In & Out: The gift of the drab: SA’s commentator curse

2014-09-28 15:00

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Watching cricket on television as a boy, I used to think: “Schucks, being a commentator must be one of the greatest jobs on the planet.”

Not only do broadcast commentators get to sit and drink whisky all day while watching their favourite sport at the venue, they get to do so in the company of other like-minded whisky-saturated leatheries, hence the ability to shoot the breeze, sometimes for five days in a row. There’s much freedom and scope in that job, I thought.

That boyhood perception of the craft of cricket commentary still stands, although these days I’m less impressed by the on-air banter. Maybe it’s because I’ve met a few too many armchair and professional critics in my time, with a smugness of the kind you’re reading now, backed up by heaps of stats, but no real personable traits or sense of humour to speak of.

The thing with commentating is there has to be something worth saying if anyone is going to give a damn. If you’re talking through a resolute Proteas batting line-up edging closer to a massive Australian total, chances are people will want to listen.

But if you’re simply relating the in-jokes circulating the commentary box, who really cares? One example is Shaun Pollock and Mpumelelo Mbangwa’s constant jabbering using made-up words and attempts at self-deprecation.

In case you’re wondering, I’m not the only one to have picked up on this annoyance.

On his blog,, Andrew Murison has devised a drinking game to correspond with the SuperSport cricket commentary team’s predictability.

Here are some of the highlights from Murison’s game...

“Have a drink whenever:

.?Realises he’s been an idiot and says ‘correction’

Kepler Wessels...

.?Talks about ‘weight transfer’

.?Tries to say ‘series’ but says ‘serious’ instead

Pommie Mbangwa...

.?Tries to explain himself out of a corner with ‘and I say that because…’

.?Alerts us to the fact that he’s about to tell us something by saying, ‘I tell you what…’

Shaun Pollock...

.?Makes up a word, either intentionally or by accident

.?Tries to make a joke about how old the other commentator is.

Alas, there was no cricket of note to comment on this week as we celebrated our heritage with a few hot chops and cold dops.

If there was, we would have had the perfect opportunity to test our mettle against the platitudes springing forth from the mic.

Whereas I write this column of my own goodwill, Haysman et al have made careers out of commentary. They must be doing something right, right? Or maybe we’re all just listening wrong.

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