For the first time in television history, South African domestic cricket will be commentated on in a local, African language. The Twenty20 competition will feature Xhosa commentary on all broadcasts with 17 of the 32 matches shown live, including the playoff for the final and the final itself.
SuperSport, the country's satellite provider, has contracted former internationals Mfuneko Ngam and Monde Zondeki along with veteran media man and former selector Peter Bacela and umpire Zed Ndamane in a four-person team. They will be joined by former SA schools rugby captain and cricket enthusiast Kaunda Ntunja, who works on the channels' rugby broadcasts.
The move is part of an initiative to grow cricket, particularly in black African areas. Xhosa is one of 11 official languages in South Africa and is spoken by about 18% of the population, mostly in the Eastern Cape. That is the region that is considered the hotbed of black African cricket and rugby. SuperSport already offer Xhosa commentary for rugby and now see the time to extend that to cricket as right.
"We've spent a lot of time preparing as this is something that can't just be slapped together when the idea comes up. We will work hard to ensure the language is conveyed in the correct and proper manner," Louwrens Rensburg, SuperSport's senior cricket producer said.
Terminology is one of the areas which had to be studied closely before making the commitment to Xhosa commentary. Bacela, who commentated on radio in Xhosa, has been one of the pioneers for coining cricket terms in Xhosa.
"This is an important day," Bacela said. "Xhosa people love to hear commentary in their own tongue. Cricket may be an English game, but Xhosas love to hear it in their words." He explained how a few of the words have developed such as silly point, which directly translates to "fielding under the nose," and short leg that becomes "behind the cow's tail."
With cricketing vocabulary set to expand, Zondeki is excited about the possibilities this will be present. "It has never been done before and we hope to get to get more people to watch cricket for longer," he told ESPNCricinfo. "We want to raise the profile of black African cricket and it will be interesting to see the numbers of people that tune in."