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June 25, 2012

Is it a crime to love the game?

Jarrod Kimber
Sachin Tendulkar looks to the heavens after reaching his 100th international century, Bangladesh v India, Asia Cup, Mirpur, March 16, 2012
The only way to see this scene live in the UK was via an internet streaming site  © AFP
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In an Edinburgh hotel room I watched Mohammad Amir make 73 batting at No. 10 to almost defeat New Zealand in an ODI.

I watched the match on an illegal stream; Giles Clarke’s archenemy. According to Clarke, cricket fans who watch illegal streams are defrauding their own sport by putting existing huge money TV deals into jeopardy. The very money that funds cricket and its administration.

If you choose to watch cricket on an illegal stream instead of subscribing, then in your own way that is what you are doing. Now maybe you have a vaild reason, like having no money. Or you find subscription TV is little more than a stream of reality TV shows where Americans abuse each other while buying things from storage lockers. Having watched a fair bit of cricket on illegal internet streams, I’d doubt there are many people out there who can afford paying a subscription and still watch illegally. Watching illegally is really annoying.

When Sachin Tendulkar made his 100th hundred, it wasn't shown on TV in the UK. So I went looking for an illegal stream as he got close. The first three websites wouldn’t work at all. The fourth would, but because of the sheer numbers of people watching, kept shutting down. An ad came up in front of the action several times. The sound and vision were never once synched. The screen pixelated for almost the entire time I watched ... And more than once it just randomly paused so I was miles behind the live action. Watching illegal streams is never straight forward.

But why did I do it that day, or for Amir and Ajmal’s partnership, and again recently for Kumar Sangakkara’s flirtation with a double hundred? Because none of those matches were shown on TV in the UK. And I wanted to see them. I wasn’t trying to rip off any subscription TV company; it was just the only way for a cricket-obsessed person in the UK to watch these big moments. There is no reason to show them in the UK, unless Sky had a dedicated cricket channel, so I have to find them elsewhere.

These illegal streams might be pure evil for a cricket board trying to earn their bread, but they are sometimes they only way to watch cricket. And they’re not the only ones.

The YouTube uploaders, like the phenomenally proficient robelinda2, place illegally recorded TV clips online. TV companies despise them, and see it as stolen content. For cricket fans, people like robelinda2 give them cricket gold only a Google search away. Robelinda seems to spend all his time fighting with Indian fans or uploading classic and obscure cricket moments. Currently he has over 1700 videos on youtube, including Martin Love making 146 against South Australia, Devon Malcolm yorking Viv Richards, and Rohan Kanhai making 118 for the World XI in 1971-72.

How would you see these otherwise?

New fans find these clips and fall in love with the sport. Old fans who have moved on may come across one accidentally and rekindle their love. And for the rest of us who are obsessed it gives us something to watch when there is no live match to watch on TV or illegal streams. Broadcasters could spend hours uploading all the content they own on Vimeo and YouTube, but are often handicapped by rights deals or a lack of vision. Instead they spend a fair bit of their time, and some cricket boards’ time, chasing these people and taking their videos down.

Then there are the internet radio commentary sites like Test Match Sofa and Pitch Invasion, who watch cricket on the TV and commentate on it. It’s not illegal, but certain cricket boards have called it immoral. By that they mean they haven’t found a way to stop it, or make money from it, and that it upsets the radio companies who pay to get into the ground and commentate.

Of course, if you do pay for cricket rights, you also get access to the players and board. Meaning you have to be a bit more safe in what you say and how you say it. Pirate internet commentaries do not. They can be a much more loose, vitriolic and even sweary form of commentary, that attracts a whole new audience who may not like polite talk of cake and pigeons. While the radio stations who own the rights are angry, in real terms this provides them with a competitor for the first time, meaning they have to improve their product. Which is better for the cricket public and the radio station and, most importantly, it gives the cricket fan another way of consuming their favourite sport.

Some of these illegal, or immoral, websites and uploaders are doing this for purely financial gain. They are nothing more than thieves who are stealing content. But others are doing it for the love of cricket. Regardless of the intentions, while they make life hard for cricket boards in certain ways, there is no doubt that they all help promote the game of cricket.

