The coverage of the first test between India and England on Channel 4 was without doubt a welcome return to “Free To Air” (FTA) TV for the sport, and generated much debate and comment across social media: split equally (on my feeds at east) between comment on the game, and the coverage.
The coverage needs to be considered in two distinct parts: the feed from Star in India who have a five year broadcast partnership with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) which expires in 2023, and which demonstrated how good the coverage is Sky do here in the UK – and how strong our pool of commentators is with Mark Butcher and Nick Knight doing a great job as ever, and the studio based commentary provided by Sir Alastair Cook with the host Rishi Persad, an experienced presenter albeit not on cricket.
Honestly it is far too early (after just one match) to comment too much, especially when you consider the time frame they had (two days) to put the show together, but I think it is fair to say that Cook didn’t disappoint, or surprise – a solid and pragmatic opening which would benefit from someone with a little more flair partnering him. Sir Andrew Strauss is scheduled to do the second and third test, with Cook returning for the fourth. If I were Channel 4 I would consider getting the band back together to do them jointly.
Of course social media was awash with comments, opinions and observations regarding the coverage but for now I have said all I plan to say on the matter.
Of far more interest (for me) was the comments regarding the no ball “claxon”, with most of it genuinely funny, albeit a significant number of comments found it irritating.
This naturally led to some debate about how no balls are ‘treated’ in Test Cricket as opposed to the Free Hit option in the White Ball formats. Many questioned if the free hit should be offered in Tests as well. I don’t recall seeing anyone say it should.
My own view, that I expressed to some support on social media, and I am going to repeat here is that I would award four (4) runs for a no ball, and not give the bowler an extra ball. Until penalties are punitive bowlers will not change. With umpires no longer calling no balls the batsman no longer gains any benefit from the actual no ball. And let’s face it there is only one person responsible for the no ball, and they are more than capable of preventing it.
I like the idea that the third umpire checks for no balls all the time, but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to speed up the DRS process as the technology does not render the ball tracking any quicker so although they can request it quicker, the wait seems longer.
Which brings me to two other issues I would like to get off my chest: DRS and time wasting.
I am a big fan of DRS and the use of technology in cricket. I have a lingering issue that players should not be allowed to challenge the umpires as that seems against the spirit and purpose of the umpires decision being final and in my ideal world I would like the the technology to only be used by the umpires to confirm their decisions if they are unsure: run outs and stumpings could be checked automatically like no balls to speed up the game and ensure consistent and accurate decisions, LBW, and catches would be referred by an umpire requiring clarification. If an umpire used this too much then they would be retrained or removed.
With LBW’s hitting is hitting. You either trust the abilities of the technology for all decisions or you don’t use the technology. A ball only needs to clip a stump to dislodge a bail in the real world, so why should it be any different in the world of DRS? The best analogy I can think of comes from my old Gran: “you can’t be a little bit pregnant dear”.
And (hoorah) finally, what is it with all the drink breaks and changing gloves? Stop them. Scheduled drink breaks provide ample opportunity to have a drink and change your gloves, and if you sweat a lot then stick a towel down the back of your trousers as bowlers have to when it’s wet! It is frustrating, unnecessary and slows the game down. Same with bowlers popping off after a bowing spell: fine go change your shirt, but no substitute should be allowed.
Over to you ………….