Tag Archives: cricket

Cricket Commentators Flusk and Johnson

2 Dec

We’ve not had any cricket for a while, so I gratefully watched the excellent recent tour of the Aussies. Being laid up with some sort of virus, I got to watch a fair bit of it, which means I got more than my daily recommended allowance of cricket commentators. It revealed a few things, one being that Neil Mansthorp is unfortunately turning into Robin Jackman, but more important, it solidified my opinions about the youngbloods, Gareth Flusk and Neil Johnson, and particularly the crucial differences between the two. Seeing as they are presumably avid readers of Ungenius by now, I thought I’d help their commentary by uncharitably painting them in extreme contrast.

The good Neil

Google Images made me choose between 'ugly sunglasses Neil' or 'male mödel from the 90s Neil', so...

The Great Neil Johnson

Neil—or ‘the good Neil’ as I like to call him—is a left-hander, a Howick boy, and a vastly underrated ex-Natal cricketer, so there’s really everything to like. Nevertheless, they initially employed him to commentate on T20 cricket games in which it was obviously his task to sound as unbelievably excited about things as possible. That was a bit much to handle given that they had also recently added dancing girls, failed DJs, on-field walkie-talkie conversations with distracted cricket captains, and the word ‘dugout’ to the cricketing watching experience.


Sent back to the dugout

Since those days, and since letting him loose on test cricket, his humour, knowledge, attentiveness, and professionalism are a joy to hear, and his enthusiasm manages to be infectious without being forced and irritating. In the last test match he must have got sick, because he sounded a bit off and then disappeared for three days. It was a difficult time for all of us.

Neil, pictured after another good commentary stint.

That's your second 'folks' warning, Gareth; one more and you'll be watching the game from the dugout.

The Grating @GarethFlusk

Social media’s @GarethFlusk seems to be a nice enough chap. He claims, after all, to be a left hander (though I have my doubts). He sometimes isn’t wrong, and he isn’t offensive.

Nevertheless, he makes two important mistakes that I can’t forgive.

#1 Folks
The first mistake is to continually use the word ‘folks’, as in ‘Let me just tell you, folks, that big collars and wide ties are great for accentuating the square jaw-line.’ Well, I mean obviously not exactly that sort of thing—just imagine a less interesting sentence.

The reason why ‘folks’ is such a crime is that it creates distance between him and us. In fact it creates a ‘him’ and an ‘us’. Great commentary lets us believe that we’re keeping company with interesting people talking about an interesting game. It’s the boys, drink in hand, barbecue in the background, discussing the important subject of cricket. Then some idiot says ‘folks’ and thereby puts himself on a stage, a mountebank addressing the filthy masses down below. The illusion is broken, and instead of being fooled into thinking that I’m one of the experts, part of a circle having a discussion, I am being spoken down to by a ‘celebrity’.

#2 Twits
@GarethFlusk’s second big mistake is not only to hint at his imaginary celebrity status by calling us folks, but to actively seek out a following by incessantly telling us to find more utter banality from him on Twitter. Campaigning for one’s own celebrity is annoying and desperate and will definitely ensure that his eternal destiny will at least involve a million years of non-stop Lady GaGa songs, with only a 70-year-old Kim Kardashian talking about her glory days for company. This is all especially unforgivable because I’m trying to watch the darn cricket.


You must be choking

27 Mar
Proteas Forever

Proteas Forever

It’s hard being me. I support Arsenal football club and South African cricket. Maybe it’s masochism, maybe I have some strange attraction to extremely talented emotional cripples. My depression over our recent ICC World Cup exit to vastly inferior opposition (yet again) has lifted long enough for me to vent a little, so here it is.

I’ve never thought that the label of ‘chokers’ was quite fair when applied to our cricketers. Certainly, the first accusation of choking came after we conspired to draw (and thus lose on a technicality) in the semi-final against Australia, but it was only Allan Donald who choked after Klusener had rescued an almost-lost cause. I used to be happier with complacent or arrogant or immature as a general description of our historical problem. I now realise that all of those adjectives are true, but ‘choker’ most of all. The trouble is that the cricketers themselves still keep persisting in denial about it. Apparently they spent all the press interviews in this WC being edgy or aggressive when the question was raised — which ironically is a great symptom of chokiness.

