And there I was thinking India’s initial reluctance to embrace Twenty20 was because the format offered fewer ad breaks than the 50-over game. Well, folks, they seem to have found a way round it. I spent yesterday afternoon and evening tuned into Sony Max’s coverage of what – in unwitting homage to Sky Sports’ portrayal of the English Premier League – was unblushingly referred to as “Super Saturday”. All this meant in practice was that the IPL was staging two games in a day instead of one and never mind the quality (you fear already for Shane Warne’s Rajasthan Royals). But I digress.
Regular watchers of cricket on commercial TV will be used to ad breaks at the end of each over, preferably with a respectful pause to ensure the ball really is dead before we find out about the latest brand of anti-dandruff shampoo. But Sony Max has allowed several adverts to appear in a single over by shrinking the picture. Apparently this cunning tactic has been used on Indian TV for a few years now, but what seems to be new is its frequency.
What happens is that the picture shrinks to allow space underneath it and to the left, allowing the name of a well-known mobile-phone company to step seamlessly into the breach. If the commentators are busy talking at the time, so much the worse: their musings are simply drowned out by the advert’s verbals. The effect can be tantalising. Yesterday, in one of the rare moments when a commentator seemed to be on the verge of using an adjective other than “fantastic”, “incredible”, or “amazing”, he was cut off in his prime.
And there’s more. If a boundary is struck (and with the organisers needing no encouragement to position the boundary 65 yards from the wicket, the minimum distance allowed by the ICC, this happens quite often) up pops a banner ad to point out the joys of a renowned brand of camera.
The commentators are equally assiduous in their duties. There was an intriguing amount of references to a popular brown soft drink, but even this fell short of Pommie Mbangwa’s dedicated allusions to the “DFL IPL” (sorry, there was no way of avoiding that plug), a formulation which conjured up nightmarish visions of a world of abbreviations. “The DFL IPL’s USP is its OTT LBW appeals.” He didn’t really say that, but it can only be a matter of time. Then again, maybe abbreviation is the very essence of Twenty20.
Lawrence Booth writes on cricket for the Daily Mail. His fourth book, What Are The Butchers For? And Other Splendid Cricket Quotations, is published in October 2009 by A&C Black