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Cricket's dominance in India might not be fading just yet, but the team's performance has not been as compelling as the last decade and high-profile retirements since have also had an impact on viewership. Ashok Malik, in Asian Age, wonders if a saturation has been reached, especially with other sports enticing the average fan.
Cricket viewership, even Indian Premier League viewership, is not growing. It has either reached a ceiling (IPL) or a floor (Test cricket). Even limited-overs cricket (the Fifty50) game, the mainstay of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), is showing a worrying pattern. On-ground presence is lower than previously. The BCCI is masking it by hosting matches mainly in smaller cities and towns, where the novelty may still be there. As for television, a comparison between the India-West Indies limited-overs series of 2011 and 2013 would be telling. Both series were played in India. The first was played in the aftermath of India's World Cup victory and showed a TRP of 3.4 (male/15-34/Sec A, B and C). By the 2013 series, the TRP number had fallen to 2.2. TRP figures for the just-concluded (October 2014) India-West Indies series were not immediately available.
Mike Selvey travels to Basingstoke to meet Steve Carter, the managing director of Hawk-Eye Innovations. Following a demonstration of Hawkeye, Selvey writes in the Guardian that his doubts over the technology have vanished. He maintains, however, that the implementation of the Decision Review System remains far from perfect.
I was shown one further thing. A split screen showed an empty indoor net and two deliveries from a leg-spinner. Each pitched and turned from leg to off, and the picture was then frozen at the point of what would have been impact with a pad in a neutral position. One was striking at about half-stump height, the other maybe two-thirds high. What did I think happened next ?
The first, I suggested, would probably be deemed hitting near the top of the stumps and the second clearing, but I suspected that they were in fact the same delivery filmed from a different height. This was indeed the case, and it showed how wrong we can be when we look incredulous when a ball we think is clearly going to hit is shown to be clearing them by a distance: both were hitting. The perspective is entirely contingent on the height of the camera behind the arm, the lower the camera the better. An ideal one would be in the top of the middle stump at either end.
Mukul Kesavan, in India's Telegraph, wonders about the value added by cricket commentary in recent times. He cites some of the arguments by the Sky Sports team during the Headingley Test between Sri Lanka and England had spurned context and also adds that listening to their Indian counterparts is mundane and pre-programmed.
Do television commentators do any homework? Are they interested in the individuals in the middle or are the players they describe just interchangeable names on some Platonic team sheet? Virtually every commentator in the world is now a distinguished ex-cricketer; are these retired champions meant to embody totemic authority, to exude experience into a microphone, or should they pull information and insight together to tell us something that we can't see or don't know already?
Harsha Bhogle discusses the early influences that shaped his commentary, censorship, unsavoury trysts on twitter and physical attributes in television presenting. Arun Venugopal of the Hindu has more.
You will find very few networks on cricket broadcast actually taking on matters of this sensitivity. So, for example, you won't find anyone talking about why a Pakistan player shouldn't be in the IPL. [These are] very sensitive matters that you have got to be careful not to inflame. In my case, I am very clear that my job here is not to be an opinion-maker, but to be a storyteller. I believe I am an opinion-maker on Twitter, in my articles. But, I have never ever been told, 'You will not say this'. I have just been told, 'Let's not say something that might offend.' That was a long time ago. In recent times, I haven't been told that.
We've all heard or read about the pressure on famous cricketing sons to live up to their family names on the field. But what happens when a son finds himself in same commentary box as his famous father? If you happen to be Rohan Gavaskar, be ready for a bit of ribbing. Sitting in on his first television commentary stint with father Sunil, at the Ranji Trophy quarter-final between Mumbai and Maharashtra, Rohan was asked about his lack of Ranji titles - he played for Bengal, while his father used turn out for Ranji giants Bombay back in the day.
Speaking about the experience, Sunil joked: "For a change I could actually pull someone's legs and get away with it. Generally when I am doing it at the international level, my fellow commentator can come back at me. Over here that was the big plus. I started by saying that he has not been a part of the Ranji Trophy winning team, but thankfully he didn't come back to me saying he has scored more runs at Eden Gardens [Bengal's home ground] than I have."
Batting tips apart, Rohan also gets commentary advice from his father. "Sometimes we do talk about little things, like the things I have learnt from Richie Benaud and by observing other commentators," Sunil said. "I haven't heard much of him [commentating] because of my travels, but the feedback that I get, generally, has been pretty good. That is good to hear."
Star TV, the broadcaster in India, have spent $2.9 billion in buying broadcasting rights and now they have decided to venture into sponsorship rights as well. Surajeet Das Gupta, in the Business Standard, finds out why the broadcaster is pumping so much money into the game.
But the risks come with immense potential for growth for those who have the cash to stay put. To begin with, despite the criticism and fears, cricket constitutes over 10 per cent of the annual TV advertising pie (currently estimated at around Rs 14,000 crore), or Rs 1,400 crore, and in 2011, when IPL and the World Cup were held, it raked in over Rs 2,000 crore in revenues. Also unlike general entertainment channels (which draw 60 per cent of their revenues from advertising), subscription constitutes for over 60 per cent of a sports channel's revenue. So, more viewers mean more revenue through subscription.
Dicky Rutnagur, veteran journalist for Hindustan Times and the Daily Telegraph passed away on June 21. Tony Cozier in the Stabroek News reminisces about sharing a press box with "the voice, spoken and written, of Indian cricket through three decades"
I cherish a picture of the two of us in the Bangalore Test during the 1974-75 West Indies tour (later carried in Wisden), Dicky's face wreathed in the typically impish smile that signaled he was holding forth with some yarn or the other. He made friends, and admirers, easily. Wherever his career took him, he had the respect of cricketers of all generations. The tributes that have followed his death confirm that impression.
Raju Bharatan in the Hindu, describes why Rutnagur was good enough to cover over 300 Test matches.
He was to cricket what Zubin Mehta was to music. He conducted himself as the quintessential professional. Not for him the literary flourishes of a K.N. Prabhu or an N.S. Ramaswami. Dicky Rutnagur was first a reporter, only then an opinion moulder. His smooth narrative style held you spellbound. This was reflected in the absorption with which his Editorial Musings and his day-to-day account of Test matches were read -- months after the events took place.
Amit Roy in India's Telegraph paints the various facets of Rutnagur's life - the journalist, the man, the cricket lover and devout Zoroastrian.
One reason I wanted Dicky at the Lord's lunch on Friday was because of what he felt about the ground. I had asked him about the world's most beautiful cricketing venues when I had done a formal interview with Dicky in 2005. "Lord's, of course," he replied. "My hair still stands on end when I go through the Grace Gate (the main gate at Lord's) after all these years. It is a privilege to go to Lord's. I will wear my best clothes to go to Lord's always, even for a county match."
Rutnagur was as noted for his pranks as he was for his opinions on the game, writes R Mohan in Mid-day
A few may have suffered at the hands of the press box joker that he was reputed to be. You were not initiated into cricket journalism until you had been doused by his water pistol. Mercifully, he carried it in days when security was not the watchword it is, otherwise he may have had a tough time explaining what a gun was doing amidst the paraphernalia.