The Indian government decided today to allow an eagerly awaited tour by Britain's best cricket players even though two of them had played in South Africa.
S.K. Wankhede, president of India's Cricket Control Board, said the matches will go on because the two offending players expressed their opposition to South African apartheid.
The issue has proved to be a sticky wicket for Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who was reported to be under pressure from black African nations to cancel the tour.
But cricket-crazy Indian fans, who had been looking forward all year to the tour, mounted overwhelming counter pressure. All-India Radio said at least 80 million will listen to broadcasts of the matches, which are to start Nov. 11.
"The middle classes in this country are harassed by scores of problems. For them a cricket match is welcomed relief," one editorial said.
Business and government work grinds to a halt during major matches here as all ears are glued to radio play-by-play broadcasts in several languages.
Test matches such as the ones now upcoming are something special, a series of contests between the best players of each country -- with each match lasting five days. In addition, the English team of all-stars is scheduled to play 10 single-day regional matches.
Mehra said tickets selling at up to $50 will go fast. Top political leaders will attend here.
But India's strong moral and political opposition to South Africa's apartheid policies, arising from its own freedom struggle and from founding father Mahatma Gandhi's searing experiences with racial discrimination in South Africa, is a fervently held foreign-policy position.
A letter to the editor of The Times of London from Roy McComish, headmaster of a school in Surrey, illustrates the anger felt there over the possible cancellation of the match. He called the "flourishing" caste system in India "every bit as inhuman a concept as apartheid" and concluded that India's "concern for human rights and dignity would be more acceptable if it put its own house in order first."