March 17, 2009

Cricket concerns

A matter of time

Sambit Bal

It is not unusual for sport to adjust its timing to suit the structure and space of television but Test matches starting at noon will still feel strange.

For the moment, the New Zealand cricket board has managed to keep the start of the first Test against India to 11 am. But who knows what will happen before the second Test. Sony Television, which has the rights to broadcast the India-New Zealand series in India, want the Tests to be pushed back by an hour so that the start is at the slightly less unearthly time of 4.30 am.

At one level, it is a reasonable request because ultimately television runs - and pays for - sport. And non-cricket fans might wonder what the fuss is all about. After all, they will still play for six hours or more and 90 overs will still be bowled, and the light in New Zealand holds till 7 pm. And in most parts of the world, sport organises itself to the convenience of television.

The English Premier League long ago sandwiched the traditional 3 pm Saturday kick-off between matches starting at noon and at 5 pm to ensure a better spread on television. It means inconveniencing fans travelling to cities spread over a distance - they either have to start out too early or have to stay back overnight - but the truth is that television pays the salaries. The two football world cups in Mexico - in 1970 and, more famously, in 1986 - had matches starting at noon despite the heat just to suit television timings in Europe. And earlier this year Roger Federer complained about the late starts at the Australian Open that kept players on the court close to, and sometimes past, midnight. But he had to play on.

Perhaps Test cricket fans are nerdy and removed from reality in their devotion to Test cricket but a noon start just wouldn't feel right. It is contrary to the rhythm of Test cricket, in which the morning session stands for something.

Maybe it is only notional, and mostly in our minds, but the mornings are supposed to belong to the bowlers. Not that they always do but conditions - moisture on the pitch, heaviness in the atmosphere - have the potential to make the ball wobble and seam a bit.

But of course, most traditions are now disappearing. When India toured Australia in 2007-08, the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne was the series opener and not, as customary, the second Test; the upcoming Ashes in England begins on a Wednesday instead of the traditional Thursday; and they may soon print names of player on whites. And as soon as they can find a light-coloured ball to last 90 overs, they will start playing Tests at night.

That might not such a bad thing after all. But those of us who love Test cricket just the way it is reserve the right to be horrified.


Sambit Bal is the editor of ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by Vivek on (March 20, 2009, 10:45 GMT)

sony should not have anything to do with cricket

They are un competant to telecast cricket...

I hope , pray the sony never gets any telecast rights

Same with Neo Sports

Posted by Mohamed Z. Rahaman (Breado) on (March 18, 2009, 14:38 GMT)

Simple Solution: Establish Cricket Savings time in India, i.e., move teh clock forward or back by 1 to 1.5 hours depending on where the matches are played. In USA we do it twice a year. It's called Daylight Savings Time.

Posted by Mike on (March 18, 2009, 3:09 GMT)

In Dec-Feb the light holds good until well after 8:00pm, so starting the West Indies test matches at 12:00 was a great idea, as anyone working to the normal 4:30/5:00pm finish time could get to watch the last session either at the ground or at home. It made the game much more accessable to working people, without having to worry about losing too much of the game to bad light. However come mid-late March we're well into autumn in NZ and the light starts to fade earlier. There would be too much risk of lost time to start the tests at noon now, so I'm glad that NZC stuck with the 11am start.

Posted by Aayan on (March 18, 2009, 1:32 GMT)

Can you believe there s no telecast in Singapore for any live matches ? This inspite of paying a huge amount to the cable channel?

Posted by Ilanchezhian on (March 17, 2009, 22:13 GMT)

I am against the match delay since TEST match is something you see a real cricket dere. Bowlers have an key role in TEST matches.Bcoz of this delay in start ll lead the pitch in favour of batsmen bcoz of less moisture. I think many of dem would remember the recent match between WI and ENG dere you can see the scores that was made by each team wr bowlers were crushed by the batsmen except the last day of the match

Posted by Satish on (March 17, 2009, 22:08 GMT)

Terrible idea!! First day first session is key in terms of the due/movement and good time for bowling team to make inroads into the batting. In those terms it provides an intriguing session. moving it to noon when the sun is beating down, pitch is dry and no humidity in the air... it will ruin the contest

Posted by Varun Singla on (March 17, 2009, 22:07 GMT)

will expect a full 5 day play here..Hope no rain :-P .Last time,we saw 2 innings in one day :) Courtesy slippary pitches n cold winds :-P

Posted by Chamiraju on (March 17, 2009, 22:07 GMT)

I replied to him like this" Dear dude! I am glad that you like Golf as you get more sleep ... I tried watching golf in prime time (evening 7:00PM) and after watching for 20mins or so I hear my snore..." on the other side when there was a Test match between India and Zimbabwe which typically starts at midnight 3:00AM ... I woke up with out any alarm and without anyone actually waking me up and saw the game starting from toss till the end of fifth day and its a mere draw ... but who cares. And finally missed my sleep for 5 full nights ... So I am glad that you are not a cricket follower but Golf ... "

Posted by Bhanu on (March 17, 2009, 22:07 GMT)

When we visit NZ, we should honor their timings. In India, we love cricket...start time doesn't matter at all...I would prefer 3:30 AM bacause I can cover 5 hrs of match before leaving for office. It is a matter of sleeping early and waking up early.

Posted by S.N.Singh on (March 17, 2009, 22:06 GMT)

Mr. Bal: we must understand that people are watching all over the world. We are making sacrifices to watch at any time. S.N.

Comments have now been closed for this article


Sambit Bal
Editor-in-chief Sambit Bal took to journalism at the age of 19 after realising that he wasn't fit for anything else, and to cricket journalism 14 years later when it dawned on him that it provided the perfect excuse to watch cricket in the office. Among other things he has bowled legspin, occasionally landing the ball in front of the batsman; laid out the comics page of a newspaper; covered crime, urban development and politics; and edited Gentleman, a monthly features magazine. He joined Wisden in 2001 and edited Wisden Asia Cricket and Cricinfo Magazine. He still spends his spare time watching cricket.

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