Friday, February 3, 2012

Cricket in a global village

What a fantastic time to be a cricket fan. As I pen this piece I am part way through a long cricketing day – in hours only, the time is positively racing by! In the space of one day, I’ll hear, read and see the exploits of six international teams playing in all three of the games’ formats via a seemingly endless list of media sources.

Over the course of a tiresome Friday in the office, I listened to my native New Zealand turn in a mediocre ODI performance against a Zimbabwean side still struggling to reacclimatise themselves to the rigours of international cricket. Though not the decisive victory they were hoping for, the feats of McCullum, Guptill, Nicol et al. were described via an audio commentary on my laptop, whilst I checked the details on Cricinfo’s live scoring.

Blowers and Boycs - around the globe
Upon arriving home, Aggers, Boycs and Blowers were setting the scene before the opening session of the third Pakistan versus England test from Dubai. Competing with the excited shouts of my young son, their dulcet tones filtered out of my iPad thanks to a digital feed via BBC Radio 5 Live’s Test Match Special (TMS). Very soon, I’ll flick on the television to see if the hapless Indians can finally get a victory on their Australian tour in the second T20 from the MCG. The mute button will be on though so I can keep listening to the game in the desert – that, and I can only take so much of the Channel 9 cheerleading (sorry, commentary) team.

With the vast sums of money now flowing through our game and players seen as commodities to raise a profit rather than craftsmen playing their trade, the ever increasing amount of international cricket played across the globe provides spectators with endless opportunities to indulge their passion.
But it hasn’t always been so. Growing up as a child, international cricket was special for a couple of reasons –there was far less of it, and even less was broadcast outside the two countries involved. Stuck at the bottom of the world in our little corner of South Pacific paradise, we got very little coverage if New Zealand wasn’t playing. New Zealand’s international matches were shown on a publicly owned television station (we only had two channels at the time) and every series were sponsored by either a tobacco company or a brewery. The same matches were broadcast on national radio, as were some of our domestic first class matches.  On a good day there was occasionally a comment on other international matches on the six o’clock news;  if not, you’d have to wait for the newspaper to be delivered the next morning.

How things have changed. Cricket now operates in a global village where an internet connection provides access to matches the world over, regardless of where you call home. Just last week, I could listen to three test matches in the course of day, though none illustrated the power of digital media, and the changes in cricket commentary, more than a short session in Abu Dhabi. With the broadcast connections dropping out in the stadium during the second test, the TMS coverage was off air for little more than a few minutes. It returned via an iPad Skype connection from Abu Dhabi to the studios in England and was then shared around the world. It may have been a little crackly, but it was worth it to see Messers Boycott and Blofeld talking into a tiny iPad microphone as I listened to it on the same device while laughing at Twitter pictures from the commentary box.

The choice of mediums to keep up to date is endless, and is broadcast from cricket grounds, large and small, the world over. There are many more than those I’ve already spoken of. Pay television, in all its guises, pushes pictures to countries where the only viewers are expats, and live internet video streaming means we can watch coverage at our convenience; but don’t tell the ECB – I hear they’re not happy about it. In T20, it’s even become commonplace to have the players miked up to give viewers another perspective, and no-one has done it better than Shane Warne in the BBL. He would describe how he was going to take a wicket, and then deliver -  as Brendon McCullum found out

Twitter provides comment from scribes, punters and players alike, all in 140 character slots – check out @aotearoaxi or #donningthewhites. Established cricketer journalists write pieces for any number of websites and online publications and aspiring cricket writers make their point with blogs on every cricketing topic – take your pick, the choices are unlimited. Sites such as cricinfo provide a one-stop cricket library, including a statistics engine to satisfy even cricket’s most knowledge thirsty anorak – ever wondered who has the most man of the match awards in a losing ODI side? Online cricket forums continue to pop up with the regularity of an Indian wicket, and we can access most of them via a multitude of apps on our mobile phones. There are plenty of other mediums and they just keep coming – thankfully, her indoors is a cricket fanatic too, so I get to indulge my cricketing passion. Many moons ago before we ever met in person she would email me score updates so I can keep up with the cricket during meetings.

Even with all the media choices, there is still nothing that tops watching a match live at the ground. It would be easy to never leave the couch, the television, the laptop and the phone, but there is nothing that beats the atmosphere of a live contest. I took my young lad, and his mum, to the final of the HRV Cup T20 a couple of weeks back – his first introduction to our great game. He left three hours later having tried to evade a security guard and invade the field of play, ridden an old roller and clapped Colin de Grandhomme launching the Canterbury attack out of the ground. But the thing that stuck with him? He got a sponsor’s hat that he now tells all and sundry is his ‘cricket  hat’ -  you can’t get that kind of involvement at home of social media.

Finally, if the media all gets a little too much but you still need your cricket fix, get yourself a copy of Wisden. Cricket’s bible has been around since 1864 so the editors must be doing something right – will Twitter have the same longevity?

An edited version of this post is featured on ESPNCricinfo's The Inbox.

3 comments:

  1. So they have opened up live streaming for TMS and others... great! They used to be location blocked for some reason... because radio commentary of test matches is a big competitor in NZ.

    Aside from the BBC, where else have you foudn commentaries?

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    Replies
    1. Hi Pierre, I generally use the TuneInRadio app on my iPad but a number of the websites have digital audio feeds as well. For South African matches I used Radio2000, and ABC Grandstand Digital in Australia. For Pakistan's previous series in Dubai I found a channel called International Cricket but it was fairly weak.

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  2. What a fantastic time to be a cricket fan. As I pen this piece I am part way through a long cricketing day – in hours only, the time is positively racing by! In the space of one day, I’ll hear, read and see the exploits of six international teams playing in all three of the games’ formats via a seemingly endless list of media sources.

    Over the course of a tiresome Friday in the office, I listened to my native New Zealand turn in a mediocre ODI performance against a Zimbabwean side still struggling to reacclimatise themselves to the rigours of international cricket. Though not the decisive victory they were hoping for, the feats of McCullum, Guptill, Nicol et al. were described via an audio commentary on my laptop, whilst I checked the details on Cricinfo’s live scoring. Cricket

    ReplyDelete