Cape Town - If
a picture tells a thousand words then the SABC television coverage, purely on
that basis, of the Mzansi Super League opener at Newlands on Friday night ticked
the box for a refreshingly widespread audience.
Call it a
gremlin-littered winner - and in a one-horse field - but a hobbling victor
expectedly, there was ample ammunition for the privileged minority in South
Africa boasting subscription-based access to usually polished, widespread
SuperSport live fare of planet-wide ball games to quietly (and some not so
quietly, via unforgiving social media) snigger about the national broadcaster’s
naivety and fits of rank, all too obvious incompetence.
hallmarks were amply evident, for sure, during the course of the much-hyped,
tournament launching clash between the Cape Town Blitz and Tshwane Spartans.
then, you also picked up a sense that, like the braai-fire that struggles
initially to snap, crackle and pop due to damp wood, the offering got progressively
better as the game progressed.
That was in
line with the trend at the ground itself, as the crowd grew to fairly agreeable
proportions (official attendance a shade under 7 000) and the quality of the
cricket - from seasoned figures and some engaging new names alike - similarly sufficient to keep any cynics and more traditionalist-minded souls at
the event’s critical poster figure, the Spartans’ captain AB de Villiers,
lashing 59 at a strike rate of almost smack on 200 in the failed chase of 181
to win, the game stayed tantalisingly in the balance to around the
three-quarters mark and that would have been enough to keep eyeballs glued to
thought the pictures presented from the ground on the rare cricket location -
for me - of channel 193 were, generally speaking, in the same league as
anything SuperSport could muster, including ample camera angles on flashpoint
moments like sharp catches or inspired bits of last-ditch boundary-rope diving
help from a Singapore-based technology service company that works with the
market-leading Indian Premier League, and pleasingly it showed.
If you can
get that right, let’s face it, any woes in commentary or technical booboo terms
kind of come second in priority terms anyway.
That said, it
did seem up front like being a long night for the couch-potato audience.
audio snags galore, with microphones - both pitch-side and from the booths - either
showing erratic levels of volume or possibly not even being switched on at
heard too much, on occasion, from panicked aides believing they were out of
sound reach: “One two, one two ... try to put it right ... one two, one two.
when a commentator in live play turned away from the mike (or thought he’d
turned sufficiently away) to whisper to an ally: “Er, who’s the ‘keeper?”
good prep, knowing your stuff, of course ...
there was: “Great bowling there by ... by ” ... (“Birch”, piped up another of those save-his-soul,
supposedly off-air voices).
awkward silences during live play at times – possibly technical, again, but perhaps
(OK, long shot?) just certain commentators picking up their cue from the
philosophy of the late, great Richie Benaud that if you don’t have anything
special to say in the specific moment, don’t say it at all.
Then just as
teething problems seemed to be ironing themselves out to an extent, the break
between innings proved a bewildering experience to the telly-watchers: instead
of any mid-game analysis from the middle, the SABC cut away to a jerky sequence
of programme promos, advertisements, a lengthy panorama of Newlands from a
single camera with no sound, a 30-second production countdown clock that remained
stubbornly static, and lashings of music videos to spice the weird, motley interval
By the end
of the contest, in fairness, things were normalising to a considerably more
commentary panel contained some frankly weak, clearly very raw elements, and no
doubt under pressure to pile on the inane superlatives about both the match and
broader, controversial tournament.
facet also wasn’t beyond redemption: former Proteas Test spinner Paul Harris is
a familiar, perceptive and frank crossover voice from SuperSport, Kass Naidoo
bowls in a corridor of articulate certainty, if you like, and television rookie
JP Duminy, I thought, warmed to his task promisingly enough after a hesitant
Of course it
must be a great frustration to the MSL organisers that he isn’t actually
playing at present due to injury, but Duminy has a wealth of experience and
excellence in the T20 format - South Africa’s leading international run-scorer,
for starters - and his insights became more and more welcome as he gained
confidence and began sounding more like himself, really, than some sort of
forced, dedicated microphone person.
lose sight of this hardly unimportant truth: masses of people throughout South
Africa, multiple times more than SuperSport could command, will have saturation
coverage of cricket on their screens - yes, warts and all - for a month.
be too bad for the game.
And hey, you’re
always at liberty to put the sound down just a little if you wish, or pop off
to the fridge or kettle when there’s a wee bout of “Houston, we have a problem”
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