Team India may be bracing itself for a hostile show when they take guard against South Africa in the first Test beginning Dec 16. But the hosts have been exceptionally warm and welcoming off the cricket field with Cricket South Africa holding its largest ever reception for the Indian cricket team.
"The official welcome reception for the Indian team is the biggest ever for any team that had visited South Africa," Cricket South Africa (CSA) chief executive Gerald Majola said during the reception last night.
The gesture comes as part of the Rainbow Nation's celebration of 150 years of India settlement in South Africa. Indeed, it was in 1860 that the first batch of slaves from India were shipped in to Natal.
Players of both teams were in attendance for the function, as well as board officials of both the countries, including CSA president Mtutuzeli Nyoka and Indian Consul-General Vikram Doraiswami.
During his welcome speech, CSA president Nyoka said that Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men were the deserving of the No. 1 Test status in the world. "This is a team (India) that has over the last two years swept all before them. I think that by all accounts, they deserve the number one status in Test cricket," he said.
Nyoka singled out Sachin Tendulkar for praise and saluted the champion batsman for his contribution to the game. "I want to say thank you to you (Tendulkar) for the many years of wonderful memories that you have given us. You are one of the most decorated cricketers playing today. I salute you as a sportsman, as a cricketer and as a human being," the CSA president said.
Nyoka also lauded the cricketing links between the two countries.
"South Africa is what today because of its relationship with India. CSA is a vibrant, strong organisation not least because of the relationship it has with BCCI, and I hope our mission of friendship and brotherhood continues for a very long time," he added.
In keeping with the light-hearted tone of the reception, Indian Consul-General Doraiswami said, "We've always believed our cricket team is the best and rankings are just a matter of devious Western subversions. It's good to have it finally recognised officially."