A choker in golf is someone who gets the shakes and misses a three-foot putt for the tournament. In cricket, it’s more systemic fear, panic, lack of confidence and poor decision-making. Getting upset about the question in press conferences shows that the fear and lack of steel is there in abundance. The sooner we’re able to say, ‘Yes, we’re chokers; won’t it be embarrassing if you’re beaten by chokers’ the better.

To add to the catalogue of chokes from earlier World Cups, we collapsed under the littlest pressure from hapless England, and we scored a last-minute victory over India — who have their own choking problems at the moment. That victory was allegedly evidence that South Africa was over their jitters, but it wasn’t. Rigid and fear-driven captaincy and unnecessarily risky running were the highlights of the contribution from our senior players. Then Johan Botha took risks to get us back in a position where sensible cricket would have sufficed and immediately took a rush-of-blood risk and got out. We only won because one of our bowlers got lucky with the bat — a feat that he would probably not replicate more than once in every twenty attempts. In other words, we did plenty of choking, but were out-choked by India.

When pressure finally was applied in the knock-out stages, we managed to get into a winning position, where calm cricket would have got us home easily, but Kallis went aerial for no reason whatsoever and was caught (shades of the loss that we engineered against the West Indies a few tournaments ago when we chased a low target by handing out catching practice). Then Duminy played half a sleepy cross-bat shot in homage to every number 11 batsman in the world and got bowled. Then someone who actively encourages people to call him ‘Faf’ called for a suicidal run for no reason and dismissed Our Last Hope TM.

The point is, Dear Proteas Cricket, you are chokers. You work hard enough to raise hopes and then you freak out and dash them in a flurry of immature, brain-freeze panic. The sooner you leave denial behind, the sooner you can battle the choker tag head on, and the sooner you can stop being the most depressing sporting franchise in history. Here’s to another four more years to wait for potential to be fulfilled. Let’s hope we still have the potential to fulfil by then.

Five Things We’ve Learned From the Indian Cricket Tour

21 Jan

Commentators still succumb to hubris.
Commentators who have apparently watched the game of cricket before (yes you, Manthorp) still make comments as though the game is utterly predictable. For example, someone announced before the test series that both teams’ batting line-ups are too good to be bowled out twice (they most certainly were not), and within 15 overs of a 50-over run chase that South Africa lost, they were already speaking of South Africa ‘cantering to an easy victory’.

SABC 3 is mystifyingly irrational.
Our national broadcaster is often unprofessional, but I can’t really understand the thinking behind the coverage of day-night games. The game time conflicts with the usual schedule — obviously — which has led to them moving the daily soap opera and the news a half hour earlier so that the cricket can be broadcast. Yet having already moved everything to try to accommodate the cricket, they then fail to accommodate the cricket by refusing to alter to length of either programme so that it over-runs the start of the innings by about 20 minutes (usually, I might add, one of the most interesting periods of any game). I know soap operas have hardly any fat in the plot that one could trim, but surely…

If you’re going to have middle-order batsmen who aren’t scoring runs, you might as well have Mark Boucher.
For some reason,  the Proteas management seems to have decided to try out as many inexperienced players as they can in preparation for a World Cup??!! AB de Villiers is not a genuine keeper, and if our level of panic and chaos in our batting on home pitches is anything to go by, we will certainly need players of Boucher’s experience at a World Cup in India. Furthermore, de Villiers is a good fielder, and our current crop of replacements clearly aren’t. Boucher behind the stumps and de Villiers in the outfield where he belongs.

South African fielders used to be the best in the World.
Used to be.

Getting women involved in the production is admirable, but they need to find some different women.
Claire Cowan is a nice lady, but when she gets excited, her voice has a little too much of Lloyd Christmas’ Most Annoying Sound in the World.

Most Annoying Noise in the World

Most Annoying Sound in the World

Secondly, the pop-vox-segment lady with the weird name who interviews people in the crowd is desperately desperately dull — I have to go and do something else until she’s gone. There aren’t that many people worth speaking to in the crowd. I didn’t really sign up to watch the people who are watching the cricket.

So if you could all implement my changes for next time, that’d be great. Thanks.