Monday, October 29, 2012

Second rate coverage of a first class game


The Plunket Shield - full of history
The Plunket Shield got underway on Saturday with all the hoopla of an Eketahuna calf show. What was once New Zealand Cricket’s domestic flagship has been usurped - left to its own devices.

Mirroring the 2011/12 season, first class cricket in New Zealand is missing a voice on the airwaves, left to make its way on sporadic updates from around the grounds. Cricket is a game steeped in statistical history but it is words, and pictures, that bring it to life. Short score segments tell nothing of the game’s ebb and flow, the breakthrough performances of its emerging talent or the individual battles that hold centre stage in our great game.  

To cover games simultaneously around the country is an expensive exercise. Selling advertising around what is becoming a niche market is unlikely to generate the revenue of long established shows in Radio Sport’s regular programming. But as a fan, cricket’s financial standing is seldom to the fore.

From an early age, domestic cricket on the radio was a family constant. A static heavy transistor relayed the domestic triumphs of my cricketing heroes as we toiled on the farm as na├»ve kids, it accompanied us on long summer road trips home from university and its melodic tones helped sooth the ills of my new born son when sleep proved elusive. Cricket’s exit from radio is the end of a tradition, but in an era where money sits atop the mountain it was only a matter of time. The irony is that I hear more County Cricket, played in the middle of the night, than home grown battles in the height of a Kiwi summer – that’s sad.

First class cricket may hold limited appeal for my younger contemporaries – a generation raised on digital technology to satisfy their need for instant gratification. But what of those in the upper age bracket, whose only view of the sporting world is restricted to traditional staples – television, newspaper and radio. Is it time for a New Zealand version of Test Match Sofa – a low budget radio alternative produced by fans for their peers? It’s a romantic notion but little more than a flight of fancy for a cricket tragic.

Or, do we need a New Zealand cricket app? If first class cricket is no longer going to be a part of the New Zealand radio landscape, is there scope to utilise the live scoring functionality on the NZC site and front it into a smartphone application? It would provide real time updates for people on the move - those that are time poor but want to keep track of their provincial side or favourite player. Every impressionable young kid, their parents, and the young men in the student flat across the road now seem to have the latest smartphone or iPhone – apps and Twitter are often their readiest form of the truth, their immediate view of the world.

The ECB app is a fantastic example, and something to aspire to, but in the short term there would be value in New Zealand Cricket developing a pared back version – it would provide fans with options, a fresh view of an old game. I understand money is a constraint, but given the aspirations of so many players to find a career in media is there not a group of potential novice broadcasters at every venue? A short summation of a day’s play, an interview with a nervous debutant or a quick chat with an established star, all led by one of the lads, would be compelling – Sky Sport’s Cricket Company bares that out. It would offer players a broadcasting stepping stone and fans an intimate insight they’d never otherwise get.

Undoubtedly, large sums have been put into growing domestic cricket’s public showpiece, the HRV Cup, and from a business model that makes fiscal sense but first class cricket has its place – to allow it to continue to dive into obscurity is to forget about a section of the fan base that holds the longer game dear in its collective heart.

Similarly, social media offers the opportunity for interaction in a unique manner – an instant marketing, news and PR medium 140 characters at a time. Five of the six provinces, Canterbury excluded, have a growing Twitter presence – it is a cost effective way of keeping in touch with a dwindling audience and needs to be embraced. Provinces control the content and can guide conversations in any direction they want – it’s cheaper than any other form of media, and its popularity shows no sign of abating. 

It would be heartening if the current lack of coverage led fans back to Seddon Park, Mainpower Oval or Karori Park, but the Plunket Shield has become a poor cousin to the hoopla of the HRV Cup. I’ll have an occasional spot on a grassy bank, as will my new Twitter mate @sillymidoff  – how many of you will join us?


Do you agree, or should first class cricket simply fade into the background gracefully? Tell me what you think – I’d love your thoughts. Post a comment below or tweet me @aotearoaxi.

Find a match in your local area and support your team – check out the 2012/13 Plunket Shield schedule.  

11 comments:

  1. Really well written and spot on. I'll hopefully have more than just an occasional seat on the Uni Oval bank too.

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    1. Thanks, Mark. I'm keen to get down to the University Oval at some stage but unfortunately I don't think it'll be this season. It's great to see that NZC and the provinces are largely moving back to more bespoke cricket grounds. There are some beauties emerging... I see that the Queenstown Rec. Ground has a tour match against England.

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  2. I'll be there on the banks/stand of number 2. But I'm particularly annoyed that despite having someone at each ground, and an spare channel on TuneIn (that is empty) Radio Sport are not covering the matches. Very annoyed indeed.

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    1. I'm with you. I turned on TuneIn and just got static. On the first day or so there wasn't even anything on the website about the Plunket Shield. I did get an email response though, saying that they would cover all the ODI and T20 domestic matches.

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  3. Nice article, and very true. I'm seventeen, though perhaps an exception to the 'younger contemporaries' you refer to, as I would love it if first class cricket was on the radio - or somewhere, at least. Because centuries and the such don't seem as meaningful when you are just refreshing the web page until the numbers tick over. I also hope to get to a Plunket Shield game or two this summer, as I ashamedly haven't really done so previously.

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Emma. Plunket Shield is a great watch live - you often have the ground largely to yourself. HRV Cup on Friday nights is a great idea so hopefully there'll be large crowds there. If you follow women's cricket too, I have a series of profiles coming up on the Northern Spirit players and maybe a couple of interviews as well.

      Great call about the centuries - it would have been fantastic to listen to Jesse Ryder lead Wellington to victory today.

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  4. Dear New Zealand, and NZ Cricket: your lack of broadcast options is making us Americans watch and follow the Sheffield Shield instead. We are watching Australians. Is that what you really want here?

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    1. Cheers, JP. Absolutely gold comment! The one day and HRV Cup formats are apparently both going to be covered in fullon the radio, and if you could find a stream somewhere, payTV has a HRV Cup match live every Friday. Re the USA - the largest part of my view numbers are out of your fine country.

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  5. On review of the NZC live scoring, they have added video snippets for each dismissal and each player's boundaries after the match is completed. Have a look, it's a great addition - well done!

    http://highlights.blackcaps.co.nz/highlights.aspx?bc=D6eM7bcN6hS5ng2jsgwfWnQf0S2Y4KnW

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  6. These are all the posts I made on http://cricketblog.aol.in during the Australian series. Ah, what a series it was, and I still regret I couldn't get to blog regularly or with the intensity that I would have liked in that series. A series worth killing for!
    Cricket

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  7. the other day I was looking at a photo of the The Plunket Shield and it amazed me a lot, it is beautiful and piece of artwork

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