Free-to-air cricket debate is short-sighted in the internet age

There’s been a few headlines about the possibility of some free-to-air cricket off the back of the ECB’s proposed new T20 league. People get excited about this sort of thing, but the whole point of free-to-air is that it opens up a larger market, yet this is a form of media which is of rapidly diminishing importance.

How many people will be watching conventional forms of TV by 2020, which is when the tournament is due to take place? Whatever free-to-air channel wins these rights may also broadcast via some sort of internet player, but it seems to odd to us that this is secondary and not the focus itself.

We saw one report on the tournament last night – which has since been edited – which floated the possibility of an online stream to which cricket fans could directly subscribe. We were briefly excited about the prospect, but then the end of the sentence revealed that this would only be available to overseas viewers.

Why?

Last month we wrote about how more and more people are streaming live cricket via Kodi or other online applications. It’s a mistake to think this is happening purely for reasons of cost. In many cases it’s because it’s more convenient, or because it’s literally the only way of accessing the matches you want to see.

The software is arguably not yet sufficiently mainstream to warrant serious consideration, but what will the situation be three years hence? The concept of a sport-specific subscription at reduced cost to the consumer – because they wouldn’t also be paying for darts, biathlon, motor racing or the broadcaster’s hardware – makes sense to us.

A broader cricket app could even serve as a hub from which individual matches could be ordered. That might typically be for a fee, but it could also be free of charge if the broadcaster in question could find a way of funding the broadcast through advertising or reduced outlay on rights.

The ECB seems keen to make at least some of their domestic T20 matches easily and freely accessible. Perhaps in 2020 the place where people will go looking for such a thing is in the ‘free sport’ category within their online TV application.

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Virat Kohli is basically livid about beating Australia

Virat Kohli must be the dictionary definition of hard-to-please, for no-one on earth is an enraged by their own success as he is.

When Kohli makes a hundred, he’s angry. When his team wins a series over Australia – even though he’s not actually playing – he’s positively enraged.

We’ve done detailed analysis of a grainy video posted to Twitter to prove that second point.

Somewhat unexpectedly, Kohli’s initial reaction to series victory is something that could, at a push, be construed as pleasure.

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It isn’t long however before that emotion starts to make way for something else.

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The eyebrows are starting to harden. The jaw is tighter. The fists are starting to clench.

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By this point it’s unmistakeable. Virat Kohli is decidedly pissed off about winning a Test series against Australia.

virat-4

This is where he ends up.

Livid.

Absolutely sick to the back teeth, the front teeth and tonsils of experiencing sporting success against his rivals.

Someone is going to pay for this positive outcome.

Big time.

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The India v Australia sitcom

This series has finally bucked its ideas up. We’re not sure at precisely what moment things turned – possibly when Steve Smith played on – but at some point somebody pressed the lever on the View-Master, the slide wheel clicked round and the picture changed.

The new view was a normal one, where Australia collapse and India (probably) win. It’s taken a while. Seems like we’ve been waiting for this to happen for pretty much the entire series. There’ve been glimpses before now, but then the wheel’s clicked round again and we’ve been back in some other dimension where Australia are actually worth playing in a country other than Australia.

It’s a bit like a sitcom where no matter what zany escapades take place during the episode, you can rely on everything being pretty much back to normal by the time the credits roll.

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Tom Latham can see the future (+ video)

Tom Latham, Timelord

That is the only half-decent explanation for this catch.

Far and away our favourite part of this footage is seeing Bruce Oxenford visibly embarking upon a gasp towards the end.

Even as the ball was en route to bat, Latham was off and running. We don’t know how many times he stopped time and rewound it before he got this right.

We’d guess one million times.

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Steve Smith woefully out of form in the nets

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

That’s what we’ve heard. We’ve heard that Steve Smith can’t find the middle of the bat when he’s batting in the nets.

Smith may or may not have commented: “I’ve been hitting it really well out in the middle, so I don’t think I’m out of form. If I can just keep on performing well, sooner or later it’s all going to come together and I’ll get some decent results in my preparation as well.

“The coaches say they can’t see too much right with my technique, so it’s the same as it’s always been. I think if I can just stay patient then a good solid net session is right around the corner.”

Conversely, when it comes to Tests, Steve Smith is most definitely not due.

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David Warner is totally bossing net cricket

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

David Warner says: “I couldn’t be hitting the ball any better but it’s just that the runs aren’t coming for me at the moment.”

In this week’s Cricket Badger, we point out that this runs counter to Temba Bavuma’s matter-of-fact observation that, “you can’t be playing well and not scoring runs.”

Warner is, presumably, crisply striking the ball straight to slip. In the next couple of days, he’ll get the opportunity to prove his ability to hit it elsewhere.

If there’s one kind of form we love above all others, it’s net form. A batsman’s professional life is bound up with events that are out of his control to a far greater extent than he’d ever care to accept. This leads to a necessary level of self-delusion that is far higher than a rational person would maintain and at no time is this delusion more apparent than when net form is cited.

The next development for Warner will either be:

  1. Scoring some runs – ‘proof’ that he was always in form
  2. Another failure, which he’ll chalk up as the latest in a lengthening list of aberrations

If you’re a batsman, run-scoring is the norm – because if it isn’t, what the hell are you doing with your life?

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Everyone’s going mental about Hampshire’s Mason Crane

Despite his name, Mason Crane is not some kind of specialist stoneworking construction vehicle. No, HE IS A DESTRUCTION… person.

Crane is a 20-year-old leg-spinner who boasts the customary English leg-spinner’s first-class bowling average of 39. Things have changed over the winter though and from now on you’re going to start noticing everyone going mental about him.

