Jackman: Golden voice wasted

Sport24 chief writer Rob Houwing (File)
Sport24 chief writer Rob Houwing (File)
For some time I have lived under the incorrect assumption that health-related issues played a significant role in the departure from SuperSport cricket commentary cubicles of veteran sage Robin Jackman.

But then, early in the New Year, I bumped into the affectionately-nicknamed “Silver Fox” at my local convenience store and was gratified to hear him pronounce himself “fine, absolutely fine” after his already-reported battle with throat cancer in 2012.

Indeed, so fine that he confided he’d be right up for a microphone gig ... if only he could get one.

The only time I’ve heard his agreeably gravelly voice more recently has been in occasional radio advertisements where he laudably draws attention to Mercy Ships, the international charity operating a hospital vessel that provides vital medical care in places on the planet where it is in notably short supply.

But in his staple, lifelong passion of cricket? Jackman’s presence in the SuperSport ranks has completely dried up, both in domestic and international match terms.

He confirmed, diplomatically but with a certain hard-to-hide ruefulness, that he “was retired” by the Randburg-based broadcaster (crucially, I surmise, as opposed to “had retired from”).

Perhaps he has somehow been deemed too old at 71, but since when has age been an impediment to wisdom and rich value in the fine art of cricket commentary?

Remember it’s a game that appeals to all ages, for various reasons, better than most ... and India-born Jackman has a veritable trove of memories always worth hearing. The former England seamer has played, coached and/or commentated at lofty levels all over the planet.

His associations with South African cricket itself are lengthy, going back to a heyday for the Currie Cup, and seldom less than wholly enthusiastic, either.

When they have the likes of Messrs Holding, Wessels, Haysman and Pollock at their service - the case for much of the current Sri Lankan series - SuperSport naturally aren’t shy of quality and expertise in the booth.

But I also firmly believe, now knowing the truer reasons for his absence, that space could and should be found anew for Jackman – and arguably more urgently at franchise level where certain new or “experimental” voices, alas, sound about as droning as a squad of road-repair machines disturbing your sleep with their monotonous rumbling on a nearby freeway.

Let me add, too, that the Sport24 desk has fielded inquiries again this season about his dormancy ...

Rob’s weekend awesome foursome:

1. South Africa v Sri Lanka, third cricket Test, Johannesburg, daily to Monday - 10:00


The combination of Hashim Amla’s 100th Test match and the Proteas’ pleasing decision (to my mind, anyway) to sacrifice a spinner and facilitate a first peek at tearaway Duanne Olivier at this level, more than makes up for the fact that this is a dead-rubber affair. Let’s not forget that it is also the last chance to see the national side in whites at home this summer, as a full tour of New Zealand is not too far away in February/March. Weather prospects for the two weekend days – especially Saturday – looked a little dicey, which may regrettably impact on gates. But perhaps the game will be well advanced, as they say, by then anyway?

2. SA Open golf, Johannesburg, daily to Sunday - 09:45

SS1 (but SS6 from Sat)

“Just incredible the number of people streaming into Glendower to see one Northern Irishman smack a little white ball around,” tweeted one seasoned golf scribe who’d clearly got in early on the opening day of the Open. No prizes for guessing the reference to the swift cult following commanded by a certain Rory McIlroy! His presence has unquestionably done wonders for the appeal of the latest edition of this time-honoured event, and few will be complaining if he isn’t hugely in the title picture at an advanced stage of Sunday …

3. Manchester United v Liverpool, English Premiership soccer, Manchester, Sunday - 18:00

SS3 & Maximo

Of course ardent football fans will also be monitoring the start of AFCON 2017 in Gabon, but it is minus Bafana Bafana, and I have little doubt many South Africans will be hugely diverted on Sunday evening by the tasty matter of Man Utd v Liverpool, an enduring fierce rivalry in the Premiership. Spicing the occasion more is that second-placed ‘Pool seem genuine title contenders this season. Meanwhile the Red Devils may be as many as 10 points off leaders Chelsea in sixth, but they are on a run of six matches with maximum points to boast, so this toughie comes at a pretty good time for them. Tip? Sorry, nothing more adventurous from me than 1-1.

4. India v England, first one-day international cricket, Pune, Sunday - 10:00


Admittedly conditions in this series should differ significantly from those looming in a jam-packed English summer, but the three-game roster will nevertheless be of bigger than usual interest to the Proteas and their supporters given what is upcoming in mid-year for the national side. SA play England away in a bilateral ODI series, and then go straight into the Champions Trophy in the same country – yes, another opportunity to try to bury that lingering ICC major-tournament bogey. Keeping an eye on the Indian limited-overs side is also relevant because that team provides the opposition in one of the group games at the event for AB de Villiers and company. It is the possibly decisive closing one at The Oval on June 11.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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