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Thu Oct 23 12:14:54 SAST 2014

Domestic cricket deserves a listen

Firdose Moonda | 06 March, 2013 01:01

One of the least appreciated details of cricket is its sounds. The silence before a ball is delivered, the scratching around in the crease, the clapping of hands, the shouting of encouragement and the echo of leather on willow, which is multiplied a hundred times when stadiums are mostly empty - as they often are.

In the modern era, those sounds get filtered through the box so you at home hear a mish-mash of music, commentary, burble and then cricket. If you have been watching the twenty-overs tournament, you could choose to listen to some of that analysis in Xhosa.

Unlike the selectors, some of Cricket South Africa's administrators recognise the importance of appealing to a wider section of the demographic and SuperSport did not need much convincing.

It already offers rugby commentary in Xhosa and was happy to foot the bill for extra personnel.

Initial reaction to Mfuneko Ngam, Monde Zondeki, Zed Ndamane and Peter Bacela has been positive.

They add another voice to the growing chorus of coverage which will hopefully encourage those with clout to invest even more in reportage of the game.

It is the perfect time to grow the reach of the domestic game because the Test team is strong and the limited-overs sides are in transition.

Fans want to know who the next Faf du Plessis or Kyle Abbott is before they don the Protea badge.

The only way for them to do that is to engage more with the domestic game and the much neglected first-class competition in particular.

Romantic notions about filling grounds - or even just individual stands - for Sunfoil Series matches will remain nothing more than ideals, but technology means that the game can be viewed and appreciated by more than just a man and his dog.

ESPNCricinfo - the website for which I am the South African correspondent - provides a ball-by-ball scoring service which is often accompanied by text commentary.

Ironically, in the season which SuperSport ceased funding the tournament, it provided hourly updates on the Sunfoil Series.

Both are noble attempts at increasing coverage but they lack real flavour.

Through a webpage, you feel none of the atmosphere and hear none of the sounds of the game.

Even with sporadic television crossings, the rhythm cannot be really felt, the experience is limited to a few beats.

An obvious solution would be a radio service.

On the old-fashioned wireless, it would also have had far wider reach than either the internet or subscription television but that would require the effort of obtaining licences.

Another option would be to take advantage of the growing smartphone market and investing in an app that could broadcast the matches.

It would still require manpower but, if done minimalistically, it is possible.

Two people per game, one on air at a time, with the ambient sounds of the game filling whatever awkward silences might occur.

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