This post gives you the opportunity to get in early. Forewarned, you can be ahead of the game and deploy your jaded cynicism from the outset.

Crane went to Australia this winter and hung out with Stuart MacGill. He played grade cricket, took three seven-wicket hauls on the bounce and was picked by New South Wales. He took 2-50 and 3-66 for them.

After that, he headed to the UAE for the North v South series. In the third match, he ripped out the North’s three, four, five and six in a spell of 4-1, which you can see highlights of here.

Pitches vary, but the drift hints that he is – in standard cricket parlance – giving it a rip, which can only be a good thing.

Having hopped straight over the bandwagon, our current position is that leg-spinners are never really fit for purpose at the age of 20, but Crane appears to have made rapid progress over the winter and we’re keen to see him do well this coming season.

We may remount the bandwagon at some point further down the line, so we’re just going to leave today’s article behind as a marker to prove that we’ve already been aboard.

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Steve Smith’s shonky technique keeps him hiding in plain sight

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

The notion of a ‘best batsman in the world’ is stupid. You rate them based on what’s already happened and it counts for nothing the next time they’re pitched into competitive cricket. Cricket is not a prolonged personal odyssey, it’s a series of matches between teams. A high ranking gives you some idea who to look out for, but it is not an end in itself.

The buffer

In December, Steve Smith scored a hundred and we said that everyone would instantly forget the situation the day before and now proclaim him clearly the best batsman in the world.

Our point was that Smith, Virat Kohli, Joe Root and Kane Williamson were all performing at a similar level and ‘the best batsman in the world’ was generally whoever had been batting most recently.

Well, according to the latest rankings, Smith’s opened up a gap. Like so many foods, rankings are best served heavily salted – but they can be informative. According to these ones, not only can Smith afford a couple of failures and still be ahead of his contemporary rivals, his current score is also behind only four other batsmen ever.

Smith is on 941, looking up to the peak scores of Don Bradman (961), Len Hutton (945), Jack Hobbs (942) and Ricky Ponting (also 942 – has anyone checked the decimals?).

Viv Richards and Garry Sobers peaked at 938; Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers never topped 935; and Brian Lara never got above 911.

What does this tell us?

Steve Smith is not better than all of the above. What this tells us that he’s been playing well for long enough to earn himself entry into the kinds of mind-crushingly tedious putting-players-in-order conversations that the comments sections of cricket websites occasionally descend into.

That, in itself, is a notable achievement. It’s also further fuel for our argument that batsmen with hideous techniques are fundamentally better bets than stylish ones. Not only do the shonkier-looking have to do more to win people over, their textbook rivals may also have little room for technical improvement.

In short, succeed with a dog shit method and you’ve probably got a half decent eye.

Myopic hindsight

Smith’s technique is very much his own. Back in 2013, we floated the possibility that this could be misleading, but it was still impossible to foresee what was to come.

In many ways it remains hard to see – even when sporting the night vision goggles of hindsight. The numbers are there (he averages 60.98), but can you honestly say that you don’t still think to yourself: “Ah, things’ll sort themselves out eventually. Give it time.”

What if things don’t sort themselves out? What if Steve Smith is the best batsman in the world?

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Mop-up of the day – the batsmen in and out of form

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Australia drew with India, but let’s not focus on how admirably they’re performing. Who the hell wants to read about that? Let’s instead concentrate on tangentia.

David Warner has said that “it will turn around” for him with regards to his recent poor form. We agree. If he keeps being disciplined and preparing assiduously, pretty soon he’ll find himself playing in Australia again and everything’ll be fine.

Virat Kohli has called Cheteshwar Pujara “priceless” and “the most composed player we have in the team.” What he didn’t call him was India’s best batsman.

Elsewhere, the ECB seemingly have plans to play World Cup matches at the imaginatively named London Stadium, which was built for the 2012 Olympics. While there’s a certain jaded “seriously?” quality to this news in light of their having encouraged counties to invest heavily in their grounds for the last however many years, it’s equally true that it would be great to have 60,000 people attending a cricket match in Britain.

Finally, take a look at our latest Cricinfo Twitter round-up, in which we flirt with the sack by devoting around half of the column to Charles Dagnall’s attempt to repair a brick shed. The critics have been calling it nothing at all because hardly anyone’s felt moved to read it.

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Steve Smith’s brain fades still further, Bangladesh do the reverse

Bangladesh have won nine Tests and we make this their second win.

The convention is to remove matches in which Bangladesh feature from all Test statistics. This seems unduly harsh at the best of times, but it seems even more so when it’s them who you’re measuring.

Nevertheless, in the spirit of omission, we’ve stripped away all of their Test victories that might be disregarded for one reason or another and we’ve been left with their win over England last October and this one against Sri Lanka. Truly, it is Bangladesh’s Golden Era.

For the record, the Tigers’ other seven wins comprise five against Zimbabwe and two against one of those stand-in West Indies teams, which on this occasion featured luminaries such as Omar Phillips and David Bernard.

Meanwhile, over in Ranchi…

Steve Smith has suffered another horrendous brain fade, leading to grave concerns about his long-term mental health. Smith calmly held his bat out of the way of a ball pitching outside leg, only for it to hit his off stump.

If this brain fadery continues at its current rate, it will be but weeks before he’s entirely forgotten how to execute his magnificent double-elbowed chicken dance bowling action. As this is the only aspect of Steve Smith’s cricket in which we take any pleasure, we’d be keen for him to seek psychiatric treatment post-haste.

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