For months before the Indians arrived in South Africa, there was doubt over whether they would come at all. And if they did, how many matches would they actually play? For months afterwards, conversations centred on Jacques Kallis's shock decision to retire from Tests. And, all the while, Sachin Tendulkar's long goodbye was hogging the limelight.
The teams, despite being governed by events off the field, played memorable cricket. But before we get to the sport, we need to wade through the politics. In February 2013, the BCCI told Cricket South Africa of their unhappiness at the prospect of having to deal again with Haroon Lorgat, a man they thought they had seen the last of in 2012, when his tenure as ICC chief executive had ended. Now, as the frontrunner to be CSA's next chief executive, Lorgat loomed large in the BCCI's future.
In danger if that happened was the two boards' cosy relationship, which in 2009 had led to the IPL going on an African safari, bringing millions of dollars with it. Even CSA's own risk assessment warned that appointing Lorgat would be reckless. So it was problematic that he was easily the best and most qualified of the 200-plus applicants.
Lorgat's appointment was announced on July 20. The BCCI complained that the tour itinerary as released by CSA - three Tests, seven one-day internationals and two Twenty20s - had not been agreed. After much bowing and scraping by CSA, the parties settled on two Tests and three one-dayers. South African cricket lost some £11.5m in revenue.
On October 5, David Becker, the ICC's head of legal throughout Lorgat's tenure and subsequently a legal adviser to CSA, released a statement that made damning allegations against both the ICC and BCCI president N. Srinivasan. "The ICC board have real and grave governance issues," Becker wrote. "There is one man who makes decisions at board level, and they are certainly not in the interests of world cricket. Directors' duties, conflicts of interest and matters of ethical compliance are routinely ignored. It's not only hugely concerning for the game: it's contrary to the regulatory framework within which ICC operates, and hence it's illegal."
In attempting to stop publication of the statement, Lorgat made offers to journalists that they considered improper. Those journalists then found themselves removed from CSA's mailing lists without notice, and ignored when they asked questions. Lorgat's conduct concerning Becker's statement was the subject of an ICC investigation. In a joint statement, CSA and the BCCI said Lorgat would not have "involvement in any aspect of CSA's relationship with the BCCI, including, but not limited to, the upcoming tour". The statement continued: "All parties have agreed that no further media comment will be made until [the ICC investigation] has been concluded."
Within days, Lorgat had been interviewed by an Indian newspaper and a South African radio station. When the tour started, he was often seen in the president's suites - where 12 places had been reserved for Indian board members, who never made the trip to South Africa. Somehow, the tour had been saved, but in a truncated state and - to South African fury - without a New Year Test in Cape Town, which is where the locals had assumed Tendulkar would play his 200th Test.
What did India's captain M. S. Dhoni think of the set-to between the suits? "We can arrange a match for the administrators and let them go at it," he said. What to do if India's players became the targets of missile-throwing crowds? "We'll pick it up and give it back," Dhoni said. "Whenever we have been here we have had a fantastic reception, and I don't think that will change." Happily, he was right. But spectators at the Wanderers Test came close to throwing things at Vernon Philander and Dale Steyn when, with three wickets standing, they declined to chase the 16 runs South Africa required off the last 19 balls to reach what would have been a world-record 458.
At Kingsmead, Kallis scored a century in his last Test, as South Africa - whose batsmen and fast bowlers had already bullied their way to victory in the one-day games - swept to a series win. For a few days, sport mattered more than politics.
Match reports for
Tour Match: South African Invitation XI v Indians at Benoni, Dec 13-14, 2013