Earlier this week we carried an article critical of Sky TV's cricket coverage in New Zealand. Martin Crowe, the former New Zealand Test star who oversees Sky's operations there, asked for the right of reply to the criticisms made, and we are pleased to present his side of the argument:
Andrew McLean's recent article criticising Sky TV's opening-game coverage of the New Zealand-Sri Lanka tour is so way off the mark that it needs not only correcting but a serious look at the man writing it.
First, let's look at his article "Different shades of Sky". Mr McLean begins by incorrectly quoting from my Sunday News column. He reckons I said "Sky would only use technology that could assist the umpire." He goes on to suggest that I wrote "Hawk-Eye was a hindrance that could never be used by umpires ..."
But this is what was actually written: "Sky's view is, if it [technology] enhances the enjoyment for the viewer then we'll get it. If, though, it places unnecessary pressure on budgets and umpiring, then it misses out."
I went on to write, with regard to Hawk-Eye, "That it is hypothetical to conclude where the ball will finish, despite the complicated technology used [by Hawk-Eye]. It can only ever be a visual representation of what might happen. Therefore umpires should never use it. The use of Hawk-Eye to show that the umpire got it wrong, for example, is unfair. The best we should do is leave it open for the viewer and the commentator to subjectively suggest what might have happened. This is one of the great intrigues of the game."
Clearly Mr McLean has not read the article, or not read it properly, anyway. It is plain stupid to think that Sky only uses technology that assists umpires. Think about it: if we did that then we would actually have very little technology on show, as only the super-slomo replays are used to assist the third umpire. Yet we have "snicko" (the snickometer), "zoomer", "virtual", the "run-out ruler" and more, to enhance the coverage for the viewer. We have lots of technology that the umpire rightly doesn't use.
So far the ICC has not allowed umpires to use Hawk-Eye, because it is not 100% accurate. It can't be. Having said that, it's a fantastic tool, and should be regarded highly - as I do - when used in certain ways to enhance the coverage. Sky would love to have Hawk-Eye in our coverage here, but it simply costs far too much for our budget, which is smaller than other networks'. However, we would not use it to show up an umpire, as philosophically we think that is unfair.
Mr McLean supports his argument by saying that a recent article by S Rajesh on Cricinfo demonstrated Hawk-Eye to be correct 99% of the time. That's not good enough, I'm afraid. Just because an umpire can't sometimes be correct 99% of the time doesn't mean they should be replaced by Hawk-Eye. Some umpires have achieved 100% during a match, and that should continue to be encouraged.
You see, technology is getting better each year, but the fact is that it cannot be 100% accurate, in many respects. As a TV producer I would love to see all our well-spent money being used and highlighted, but as a cricketer I see it being potentially dangerous to get carried away with it all. Leave the intrigue, the umpires and the uncertainty of the game alone.
Mr McLean moves on to criticise Sky for not having a Sri Lankan commentator on their team. That, he states, would have solved the problem we had before a ball was bowled, about identifying accurately who would open the batting for Sri Lanka. The fact was that the Sri Lankan team management had declared before the game to Sky that Sanath Jayasuriya would bat at No. 4! So one can only speculate until the batsmen can be seen.
He goes on: "When a commentary team lacks someone with intimate knowledge of a touring side, the risk of misinformation increases." Well, I kept looking in his article for a respected Sri Lankan name that I could call up, but he failed to deliver.
As part of my brief for Sky I research every possible improvement to give the viewer all that they need. When it comes to finding a commentator from Sri Lanka, it's very difficult to find one who is experienced enough and well-known enough for our viewers to appreciate. Ranjit Fernando is a lovely man and works hard on his commentary, but he doesn't have the credibility here in New Zealand. Take also the example of Waqar Younis. Yes, he is a big name, but is he experienced in broadcasting and enunciated enough to warrant being on the Channel 9 team at present?
We took on Navjot Sidhu a few seasons back, and our phones jammed with complaints to get him off the air. Any commentator either needs credibility with a reasonable career as a player behind him, or is an out-and-out high-quality broadcaster, like Mark Nicholas.
Finally, to Andrew McLean. He has an agenda that only he can admit to. As a subscriber to Sky a year back he e-mailed me with questions about our coverage, and cricket in general. I gave a frank and honest answer to his questions, with a Sky confidentiality note at the bottom. The next thing I know the e-mail was splashed all over a tabloid newspaper. Judge for yourself.