Rob Houwing

Has Chappell turned ‘neutral’?

2014-01-17 09:37
Sport24 chief writer Rob Houwing (File)
Rob Houwing’s ‘Tops on the Telly’ column

The English have a deep-rooted reputation for being magnanimous in defeat ... but have some of them taken things too far by being generous to Australian television commentators in the aftermath of the 5-0 Ashes whitewash?

I can think of plenty of South Africans who wouldn’t be nearly as kind as London newspaper The Guardian was in rating some of the Aussie Channel Nine men behind the mike, who British fans had to put up with in the wee hours for weeks on end (made only worse by England’s woes) recently.

While I know I am not alone on our shores in believing Ian Chappell, for instance, is a terrific technical judge of the game - just about the best, in my book - he has all too often in the past got beneath our living-room skins because he seems so noticeably anti-South African whenever we do bilateral battle Down Under with the Baggy Greens.

Some say it is a residual thing from his involvement in one of the Aussies’ leanest ever tours, the 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Ali Bacher’s rampant South Africans of 1969/70.

Maybe he is less ill-disposed toward the “Poms”, however, because The Guardian has seen fit to issue the following post-Ashes tribute: “In a commentary team prone to hyperbole, Chappelli (his nickname) is the great uncle who is too old to care anymore.

“(But) he is an incisive reader of the game and maintained a studied neutrality throughout the series, offering criticism and praise based on performance rather than nationality.”

Here are their thoughts on a few other Channel Niners who are far from unfamiliar to South African ears:

Bill Lawry: “Channel Nine wheeled Bill out of retirement for the Boxing Day Test ... and he promptly did his vocal cords when Mitchell Johnson ran out Joe Root and caught Ian Bell.” (At least it seems Lawry has stayed unashamedly dyed-in-the-wool Aussie?)

Adam Gilchrist: “Gilly is just a likeable dude ... doesn’t take himself too seriously.”

Shane Warne: “Nobody is disputing that Warney has a great cricket brain. But at the same time, it’s all about Warney.”

James Brayshaw: “A bigger passenger than George Bailey ... known for insights such as ‘I don’t think there’s rain forecast, I haven’t checked the forecast’.”

Mark Taylor and Ian Healy: “Not the greatest commentators in the world, but we really like Tubs and Heals. There’s nothing particularly offensive about them, depending on your tolerance for cracking yarns from the ‘90s.”

Any Sport24 readers’ own thoughts on the Channel Nine crew?

Rob’s Awesome Foursome

1. South Africa v Nigeria, African Nations Championship soccer
Cape Town, Sunday 19:00, SABC1, SS4 & SHD4 

Surprise, surprise, CHAN hasn’t really captured the imagination of the South African public ... I never believed it would, and actually think some gates have been better than my severely bleak expectations for them! If ever there was an opportunity to halt the relative “echo” at Cape Town Stadium, it comes with this decisive group-ending fixture between Bafana and the Super Eagles, with quarter-final slots on the line and the hosts seeking at least a draw to advance. Nigerian expats ought to come out in some force, whilst the Sunday evening scheduling ought to suit Bafana diehards better – 5pm in midweek (a la the 1-1 Mali stalemate) is a lousy time to expect working folk to pitch up in great numbers.  

2. Australia v England, 2nd ODI cricket
Brisbane, Friday 05:20, SS2, SHD2

We are closer and closer to the Aussies touring our shores (first Test starts at Centurion on February 12) so many local fans will be watching their ongoing ODI combat with crisis-torn England with greater interest than usual – even if some of the core Test personnel are being rested with the SA trip in mind. That said, lethal paceman Mitchell Johnson returns to the picture after a deserved post-Ashes break for game two at the Gabba; the Aussies already have a 1-0 lead and it is difficult to see England suddenly finding a head of steam before they head back for the mid-winter freezer sanctuary of the northern hemisphere.

3. Chelsea v Manchester United, English Premiership soccer
London, Sunday 18:00, SS3, SHD3 & Maximo

So the high-riding (third, and just two points off the lead) Blues have a humdrum visit on Sunday evening from the seventh-placed side ... oops, sorry, it’s Manchester United! In fairness, this remains a genuinely big clash, even with the Red Devils a gaping 11 points off the top. These two have either tasted title success or at least been among the front-runners for many seasons, so tensions will crackle despite Jose Mourinho’s charges looking so much more convincing thus far in the hunt for the league spoils. Both teams enter the fixture off 2-0 wins, the Blues at Hull last time out and United having restored some much-needed stability by seeing off Swansea at Old Trafford. Will the real United stand up? They’ll try particularly hard here, but it’s Chelsea by the odd goal for me.  

4. Dolphins v Cape Cobras, Twenty20 cricket
Durban, Sunday 12:00, SS2, SHD2

A couple of games in the interim may change things, but as this was written the Cobras lay top of the RAM SLAM T20 Challenge, with the Dolphins immediately behind them in second and the only unbeaten side with two wins from as many outings. So we should be in for a treat ... if, of course, the eternally fickle Kingsmead weather is happy to play ball. Trusty website www.yr.no suggests partly cloudy and mild conditions with no rain, however, so that seems promising at present. The SuperSport TV listings have this clash down now for a noon start, note, presumably not to clash with later televised offering on Sunday, Titans v Knights.    

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    rob houwing  |  cricket
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