ESS takes fresh guard as SA tour gets underway

MUMBAI : It's has been a long, hard winter as far as big ticket cricket is concerned for ESPN star Sports, and it's finally coming to an end. After almost two years of managing without any A-list cricket tours or fixtures, ESS takes fresh guard on that front with India's tour of South Africa.

From now till June-July 2008, ESS has an itinerary that boasts of big league cricket involving the Indian team every six months on average.

India's 54-day tour to South Africa kicks off tomorrow and includes five One-Day Internationals and three Test matches. ESS will be broadcasting the ODI series in both English as well as Hindi feed.

ESPN will telecast the series in English with commentators Sunil Gavaskar, Harsha Bhogle, Allan Wilkins, Ravi Shastri and Wasim Akram joined in by South African Pat Symcox. The Hindi programming for the series on Star Sports will be spearheaded by India's answer to Jay Leno Shekhar Suman, with expert commentary by Syed Kirmani, Wasim Akram, Arun Lal, Maninder Singh and Zaheer Abbas.

ESS has also been presenting Planet Cricket, a six episode cricketing travelogue covering the five venues on India's calendar to South Africa. The series will cover the five cricket grounds of Centurion, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town and Durban with the sixth episode being the highlights of the previous five. The show, a preview series to India's tour of South Africa, is hosted by Gautam Bhimani and airs its last episode today.

What will be worrisome for ESS (from a revenue mop-up perspective) is that the Indian team has been going through a lean phase, particularly in one-dayers since the tour of the West Indies in April this year. The team lost the one-day series in the Caribbean , failed to reach the final of the DLF Cup tri-series in Malaysia and were knocked out of the Champions Trophy before the semi-final stage.

And history doesn't favour India in South Africa either. Since 1992, India has played nine tests in South Africa, without success against the African country. In the ODIs too, India has a dismal success rate in South Africa. Out of 16 one day internationals India has managed to win only three with the last one in the 2001/02 season.

So it is not just captain Rahul Dravid and coach Greg Chappell who will be praying for a change in India's fortunes. Knowing the Indian public, a few wins by the Indian side and it will be back to hallelujahs all round.

Schedule of the India Vs South Africa ODI match series on ESPN Star Sports

Date Time Event
19 Nov 18:00 1st ODI, New Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg (D/N)
22 Nov 18:00 2nd ODI, Kingsmead, Durban (D/N)
26 Nov 13:30 3rd ODI, Newlands, Cape Town
29 Nov 18:00 4th ODI St George's Park, Port Elizabeth, (D/N)
3 Dec 13:30 5th ODI, SuperSport Park, Centurion

Schedule of the India Vs South Africa Test match series on Star Sports

Date Time Event
15-19 Dec 2006 14:00 1st Test Wanderers, Johannesburg
26-30 Dec 2006 13:30 2nd Test Kingsmead, Durban
2-6 Jan 2007 14:00 3rd Test Newlands, Cape Town

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