 though, that might change, as visits from two of the world’s best cricket nations will be visiting our shores for four months of what might be the best cricket summer South African fans have enjoyed in a while.

India and Australia’s quality and talent are evident out on the field of play, and with some of the game’s best cricketers in Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Steve Smith and David Warner champing at the bit to spoil our party in our own back yard, the next four months promise to be an enthralling watch.

One aspect of the game that could prove to be a spark in this summer, is the war of words between the South Africans and their visitors.

The Virat Kohli led Indian team has in recent times been known not to back down from any challenge, and are not shy to say a few words out in the middle. Mostly, the Indians play at home and such is their dominance there, that it seems like they let their cricket do most of the talking. But when faced with the challenge of unfamiliar conditions, that’s when they find their voices.

The most famous example of the Indian team finding their voice was on the tour of Australia in 2014/15, in the third Test match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Virat Kohli and Ajikya Rahane tore into the bowling of a fired up Mitchell Johnson, before the bowler struck Kohli with the ball when he attempted to throw down the stumps. What ensued is well known, as the two players went back and forth with words of animosity, with umpires Ian Gould and Kumar Dharmasena having to continuously get involved.

In that series, Rohit Sharma, Kohli and Steve Smith also were involved in a few verbal altercations.

The Australians though are infamous for their sledging, with David Warner, and more recently Nathan Lyon, not shy of saying a few words.

It might be one of the game’s most frowned upon aspects, but there is no doubt that it provides cricket with an element of entertainment, and it is something the South Africans will have to brace themselves for.

I’m excited for the summer and I hope that both India and Australia give the Proteas a great test of their cricketing abilities, and a few words here and there will give the summer some great entertainment value for the local fans who have been longing for a competitive international cricket season.

Philasande Sixaba is a sports reporter at Eyewitness News.