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England fans who flew down to watch India play Tests in South Africa

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Chasing their passion: England fans Paul Kerfoot and Neil Clayton in Centurion.

Chasing their passion: England fans Paul Kerfoot and Neil Clayton in Centurion.
| Photo Credit: P.K. AJITH KUMAR

Even before the schedule for the Test series between South Africa and India was confirmed, Paul Kerfoot, a retired government servant in England, booked his flight tickets and hotel. Since he didn’t want to take a chance, he made bookings for both Centurion and Durban for the first Test.

Neil Clayton made his plans later, but he ensured that he could reach in time before the first ball was bowled at Centurion on Boxing Day. He reached alright, though his luggage didn’t.

There is nothing unusual about fans following their national teams on foreign tours, but people like Clayton and Kerfoot are rare. How often do you find cricket fans spending a fortune to watch Test series of neutral countries? Especially now, when the longest format attracts fewer viewers globally. The broadcasters, a commentator once told this correspondent that, aren’t making money from Tests.

But fans like Clayton and Kerfoot prove that Test cricket still has takers. “I have been looking forward to this series,” says Clayton, a lawyer. “I particularly wanted to watch K.L. Rahul, Virat Kohli and Mohammed Shami. I was delighted that Rahul scored a hundred but disappointed that Shami could not make it here,”

Clayton has been touring overseas to watch Test matches for more than a couple of decades. Kerfoot has been doing it for three decades.

“I was here when England played their first Test in South Africa after the ICC’s ban (on account of apartheid) ended, back in 1995-96,” says Kerfoot. “During the first Test here at Centurion, some fans including me had sought South African captain Hansie Cronje’s autograph; he apologised for making us wait. You won’t find many sportsmen like that today.”

Kerfoot is glad that he doesn’t have to make any changes to his travel plans for Cape Town. The second Test begins there on Jan. 3.

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