Test Cricket on Channel 4 – a review of the free-to-air coverage of day one of India v England

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Earlier this week, Channel 4 weren’t due to broadcast the Test series between India and England. Then, suddenly, a couple of days ago, they were. This doesn’t represent a great deal of prep time. How did day one go?

Let’s take look at the live coverage, the studio bits and the highlights*.

The live coverage

The first and most important thing to note is that Channel 4 aren’t doing the live coverage. They’re just taking Star Sports’ feed and showing that.

It looks like this.

The commentary seemed weirdly England-heavy a lot of the time with Nick Knight taking the lead. The nature of much of the day’s play denied Knight his beloved, “Should be four… is four,” and he was at times reduced to saying interesting things.

Mark Butcher was another former England player to feature and he is generally good.

Some of the other commentators are harder to assess. We long ago lost the ability to even hear Laxman Sivaramakrishnan because our brain has come to interpret the first sound of his voice as, “banalities incoming – stop listening”.

The studio bits

Back in the Channel 4 studio, we got presenter Rishi Persad and Sir Alastair Cook and no-one else.

It was weird and perhaps not all that helpful to have proceedings refracted solely through the eyes of Cook. While he was incredibly successful as a batsman, Cook is a man who approached the game in a very, very particular way.

His view on Rory Burns’ dismissal to a reverse sweep seemed to sum things up. “He didn’t need to play that shot,” he kept saying.

We know, Alastair. There are plenty of things cricketers don’t need to do, but that is not all that risk-reward analysis boils down to.

Another voice to temper Cook’s conclusions would be good. Maybe once they’ve bought another armchair they’ll give us that.

Maybe the budget will stretch to a full sofa.

One thing we did like was that they recapped the morning session an hour at a time, which gave the viewer a better feel for how things unfolded. They showed quick highlights of the first hour and then spoke about it before doing the same with the second hour.

By their very nature, short highlights can camouflage spells of digging in, so this is helpful.

Highlights

Weirdly, the main highlights show isn’t on normal TV. It’s only on All 4, Channel 4’s online on-demand service.

We just watched them and… it’s just a load of highlights. They don’t do any kind of discussion thing afterwards and there’s barely any kind of introduction before.

22 comments

  1. I’m looking forward to the inevitable point at which Jos Buttler is caught at long-on going for quick runs.

    “But WHY?” asks Alastair Cook, holding his head in his hands. “What’s wrong with brushing them off the pads and occasionally unfurling a thoughtful cut shot?”

    (Many, many weeks later, Cook – by this point a shadow of his former self, showing visible signs of chronic claustrophobia and vitamin D deficiency – bemoans the way England’s ODI side actually seem to want to score runs during the Powerplay.)

  2. The commentary teams in India don’t seem to have bothered with social distancing.
    And a reverse sweep is surely now just another normal shot, not a REVERSE SWEEP!!!! Get out playing it badly and it’s just like leaving a gap between bat and pad and being bowled by an off break, not a total mind meltdown.

    1. What I found confusing about the shot was that he played it in the same over as a lovely shot for four through midwicket. He wasn’t under pressure to score in an unusual way (he hadn’t played the shot before in the innings) and it was not long until lunch. I agree playing a reverse sweep is not a big deal anymore, in isolation.

  3. Coming to India after a spin-heavy Test tour of Sri Lanka? That’s no way to tour. They should’ve come over after having played a sapping 2 month-long T20 bash, with several flawed batting techniques and at least 2 bowlers under an injury cloud. That is the way.

    Also, perhaps after listening to Indian broadcast commentary you’ll empathise with indian cricket watchers, and appreciate your own commentary teams more. Way too much talk, none of it insightful, an all-round crapfest. You’re welcome.

  4. Any sign of the highlights yet? They don’t appear to be on ‘All4’ as I am typing this, despite play having finished quite a while ago.

    1. No, they don’t seem to be up yet. There’s a “Cricket: India v England” programme page and one of the episodes listed is the highlights, but there’s nothing on there that will play.

  5. How does one view any of this Test match if based in Vancouver, Canada ? Usually
    Test matches featuring India are readily available hereabouts. Please help!

    1. Sorry Brian, that’s outside our area of TV watching expertise. Don’t know if anyone else here can help?

    2. Star Sports Live Streaming should be available (presumably on a pay basis) globally anywhere that doesn’t have a local broadcasting deal. If you can get that stream you’ll be getting the same commentary as us.

      If you succeed in getting this stream, Brian, I expect you to report back to us in the following prescribed form:

      “…should be streaming in Canada…IS streaming in Canada”.

      1. I had some trouble posting the link in a comment (it may appear after being moderated), but it’s showing on something called Hotstar in Canada, which is a sort of Netflix model I think.

        Usually stuff in the US and Canada is on ‘Willow TV’ (including the return fixtures later in the year) but not in this case

    3. If you want a free service, smartcric.com works on mobile devices, but only on wifi, not mobile data.

    4. It looks like it’s on something called ‘Hotstar’, Brian, unlike most matches (including the reverse series later in the year) which are on a cricket-specific channel/service called Willow TV

      I have no knowledge of Hotstar but it looks like it’s a montly subscription model – I couldn’t find any option for a free trial, sadly.

  6. Rishi Persad: ‘Welcome back to the cricket on Channel 4. Sir Alastair Cook is still with us. Don’t say the cliche, it’s an important first hour. We know it’s an important first hour.’

    Made me laugh.

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