Nevermind the heat wave‚ airwaves at boiling point in Centurion

Former fast bowler Makhaya Ntini all smiles as always in the media box at SuperrSport Park in Centurion on the opening day of the Boxing Day Test between SA and Pakistan.
Former fast bowler Makhaya Ntini all smiles as always in the media box at SuperrSport Park in Centurion on the opening day of the Boxing Day Test between SA and Pakistan.
Image: Mahlatse Mphalele

South Africa and Pakistan are contesting the first of their three-Test series in searing heat and away from the field the airwaves are hotting up too.

Temperatures in the upper 30s were recorded on the first two days of this Test‚ but some hot under the collar viewers and listeners of the SABC and to a much lesser degree SuperSport‚ are asking questions about the quality of their respective broadcasts.

The SABC‚ who with much fanfare got broadcast and bragging rights to the recently completed Mzansi Super League (MSL) have had a much diminished presence at this Test.

The embattled organisation is producing the bulk of their television broadcast from their studios‚ while their radio transmissions are coming from within the bowels of their adjacent Auckland Park tower block.

The broadcaster who is in the throes of aggressive cost-cutting deemed it too great an expense to dispatch an outside broadcast unit 45km north up the M1 and N1 motorways.

Their bean counters also arrived at the conclusion that installing Telkom lines‚ which would have facilitated broadcast from the stadium‚ was a potential bank-breaker.

The upshot of all of this is that they only have two commentators and a field or content reporter on site.

The rest of their team are at HQ‚ while at least one long-serving member of their commentary team was deemed surplus to their needs for this Test as the broadcaster tightens its belt.

How the public broadcaster spends its money has been the topic of lively debate and this is likely to persist if they continue to splurge on on air talent at the expense of the unfolding drama at live events.

In time to come SuperSport too may opt for smaller production teams at live events.

They too are feeling the pinch but their most pressing issue to emerge this week is their introduction of former Test star Makhaya Ntini to their English commentary line-up.

Ntini’s on air presence has divided opinion.

The former quick‚ who is an enthusiastic mischief-making goofball around the media centre‚ certainly breathes life into an often sterile environment.

However‚ it is his transfer of some of those characteristics on air‚ that have not gone down well with some of the game’s more studious followers.

Social media and WhatsApp groups have been abuzz‚ reflecting various sentiments around Ntini’s on air delivery.

A well followed Twitter devotee lamented on the first day: “Ntini’s commentary is a tumble of bad jokes and laughing at his bad jokes. And then the odd bit of obvious.”

As you’d expect‚ the discourse on Facebook was more acerbic.

“What did we do to deserve commentary by Makhaya Ntini? As it is it’s been an awful year‚ but no‚ Supersport has to pile on the misery”‚ opined one user.

Ntini‚ however‚ is a much revered character and a measure of his popularity is never far from view.

A group of fans next to the sightscreen at the Hennops River End on Thursday wanted to get up close and personal with their idol. “Makhaya! Come chill with us in Benoni corner.”

Whether that was just a shrewd way of luring him away from the microphone is difficult to say.

SuperSport will argue that there is a need for diversity in their English commentary team and that Ntini is likely to improve.

Their already under pressure premium subscriber base‚ may beg to differ.

It all begs the question‚ if Ntini divides opinion this early in the Test series heaven knows what we can expect when the pay channel unleashes Kevin Pietersen‚ who is rumoured to be joining the commentary team in the New Year.

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