“I’m melting in here”

In the absence of informed or accurate information from ‘behind the scenes it’s remarkable how quick some people can be to make some up – or leap onto the back of a rumour and ride it like a bucking stallion.

I’ve always told players who feel they are the subject of unfair criticism caused by a lack of information to take more responsibility themselves rather than simply blame journalists or commentators. How much more could they have done to make sure that people knew about the dodgy knee that was so painful they could hardly walk the morning after a game. Or whatever else is relevant in contextualising an individual or team performance.

It is not a question of making excuses because the driver of a bus is still responsible for it crashing, even if he did have a heart attack a couple of moments earlier. But we may be less quick to condemn the person, especially if they’re dead.

On the first day of the Durban Test the air-conditioning broke down in the host broadcaster’s Outside Broadcast van. A wall of 24 television screens in that cramped environment is just the beginning when it comes to explaining how much heat is generated in ‘the truck’. which was never designed to accommodate members of the ‘Hawk-Eye’ team and those from ‘HotSpot’ as well as the director and his crew.

It was a blistering hot day on Friday as Australia reached 303-4. It was hot in the commentary box…but much, much hotter in the OB van where director Lo Rensburg was trying hard not to reach boiling point as he kept the show moving.

“Camera one, cut to two, stand by six – cut to six, engineering…engineering! Bowler on the walk-back, close-up on bowler, pan down, stand by six – I’m melting, I’m dripping onto the bloody desk – cut to six! Was that an edge? Roll (video)brown, coming to silver next, roll silver, slowly, is Snicko ready? HotSpot, did you get it? Who’s got another angle…ENGINEERING! The effing aircon’s gone, I’m dieing in here.”

Commentators and cameramen hear every word the director says. And it got worse…

“Cut to seven…ENGIN-BLOODY-EERING if you don’t fix the aircon I’m gonna take my clothes off, and there’s women in here – give me a shot of the crowd camera ten, people in the full glare of the sun, show us someone who’s not boiling their arses off. Camera 11, slow-mo of the bowler’s action…”

If the production unit missed a replay, Lo Rensburg would take the blame. He’s the director, afterall, but temperatures reached 45 degrees in the van and Lo needs both hands to press buttons and twist knobs, not wipe the sweat out of his eyes.

There was an equally good and valid reason why one of the third umpire reviews went wrong at the Wanderers and no footage was available. It wasn’t Lo’s fault, and the reason didn’t qualify as an excuse, but people may not have been as quick to criticise if they had known the background.

I was struck by an editorial in the Financial Mail by the excellent Barney Mthombothi before the Kingsmead Test in which he expressed his dismay with the performance at the Wanderers under the headline “It’s back to reality.”

He praised the performance of the team in Australia calling them “…true ambassadors for their country.” Then came the whammy.
“But, as is sometimes typical of South Africans, the Proteas came back home and partied and gloated some more before spending time sunning on the beach.”

Bloody hell. Barney is obviously very well connected behind the cricketing scenes because I wasn’t aware of much partying or gloating going on. Rest and recuperation, certainly, and some justifiable celebration, but no gloating.

The comment was, no doubt, born of enormous frustration. Mthombothi describes his intense joy at the successes in Australia and clearly needs an ‘out’ to cope with his frustration that it has not been repeated. So he has a go at the players. Unfortunately, just like the bus driver and Lo Rensburg, the players have little option other than to take it on the chin. They are, ultimately, responsible for the team’s performance.

But they also have ‘heart attacks’ and failed air conditioners in their lives, too.

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