Originally, India were scheduled to travel to South Africa for a December-January Test series but that series now begins only on January 5, eliminating the Boxing Day Test.
India will play three Test matches in South Africa this season, the boards of both countries announced on Wednesday. "The dates and venues for the fixtures will be confirmed shortly", the BCCI said in a statement.
They have lost by an innings in all four Tests they have played on two previous tours of South Africa, as well as losing six of seven one-day internationals and two Twenty20 internationals against the hosts.
"The time constraints faced by India have forced us to reduce the test matches to three while increasing white ball cricket to six ODIs and three T20I matches", Lorgat added.
Should the Zimbabwe match be rubber-stamped as an official Test, the summer will comprise of 10 Test matches, which will be South Africa's biggest global season at home. Bangladesh will play two Tests, three ODIs and a Twenty20 worldwide starting from September 28.
That gap will be filled by Zimbabwe, who have not played a Test in South Africa since 2004/05.
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"The Test status of the match is subject to ICC approval‚" the release quoted CSA chief executive Haroon Lorgat as saying.
South Africa hope to make history by hosting the first four-day Test in the modern era when they play Zimbabwe on Boxing Day.
The original plan of the tour was four Tests, three one-day internationals and three Twenty20 internationals.
With the Test side on high with victories at home and in Sri Lanka, the big test for India will come in foreign conditions, according to several experts.
Once the South African tour gets over, India are set to play in the Independence Cup in Sri Lanka that starts on March 15 and involves Pakistan and South Africa and the hosts.