Kass Naidoo was 14 when she decided what she wanted to do when she grew up. After hearing the great West Indian commentator Donna Simmons on the radio, Naidoo knew that she wanted to be the first female cricket commentator in South Africa. As a young woman of colour, that was not going to be an easy career path, and certainly one which, her mother warned, may lead to her getting her heart broken. But a determined young Naidoo was not to be swayed and in 2003 she made her debut on South African national television, hosting coverage of the ICC World Cup.
Almost 20 years later, Naido is helping to lead Sky’s coverage of the Hundred, the latest cricket innovation. “I was 14 years when I first heard a woman commentate,” Naidoo says. “It was the great Donna Simmons, she had come out to South Africa. I wasn’t a cricket fan at the time. In fact, if you’d ask me to watch I would have said, ‘Are you crazy?’ We were very much a football and horse racing family. “But when I heard her commentate, I just listened to this voice and I heard what she had to say and I felt so included. And I started feeling flutters in my heart and feeling like I was falling in love with a sport I had never heard of before. And I sat for hours waiting for her to come back on. I ran into the kitchen and said to my mum, ‘That’s it, I know what I want to be when I grow up. I am going to be the first female cricket commentator in South Africa.’ She just said, ‘That’s crazy.’
Diversity was nothing to even talk about back then. Commentary was white males, commentating on white players, and my mum said, ‘I don’t want your heart to be broken, why not try something more conventional?’ But my heart was set. “I spent 11 years absorbing and obsessing over the game. In 2003 SABC’s [the South African Broadcasting Corporation] regular cricket presenter resigned and I made my debut at the 2003 ICC World Cup.
“I remember walking in on my first day and thinking, ‘This is what it feels like to realise a dream.’ It was the change I don’t think cricket was ready for. I think if social media had been around at the time I would have been torn to pieces. They grew to love me because I respect the game, the traditional side of it.”
Naidoo, 43, now has a broad range of experience commentating on men’s and women’s cricket, in South Africa and at ICC global events and T20 franchise tournaments. She believes that cricket is for everyone. As a woman of colour and a mother of three, her presence in covering the Hundred, she says, will help to overcome cricket’s representation issue. “Cricket is for anyone
and everyone - even mums,” she says.