Confessions of an old pro
Rob Houwing’s ‘Tops on the Telly’ column
For whatever reason, I didn’t always see eye to eye with Robin Jackman when he coached Western Province some two decades back in the old Castle Currie Cup and I was a local newspaper’s cricket writer.
But I like to think bygones are firmly bygones and certainly respect the top-rank SuperSport commentator’s overall, multi-pronged pedigree in the game ... I valued it even more this week after reading early extracts from his just-out autobiography with Colin Bryden: “Jackers: A Life in Cricket” (Don Nelson publishers).
With this column in mind, I quickly zoomed in on the chapter headed “Talking a Good Game” - quite obviously heavily focused on his ever-expanding career behind a microphone.
It was good to discover that he started under a fine (radio, then) “tutor”, if you like: then-staple Rhodesia Broadcasting Corporation cricket commentator Bob Nixon. I am old enough to remember the late-1970s crossings by the SABC to affable, golden-voiced Nixon for home Currie Cup matches mostly in then-Salisbury.
Gradually Robin graduated to TV microphone duty and debuted fittingly at Lord’s “in the deep end”, as he acknowledges, alongside one Richie Benaud.
He recalls in the book: “Before I went on air that first time I said to Richie ‘All I’ve ever done is radio. If there was one sentence of advice that would help me with television what would it be?’
“If you have nothing to say don’t say it,” he replied, “advice I have never forgotten.”
Jackman also recalls Benaud earnestly reminding him not to say “as you can see” to TV watchers: “Try not to do it because they CAN see ... that’s why they are watching television.”
And he freely admits: “Television has become such a dominant medium and it has been a privilege to have been involved in it but I have to admit that I hanker after the days when I did radio commentary, which is much less structured. There’s no dead air time; you can reminisce, you can have fun ...”
The chapter includes several amusing references to inevitable blooper moments, like sheets of his key, accompanying papers containing an expansive list of names of podium “dignitaries” ahead of the post-match interviews fluttering off in the wind at a really bad time.
It looks as though it’s going to be a high-calibre overall read, with special approval likely from amateur-era types who enjoy tales of often-boozy bonhomie, mild mischief and camaraderie before the game just got way too serious for many peoples’ liking ...
Rob’s Awesome Foursome:
1. South Africa v Australia, 3rd ODI cricket
Durban, Friday 14:30, SABC3, SS2, CSN & HD2
I see that some experts predict a real nail-biter in the series-deciding fixture. But I find it pretty hard to concur after such lopsided fortunes in the first two contests – the Aussies first winning by 93 runs at Centurion and then the Proteas prevailing by 80 in Port Elizabeth. Yes, the toss will be very important at Kingsmead: bat first if you can and immediately improve your winning chance from 50-50 to 60-40! The normally trustworthy (better than the SA Weather Service, I find) Norwegian weather side I always take my “conditions” cue from suggests only a 1mm rain likelihood during the time the match takes place, so here’s hoping for little or no disruption at a fickle venue. My winner? As I said, not the team batting second ...
2. Chelsea v Arsenal, English Premiership soccer
London, Saturday 13:45, SS3, SHD3 & Maximo
Suddenly Arsenal’s world doesn’t look quite as bleak as it did a few weeks ago, when they suffered that 8-2 indignity at Old Trafford and Arsene Wenger looked as though he was going to curl up and die. There’s been a gradual stabilising since, with the Gunners having clawed their way back up to seventh on the table, and Wenger also able to note with quiet glee, I’m sure, that even Fergie can experience the odd “1-6” sort of day. With Chelsea losing some ground last Sunday via that stormy loss at QPR, another London derby so soon afterwards probably isn’t ideal for them, and I believe Arsenal will be good for a Stamford Bridge point on current form.
3. Golden Lions v Sharks, Currie Cup final
Johannesburg, Saturday 17:30, M-Net, SS1 & SHD
Of course the Lions wholly deserve host status for the showpiece anyway, but as a neutral I am mightily pleased that it is not being played in Durban again: that would tilt the scales fairly heavily in favour of the Springbok-laden Sharks, I suspect. Instead their having to visit the Highveld, and face a Coca-Cola Park crowd baying desperately for overdue delirium in those parts, serves as a nice balancer. I foolishly tipped Western Province to knock over Josh Strauss’s team in the semi last weekend, so really should put my faith in the Lions on this grand occasion ... but I’m afraid my instincts tell me that “Plum” will eclipse “Mitch” in the battle of two New Zealand masterminds and the Sharks retain the title.
4. Titans v Lions, 50-over Domestic cricket competition
Centurion, Wednesday 14:45, SS2 & CSN
It’s the start of a much-altered limited-overs competition for the franchises, featuring a spicy little day/night derby in midweek between near-neighbours the Titans and Lions at SuperSport Park. Trying to create some hype around it has presumably been a bit tricky for CSA, as it has no headline sponsor yet – a sign of tricky, delicate times on more than one front! But for the moment it’s the less than sexy “1-Day Cup” and will be played henceforth along full, modern ODI lines. Both teams have started the season pretty well in the longer-format SuperSport Series, with the Titans top of the table and Lions third, although the picture is skewed a little by the Cobras and Warriors still playing catch-up, with games in hand.