The cadence of cricket viewing

October 14, 2009

No doubt, the advent of T20 format has expanded the opportunities for cricket viewing like nothing else before. New T20 championships are being announced and organised like they are going out of fashion. The cricket viewer never had it better. This is not to say that this glut has not brought with it its own peculiar set of issues that we are having to contend with. Sample these:

1. Cricket always had a sense of familiarity. Even a cursory following of cricket around the world ensured working knowledge of the players involved. Particularly at the international level. One was never caught unawares about the antecedents of the participants. Even someone as obscure as Lee Germon when he made his test debut, as the captain no less, was not an unknown quantity to the average arm chair enthusiast. The IPL was a portent of things to come. Increasingly, there were players who were catapulted straight into the limelight from relative obscurity and onto an unsuspecting and unprepared contingent of cricket viewers. Manish Pandey being the most visible case in point. As most of us will agree, it is a little offputting to be made to change one’s well set ways and six hitting ability notwithstanding, having to cheer someone about whom one knows precious little.

2. If the conveyor belt of global cricketing talent is unable to keep pace with the ambitions of empire builders like Lalit Modi and Adam Stanford, spare a thought for the commenting community. Broadcasters are trawling the depths of an already empty barrel. This should be a matter of grave concern for the members of the United Association of Televised Cricket Viewers. Things are being helped to a certain extent by the slew of players announcing their retirement from one form of the game or the other and making a beeline to the offices of ESPN Star, Ten Sports and Neo Cricket. Even innovations like wiring up players and the hapless on-field umpires are only a temporary solution to a problem that is threatening to ruin the almost missionary zeal of Modi &Co in taking the sport to all corners of the globe and beyond. The days of the familiar, comforting voices of Benaud, Blofeld, Lawry, Boycott, Cozier, Rutnagur, not to speak of polyglots like Narottam Puri, Kishore Bhimani, Trevor Quirk are long gone.

3. In the good old days, planning to watch a match on television was a challenge in itself. Given the demands on time, it was neither simple nor straightforward. It called for cunning, deviousness and creativity in varying degrees. There was an element of thrill in concocting a series of outrageous, yet believable lies in ensuring uninterrupted viewing, sometimes over 5 days. T20 makes no such demands. It is plebian and straight forward.

4. Pandering to the demands of those suffering from terminal bouts of attention deficiency syndrome, who it seems make up the majority of the “marketable to cricketing audience”, holy grails like lunch and tea intervals have been swiftly done away with. I fondly remember a time when the 30 minutes break between innings in a 50 over match afforded one an opportunity to replenish the stock of beers. This was also a time to meet fellow tragics, similarly engaged in stocking up beer, and exchange a few words on the state of the match. The intake of fluids also helped in sitting through matches in which India did not stand a ghost of a chance at the end of the first innings, of which there were quite a few in the glory days of viewing. The super abbreviated form affords no such luxuries. By the time one settles into a nice beer slugging rhythm the match is over and all that is left is to hear Pommie Mbangwa introducing the Honorable Shashi Tharoor as “Saaashi Arora” for the post-match presentations.

4. Although the ICC has championed the cause of abbreviating the game itself, they have not succeeded in reforming the draconian post match presentations. No doubt, the Indians are the worst offenders. It is the Indian bureaucrat, corporate manager, legislator’s “three minutes to fame”. Notwithstanding the laughs that these charades invariably produce it is about time that “T20 Presentations” are implemented at the very earliest. At long last, I have also realised that these events are looked upon as hardship or alternately punishment postings by the commentating community. How else can one explain the choice of Arun Lal, L Sivaramakrishnan, Aamir Sohail, and Rameez Raja during these ceremonies.

The unintended consequences of T20 cricket has shattered the idyllic world of the cricket viewer. Can it be pieced back into shape? I fervently hope so.


One Response to “The cadence of cricket viewing”

  1. Vivek Says:

    That’s how everything is. Cricket is lucky that it could create a brand new variation to fit-in to a different time. The Tests against SL will tell how much of the change has been bad, if at all.
    About the commentary…

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