Cricket: Indians cheered

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THE first Indian team to tour South Africa were warmly welcomed when they arrived in Johannesburg yesterday to begin a two-month schedule of matches that includes four Tests.

Junior cricketers of all races formed a guard of honour and a crowd of about 500 cheered as the Indians entered the airport arrival hall to be greeted with garlands of flowers. Also there to welcome them were officials from the African National Congress, the government and various sports bodies.

Ali Bacher, the general manager of the United Cricket Board of South Africa, said the country was going through troubled times but said that he hoped 'people who have been divided can be brought together'.

The Indian team manager, Amrit Mathur, said that for their first Test series against South Africa the party was a strong blend of experience and youth. 'We're looking forward to an exciting series and we are here to win,' Mathur said.

The Indians had flown in from Harare, where last week they drew in Zimbabwe's inaugural Test, and Mohammad Azharuddin, the India captain, said that playing there had helped his team to acclimatise.

South Africa played three one- day internationals in India last November to mark their return to world cricket after nearly 22 years of isolation. The Indian government was the first to break off all diplomatic links with South Africa in 1948.

Krish Mackerdhuj, the president of the UCBSA, said India had been one of the staunchest adversaries of apartheid in South Africa and now are 'one of our staunchest friends'.