It was throwback to an earlier time. A time when cricket was innocent and the pictures shot with cameras you could count with the fingers on one hand; Almost an amateurish feel to the angles and the switch to the different views trying to track the ball down; The voices telling you what you need to know rather than trying to capture your attention so that they could peddle you a product; No graphics besides the odd look at the scorecard and a demand of the viewer to pay attention to the live pictures because there weren’t many replays on the screen; A window in to the past that in fact gave us a peek in to the future of cricket broadcasts.
As Pakistan played Ireland to a tie in a rain affected match at the Clontarf cricket club in Dublin under cold, blustery conditions, Cricket Ireland through QuipuTV streamed the match exclusively on YouTube to an audience of several thousands from around the world. As the match was hurtling to its exciting conclusion, at one point, there were more than 10,000 tuned in. Who knows how many thousands more if YouTube weren’t banned in Pakistan!
Since the cameras used weren’t like the ones used in a typical cricket broadcast that zoom in so close to the action, the experience was that of standing just outside the boundary rope watching a Sunday league match or that of sitting in the first row of seats in a cricket stadium. As authentic a viewing experience as it can get.
The over the top commentary style that we have come to live with was quite conspicuous in its absence, but wasn’t missed. Tim Brooks, “a cricket writer specializing in global development of the sport and analysis of associate and affiliate cricket nations” provided the commentary in the company of Brian MacNeice (Ireland Selector) and others, in a way that was most gratifying and a complete antithesis to what this art has been reduced to by platitudes, inane observations and clichés uttered by ex-cricketers.
Samir Chopra had written about cricket administrations leveraging the modern technologies, especially the Internet, to grow the game in his book “Brave New Pitch” and recapped it in a recent piece on ESPN Cricinfo’s Cordon. There is no doubt in my mind that endeavors like the one witnessed today from Ireland Cricket streaming an ODI on YouTube is the way forward in terms of the global consumption of the sport, which would allow it to expose it even a wider audience and hence a more robust long term health.
I watched the 2012-13 Shield Cricket matches streamed on Cricket Australia website. The Internet provides the perfect platform for domestic matches which hardly draw fans to the stadiums but with a little bit of capital investment and initiative from the various cricket boards, Ranji Trophy, County Cricket and other domestic matches could be brought to the laptop screens across the world. The West Indies Cricket Board has copped a fair bit of criticism in the recent years, and deservedly so, but they deserve credit for a new initiative they started – streaming radio commentary with a webcam feed of the commentators – during the recent home series vs. Zimbabwe. And of course, IPL for all its flaws and gimmickry was early to realize the importance of the Internet and has used that medium quite well to spread its wings.
As several thousands of cricket fans logged on to watch the misty pictures beamed in from Dublin, it was quite revealing to note that not a single tweet from @CricketICC mentioned anything about the state of the match, for its entire duration. After the match was over, a cursory tweet informed its more than 700,000 followers that the match had ended in a “thrilling tie”. Of course, they have been busy pimping their money-minting baby, Champions Trophy that doesn’t start for another 2 weeks.
Thank you QuipuTV and thank you Ireland Cricket for taking the initiative and having the wherewithal to bring the sport we, the fans, love, and in a manner that didn’t treat us like just dopey consumers. (For those that may have missed it, the entire match is available on Cricket Ireland website as well as their YouTube Channel)
If the ones that are in charge of running the sport are really keen on growing the sport and its fan base, the path is laid out right in front of them.