Imagine spending hours and weeks and days on preparation ahead of a cricket series. Going through video footage of recent matches or old fixtures and figuring out strategy to counter a batsman’s threat. Or, getting scouts to attend local matches to read through the playing style and profile of up and coming players. And all those plans being trashed by a pesky TV cameraperson.
That is what happened on the first day of the first Test between South and Sri Lanka at Kingsmead in Durban. During the live coverage by host broadcaster SuperSport, the cameraperson highlighted South Africa seamers’ strategy to get rid of the visiting Sri Lanka batsmen.
Keen viewers on social media platform Reddit captured the still 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 pointed at the batsmen’s weaknesses and the best strategy for deploying short balls.
As it turned out, the dossier didn’t help South Africa on Day 1, batting first, as they were dismissed for just 235 runs. In the last session, Proteas’ revered pace attack was blunted as the tourist’s reached 1/49 at stumps.
The decision from SuperSport to broadcast the entire moment comes under a year after the channel had a role to play in the ball tampering controversy at Newlands which caught Cameron Bancroft trying to change the condition of the ball using a sandpaper.
According to reports then, sections of the Australian team believed South African officials reached out to SuperSport to target Aussie batsman Bancroft in the field on the day he was filmed appearing to tamper with the ball. That vision sparked one of the darkest chapters in Australian cricket and resulted in bans for former captain Steve Smith (12 months), David Warner (12 months) and Bancroft (nine months).
The broadcaster’s Head of Production Alvin Naicker had told Reuters in March there was no direction from the South African camp.
He said SuperSport have seven 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.”