Makkie grabs the mike!
Rob Houwing’s ‘Tops on the Telly’ column
Two legendary fast bowlers who I would consider reasonably unlikely commentators in later life caught my attention as far as television matters are concerned this week.
First there was the sight (yes, they did turn a camera to him) of Curtly Ambrose at the microphone during coverage on ESPN of the domestic West Indies Twenty20 tournament.
He was chilled and chatty, generally coming across well, although I’ve got to admit my visit to the channel was a reasonably fleeting one ... T20 shmeetwenty, and all that; there’s just so much of the popcorn stuff these days.
Nevertheless, during his fearsome playing career - kind of a Morne Morkel with more nastiness and greater economy - I would never have anticipated “Ambi” going on to a broadcasting career of any kind, even if I am aware also of his competence as a musician.
He was this rather unapproachable, detached, glowering figure, you see, while strutting his stuff so formidably in a Windies team slightly on the wane but still way superior to today’s outfit.
I made the mistake once of daringly approaching him while he was playing pinball at the same hotel the South African journalists stayed at on that milestone, Kepler Wessels-led Caribbean tour of 1992: I cannot recall his exact words but they were not far from the lines of: “Not now ... not any time.”
Of course Makhaya Ntini is a completely different kettle of fish personality-wise, always genial and up for a chat with just about anyone.
But he speaks in what might affectionately be called a “fast bowler’s babble”, so his maiden appearance for SuperSport in the first ODI between the Proteas and Sri Lanka at Paarl did catch me a wee bit by surprise as well.
Clearly the organisation have been seduced by his known huge popularity - he has often in the past been found by influential polls to be the country’s most liked sports personality.
How did he do? Perhaps you’d better tell me, as I was watching that particular game from the temporary, scaffolding-based press facility at the ground and not on the box at any stage.
My information is that Makkie - who probably also needs someone to constantly remind him of his particular slot times, I’m sure! - is basically on a trial stint with SuperSport, and earmarked more as a “comments guy” than ball-by-ball caller of play.
One advantage is that he must still be strongly in the know about events and personalities within the Proteas camp after his illustrious years in its very midst ...
Rob’s Awesome Foursome:
1. South Africa v Sri Lanka, second cricket ODI
East London, Saturday 10:00, SABC3, SS2, CSN & SHD
“We know we are a better one-day team than that,” said Tillakaratne Dilshan reassuringly at the press conference after his charges had been absolutely slaughtered by the Proteas in the first encounter before a Paarl crowd with slightly mixed feelings about the finish at around 20:30. The good folk at Buffalo Park will presumably wish for something better approaching a contest on Saturday, a reasonably rare but potentially pleasant all-daylight affair (here’s hoping the muggy east coast clouds don’t roll in). With such a pronounced head of steam from the winelands, it seems unlikely that AB de Villiers’s team will be tripped up even if his leadership gets a sterner test.
2. Joburg Open golf
Johannesburg, to Sunday 12:00, SS1, CSN & SHD
A fair bit of rain is tipped for Friday and Saturday’s “middle” days of the not-to-be-sniffed-at local tournament – this is Highveld thunderstorm season, after all – but hopefully it will not interfere with play too much as Masters maestro Charl Schwartzel goes about his quest for a first-time hat-trick of titles here. The event, at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington, also features a seemingly rejuvenated Retief Goosen, so ought to keep armchair golf fans reasonably happy for the weekend, especially as it has blue-chip space on SS1.
3. Australia v India, third cricket Test
Perth, to Tuesday 04:30, SS2 & SH2 (some SS5)
When are the Indians going to stand up and play the sort of cricket we know they are capable of? Some old failings against express bowling have returned to roost as Australia’s budding crop of new quickies -- albeit that some of them seem worryingly injury-prone – announce themselves with glee. Of course it’s now or never for India at the WACA (legendary for its great “carry”) as they are 2-0 down in the four-Test series and anything but a win for them reduces the final encounter to a dead-rubber affair. And is Sachin going to finally get that milestone 100th ton? The closer he gets, the more the collywobbles, strangely for so seasoned a competitor, seem to set in ...
4. Wigan v Manchester City, English Premiership soccer
Wigan, Monday 22:00, SS3, SH3 & Maximo
This wouldn’t normally be an automatically appealing fixture on paper, but suddenly the stakes have been raised for the Monday night north-west derby in the “Prem”. It’s pretty close to the best game on the latest programme, in fact, because none of the better clubs are meeting each other. City certainly need to get back to winning ways again after a bumpy spell in three domestic competitions, and should fancy seeing off the hosts to stay ahead of chasing Man United and a dangerously awakening Tottenham. But Wigan won’t roll over at the DW Stadium, mindful of their precarious 19th spot and with only Blackburn beneath them. My call? It might even be tight ... 0-1.