South Africa’s cameramen are fast becoming the most prominent broadcasters since the 12th man turned Joe the cameraman into a cult hero.
The crew behind the lenses of South Africa’s SuperSport were a central piece in shaping Australia’s infamous ball tampering scandal during last year’s series — and now they’ve struck again.
South Africa’s official cricket broadcaster of 30 years dropped a bomb during the hosts’ First Test against Sri Lanka Durban when their cameras broadcast the Proteas’ dossier on how to bowl to Sri Lanka’s batsmen.
The broadcast revealed the everything it could — South Africa’s entire hit list of specific strategies to run through the Sri Lankan batting order.
The TV broadcast revealed the full list of Sri Lankan batsmen — and South Africa’s plans and follow up strategies to get them out.
Keen viewers on social media platform Reddit captured one still shot from the broadcast which showed the Proteas’ plans to remove opening batsman Dimuth Karunaratne.
“Plan A — in-swingers off stump, good length, shaping / angling in from around the wicket,” the plans read.
“Plan B — 4th stump slightly fuller length, angling away, drives away from the body after a bouncer.”
The plans also revealed the batsmen’s weaknesses and the best strategy for deploying short balls.
The eagle-eyed cameramen and the decision from SuperSport to broadcast the entire moment has perplexed cricket commentators.
The most intriguing aspect of the decision to broadcast the critical information is that it follows reports of a deteriorating relationship between the broadcaster and South African Cricket officials.
According to widespread reports sections of the Australian team privately believed South African officials reached out to SuperSport to target Aussie batsman Cameron Bancroft in the field on the day he was filmed appearing to tamper with the ball with yellow sandpaper.
That vision sparked one of the darkest chapters in Australian cricket and resulted in unprecedented bans for former captain Steve Smith (12 months), ball tampering architect David Warner (12 months) and Bancroft (nine months).
SuperSport Head of Production Alvin Naicker told Reuters in March there was no direction from the South African camp.
He said SuperSport have seven dedicated cameras that are instructed to follow the ball at all times during play — and said that is how they were able to catch Bancroft red-handed.
“We don’t want it to seem like we are going after the Australian team,” he said.
“If that was a South African, we would have broadcast the footage for sure.
“We have a responsibility to entertain, but just like journalists we have a moral obligation to provide unbiased editorial.
“He (Bancroft) probably saw it two minutes after it happened and very smartly our cameraman focused on the coaching staff and we saw the coach (Darren Lehmann) get on the walkie-talkie to the player down on the field (Peter Handscomb), who ran on to speak with Bancroft. It was then he panicked.
“We have seven cameras that stay with the ball always, whether it is in play or not.”
Because of the reported relationship breakdown between SuperSport and Cricket South Africa — following official’s recent decision to secure a broadcast deal with rival South African Broadcasting Corporation for its domestic Twenty20 competition, the Mzansi Super League — it remains unclear if the broadcast of private team plans was the result of a deliberate, calculated leak or a blatant disregard from the broadcaster for the team’s privacy.
A report claimed Cricket South Africa last month knocked back an olive branch from SuperSport executives to hold crisis talks to repair the splintered relationship.
As it turned out, the dossier didn’t help the Proteas as they would have liked.
After being rolled for 235 on the first day of play, South Africa’s revered pace attack was blunted as the tourist’s reached 1/49 at stumps.
Top-scorer Quinton de Kock admitted South Africa were “caught off guard” by the Sri Lankan attack.
Underdogs Sri Lanka, seemingly in disarray going into the match, reached 49 for one at the close to finish the day in a strong position.
Left-arm opening bowler Vishwa Fernando and right-arm seamer Kasun Rajitha, playing in their fourth and fifth Tests respectively, did the major damage. Fernando took four for 62 and Rajitha claimed three for 68.
“We were a bit unaware of the new guys. I think they caught us off guard,” said De Kock who made 80.
“We had good game plans against (opening bowler) Suranga Lakmal but the two new guys were unseen before. They bowled really well, they didn’t miss their lengths often and they made us work hard for what we got.”
Asked what specific problems Fernando and Rajitha caused, De Kock said: “The angle of their bowling, the skills they had, their actions, the skiddiness, the bounce.They are two solid bowlers and they will give us trouble throughout the series, so we will just have to keep our eyes open for them.”
Fernando got extravagant swing early in the day after new captain Dimuth Karunaratne won the toss and sent South Africa in, while Lakmal got steep bounce in an opening spell of one for six in seven overs.
In response to South Africa’s collapse, Sri Lanka lost Lahiru Thirimanne, caught behind off Dale Steyn for nought, but Karunaratne batted confidently to be 28 not out at the close, while new cap Oshada Fernando went on the attack when Du Plessis turned to spin bowling as the light faded to finish on 17 not out.
Sri Lanka have lost six of their most recent seven Tests and were disrupted by injuries and several changes in personnel, including the dropping of regular captain Dinesh Chandimal
— with AFP