Rob Houwing

Oz v SA: Greig leaves void

2012-11-02 10:04
Sport24 chief writer Rob Houwing (File)
I understand I am some way off his Christmas card list but it is with regret, nevertheless, that I have learnt Tony Greig will definitely not be part of the Channel 9 commentary mix at the outset of the Test series between Australia and South Africa in Brisbane next Friday.

He apparently didn’t take too kindly to my revisiting, in this column, the time he got a well-known former South African player’s name tongue-twisted and he thus became “Dippe Boetenaar”.

It can happen to anyone and the reference was intended only in humour, although Greigy seemingly interpreted it differently and took to Twitter (@greigtalks, which does appear to be his “official” handle) to challenge the competence – he didn’t put it quite so diplomatically -- of Sport24’s writers.

As we have just a single dedicated on-staff one, it didn’t take yours truly very long to put two and two together.

Fair cop; I can take it.

And it doesn’t stop me rueing the confirmation that widely-travelled former England captain Greig, who more recently was diagnosed with cancer, will be a rare absentee when coverage of the first Test at the Gabba gets underway. (That many Sport24 readers will join me in sincerely wishing him only good energy in his battle can be taken as a given.)

That news came in a good piece on Cricinfo by Mark Nicholas, angled around Greig’s non-presence but largely focusing on the keenly-awaited looming Test combat itself.

Nicholas, who hosts Channel 9’s cricket coverage, lamented: “For the first time in more than 30 years, the Australian summer of cricket will begin without Tony Greig at the microphone.

“His illness is well enough documented, though no less shocking for it. He hopes to work again during the summer but right now the big fella has his nose to the grindstone that is the dreaded C-word.

“It is especially poignant that the South Africans are in Australia. Greig will have the television on when the first ball is delivered at the Gabba, and his heart will be with the land of his birth.

“Australia is home … there may be an element of love/hate to his relationship with Australian audiences but Greigy is a much-loved part of the landscape.”

I agree with Nicholas, too, that his banter in the box with Bill Lawry is “part of the folklore” of Channel 9’s presentation.

For the record, I’d count Greig among my top two Channel Niners in cricket commentary terms – the other is Ian Chappell – for the assertiveness of his theories, whether you concur with them or not, and willingness to make fast calls on whether he feels a batsman is out, where others may hedge their bets for a bit and wait for replays.

Chappell makes up in marvellous cricketing science what he loses in all too often taking a glaringly anti-Saffer stance!

On that score, SuperSport are sending several of their own commentators – Kepler Wessels, Pommie Mbangwa, HD Ackerman and Mike Haysman – to the series, although communications chief Clinton van der Berg assures that the Channel 9 feed (plus Afrikaans) will also still be available to those who want it.

The SuperSport offering will be supplemented by contributions from Tom Moody, one of the more broad-minded, even-handed and insightful Aussie experts on the game around.

Rob’s Awesome Foursome

1 Titans v Lions, Momentum One-Day Cup cricket

Centurion, Friday 15:00, SS2, CSN & SHD

The domestic 50-overs competition gets underway this weekend with three matches – the other two on Sunday – but the Friday opener holds pretty strong appeal as it pits the old Highveld foes against each other. Both the Titans and Lions had extremely decent campaigns in the lucrative T20 Champions League, until the latter were rather painfully taken to the cleaners by Sydney Sixers in the final, so will want to carry on where they left off in the shorter format, to a good degree.  

2 Manchester United v Arsenal, English Premiership soccer

Manchester, Saturday 14:45, SS3 & Maximo

I’m not the world’s biggest fan of Robin van Persie the person – occasionally I have reason to suspect at least part of his surname is fairly apt – but there’s no denying his lethal talents as a goal-poacher. And here he gets to wrestle his former employers as the Gunners go to Old Trafford for a lunchtime classic fixture to begin the latest round of Premiership games. In league terms, the Red Devils come off that controversial but important 3-2 triumph at Chelsea, whilst the visitors were nervy in only taking down labouring QPR 1-0 at the Emirates. Mind you, that 7-5 net-buster against Reading in the League Cup in midweek must have done a bit to revive their attacking confidence. Maybe just not quite enough to grab something here? 

3 F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix motorsport

Abu Dhabi, Sunday 15:00, SS1 & SHD

There may only be two men standing in the charge to be this year’s drivers’ champion – Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso of Ferrari – but that’s still better than having a lone, runaway candidate, isn’t it? Thirteen points separate Vettel, at the top, from Alonso and after this desert scrap there’s just the US Grand Prix (November 18) and Brazil (November 25) to settle the fate of the title. The 55-lap Yas Marina Circuit is renowned for its fast straights and it ought to test combatants’ heat tolerance, too, as temperatures  of up to 33 deg C are anticipated despite the late-afternoon scheduling in local terms.

4 Bloemfontein Celtic v Orlando Pirates, Telkom Knockout QF soccer

Bloemfontein, Sunday 15:00, SABC1, SS4 & SHD4

Given a Free State Stadium match-up of two clubs whose supporters count amongst the vibiest and most dedicated on the domestic circuit, this quarter-final shapes up as potentially the most appealing of the weekend’s four. Both teams enter it, though, off shaky results in the Premiership, with Pirates having been held goalless at home by basement club AmaZulu and Celtic upset 2-1 at home by surprise packages University of Pretoria. The game has dual coverage on SuperSport and the national broadcaster.

NEXT ON SPORT24X

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