How else would we watch ODIs between New Zealand and Pakistan when staying in foreign hotels, listen to commentators swear at shocking decisions or watch clips of domestic Australian cricket from the 90s?

Jarrod Kimber is 50% of the Two Chucks, and the mind responsible for cricketwithballs.com

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Joe Fraser on (August 9, 2012, 19:21 GMT)

Cricket South Africa is engaged in this practise of late and has hired an Indian company to go after people who upload old highlights reels. It has created a bad vibe for CSA which it hasn't recognised yet. It's doing more harm for them than good.

Posted by danoz on (July 6, 2012, 14:21 GMT)

the icc should be put on the indian,u.k and australian stock markets,they should own the all games played and lease the tv rights out,aswell as owning a icc cricket channels on pay t.v.

it should cover all test,one dayers and 20/20(in australia we have fox footy a 24 hour 7 day a week channel dedicated to a.f.l footy) surely cricket could do something similar with 1 billion indians.

we didnt get the i.p.l this year in australia but we got the english domestic comp,we missed out on sri lanka vs pakistan(missed out sangakarra hitting 190 odd in 2 test) but we got west indies vs new zealand 20/20.

the icc should set a 2 channels dedicated to cricket this way you will never miss a game.it should cover domestic cricket too,all 4 day games,1 dayers and 20/20.it should cover the intercontantal cup games too ie holland vs ireland,canada vs kenya,namibia vs u.a.e and so on. with icc owning the tv rights its up to them to supply hot spot,snicko,hawk eye to all countries fans would love it

Posted by dotx on (June 28, 2012, 9:27 GMT)

How about countries where the sport isnt high profile enough to anctually warrant a subscription. Most of Europe you can't get a subscription unless you are English and 'smuggling' your decoder over to Europe- which is only western Europe because that is as far as the dish reaches. .

Posted by plebian on (June 28, 2012, 4:21 GMT)

Yeah, the people's champ as hailed by some here. Interesting that an article like this was published a little after ESPN moved away from cricket broadcasting. Surely they're not related?

Posted by Anonymous on (June 27, 2012, 6:45 GMT)

I watched Aravinda De Silva's 167 @Gabba in 1989 from rob's channel. one of my life time dream was to see that innings.1989 was one of the hardest time in Srilankan history.(No international cricket played in the island from 1987 to 1992),No TV broadcast on AUS series,and only coverage available was ABC grandstand from SW radio.No way of seeing that innings at least from Sri Lanka(If it were a tape that innings contained shold've been taken from CH9 and it would've been broadcast here/No way).Rob uploaded it.He is a ultimate cricket lover and should be appreciate his unprecedented and quintessential work for cricket in big way.Thanks for this article.

Posted by alvaro on (June 27, 2012, 6:34 GMT)

Robelinda's best video is every one of the other waugh's Test wickets. Most seem to be Curtly.

Posted by jogesh99 on (June 27, 2012, 5:49 GMT)

Some of these illegal, or immoral, websites and uploaders are doing this for purely financial gain. They are nothing more than thieves who are stealing content.

You mean like the Cricket Boards and the TV channels? Ah, now I get the difference.

Posted by oseebhai on (June 26, 2012, 17:38 GMT)

Fantastic article. Sometimes there really is no other choice, particularly if you live in countries where cricket is not a recognized sport.

Posted by Cliff Bradford on (June 26, 2012, 15:06 GMT)

Good article. Living in the USA the only way to get cricket "legally" here is to get a satellite dish so I can pay for 200 channels of reality shows and other such rubbish and then have to pay extra (PPV) to watch cricket. For audio the BBC provides coverage of matches played in the UK although I could take a pass on Boycs & Richards it must be said that Blowers is a national treasure. Sky Sports has exclusive video but that would require me to listen to a steady streams of Michael Holding and other luminaries. Also Sky tend to go silent for extended periods - i once counted a 3 over span when nothing was said. I suppose the four commentator rotation doesn't lend to ball-by-ball coverage. The problem with streaming that the lack of synchronization means I can't listen to the BBC while watching Sky which would be ideal (or at least better).

Posted by Anonymous on (June 26, 2012, 15:06 GMT)

100% spot on. Cricket is the only sport I follow so no I'm not going to take out a Sky subscription here in Ireland.

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