At last, the lost generation of kids can now see their heroes
You may not like cricket but its domestic return to SABC will make you love it. Rugby, the ball’s in your court
When I first came across SA’s domestic T20 tournament in early 2004, I was quite underwhelmed because as much as it was exciting to be at a stadium for just over three hours for a full match, the only time I could watch was when the games were flighted very late on SABC.
This speaks volumes for the lack of domestic cricket on the free-to-air broadcaster even though SA’s home internationals have been regularly available on that medium through the years.
When players popped up to make their international debuts, it was difficult to know who belonged to which provincial or franchise zoo because there was no access to domestic cricket if you didn’t have DStv.
When one tracked the domestic game through newspapers, the odd small-town game and the Cricket Annual, some names looked quite exotic and mystifying then BOOM!, here they are on TV playing for the Proteas.
It is a proper shock to the system and this is the reason why the yet-to-be named T20 League is such a massive boost, not only for the broadcaster but for the ordinary watcher.
The SABC's financial issues are well documented and it would be easy for the layman to ask why they are entering into a partnership to broadcast a cricket tournament when there are issues with people being paid and matters pertaining to retrenchments that have been doing the rounds.
These concerns are legitimate for taxpayers who would love to know where and how their money is spent, but the viewing power of the SABC cannot be undervalued from an education and growth perspective. Their numbers count!
It would be difficult for viewers (millennials, the 1990s and the late 1980s kids) to remember the time when domestic cricket was broadcast on SABC. That alone tells you how those who follow cricket on SABC have had to rely on other platforms to keep track of the domestic game.
I suspect many people cannot even remember the time when M-Net’s open-time often broadcast the fourth day of the SuperSport Series on Sunday if the game went that far.
Whichever way you look at it, it’s a win for those who can’t afford pay-channel television because it partially strips away the veneer of inaccessibility.
Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi and Temba Bavuma are well known cricketing entities, but to SABC viewers their journey from franchise to international cricket is the proverbial mental black hole filled by reams of copy about their domestic excellence.
It hasn’t always made financial sense to broadcast the longer four-day first-class form but the short format has always prided itself on being family friendly and accessible. If the established and successful Australian product that is the Big Bash League is available in that cricket-mad country, this deal represents the perfect opportunity for cricket to steal a popularity march on rugby in SA. The oval-balled game is not available on free-to-air but that’s a column for another day.
You may not like cricket but its domestic return to SABC will make you love it. Rugby, the ball’s in your court.