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Wrong, Wrong And Wrong Again

In Uncategorized on January 7, 2011 at 11:02 pm

My pre-Ashes comments and predictions have proved substantially incorrect. Thank Heavens for that. See Apologia, in bold, below.

Easy wickets
There are too many softies in the current English batting line up. The West Indies, South Africa and Pakistan have all demonstrated that.  Alastair Cook is a gimme, with a test average of 27.60 in Australia. In Perth, he was bowled for 5 by a Leicestershire 2nd XI trier called Steve Magoffin. Kevin Pietersen has declined significantly since he was last in Australia. His pre-tour form, in England, South Africa and in the Australian warm-up games is poor – as it has been for over a year. Neither Bell nor Collingwood frighten the Aussies. They’ll respect Strauss, remembering all the while that he was ranked the 11th best batsman of the 2006/2007 series, with an average of 24.70.

WRONG: Where to start? England scored nine centuries, with an average partnership of over 50. Their 644 in Sydney was their biggest ever score in Australia. For some, the difference in the batting averages second time around is staggering: Ian Bell, a passenger in 2005 with an average of 17, just clocked 65.80 for the series. Alastair Cook’s average has gone from 27.60 in 2006/7 to a ridiculous 127.66 in 2010/11. Cook, especially, has improved his technique, but the overall impression is of a focused batting unit facing an Australian attack that has completely lost its way.

Lack of Stayers
Full credit to Mr Trott for finally nailing a double ton for England vs Bangladesh in the summer. At last someone has done it; the last player to do so anywhere for England was Rob Key, versus the West Indies in 2004. In other words – Bangladeshi heroics aside – this is a team with a proven track record of not scoring the kind of big ton which is a critical element of a successful tour down under.

WRONG: The daddy hundreds have made the difference and won matches for England. Cook’s appetite was enormous, but credit also to Trott and Pietersen for registering big scores. Given the fact that this tour featured only the 4th and 5th double centuries ever by England players in Australia demonstrates the rarity of the achievement.

Four Bowlers
What on earth are we thinking? Typical Australian scores in Brisbane at the end of day one: 2/321, 3/344…These guys are bred to occupy the crease for hours on end, and the longer and hotter it is, the more they like it. There is no way this quartet is going to survive a five match series, let alone snaffle up 20 wickets a go. Expect some brutal days in the field.

WRONG: The four man bowling attack worked. Sometimes Australia were blown away, as in Adelaide or Melborne , but more often it was a case of death by suffocation . Australia pegged back at 50 odd-1 in the morning session in Sydney, with just the one  boundary, was one of many examples of the England attack strangling the life out of the Australian batting. What was impossible to predict was that Bresnan and Tremlett would come in midway through the series – with England still sticking to the four man attack – and bowl so superbly.

 

 

James Anderson
Terrific against Pakistan in the summer, but the conditions in Australia are the opposite of Jimbo-land, and we know from previous experience that when the shine goes off the ball on a day of blue skies and hot sunshine, then the great Jimmy starts to go for some, and then some more, and some more….Rewind just one year to the tour in South Africa, and Jimmy’s 1-104 at Centurion or his 0-111 at the Wanderers. Is he really that much better now?

WRONG: On the press day before the first test, JA was asked to bowl in the nets at a helmet on a stick to impress the journos; one ball,  no run up, and he smacked it bang on target. The guy was clearly in form, but back then it was still a fair question to ask: is Jimmy really that much better than he was last time out Downunder? Oh, yes. He was 625 overs of awesome, from his wicketless new ball bowling in Brisbane to his final masterclass in Sydney. He’s even improved from last summer, when he was quite brilliant but still sent down the odd loose delivery. It’s the ‘cold and calculating’ element to his game that is so impressive.

Ricky Ponting
He is by far the best batsman in either side. Yes, Ponting has the burden of captaincy on his shoulders, but he remains the real deal: obdurate, destructive, hungry. You’ll remember that he wasn’t at his best against England in 2009, struggling to a series of average of…just over 48. That’s the thing about this guy – his wicket is so precious that we forget how expensive it is to acquire it. Playing at home, against a side he’s successfully bashed about for years is likely to bring the best out of him. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

WRONG: I don’t feel sorry for Ricky, as some England fans do. He’s had a great career, and has been lucky enough to captain an incredible team, only to watch the overall standard around him fall off a cliff. Usually, however, Ricky Ponting has Ricky Ponting to rely on, and regular watchers may feel that it just doesn’t feel right seeing him so unmanned by the England attack. It was actually embarrassing by the end. His series average of 16 compared to his career average of 50+ is a reasonable indication of the strength of this England bowling attack, and Anderson’s glorious outswinger to dismiss Ponting in Adelaide – the 3 for 2 ball – was THE moment of the tour.

Mitchell Johnson
Australia lost the 2009 Ashes as a direct result of Mitchell Johnson’s abysmal display in the Lords test of that year. He was so bad that even Cook filled his boots. All the signs are that Johnson has long since got his mojo back and – being the best and fastest bowler on either team – that’s bad new for England. Even including the Lords debacle, Johnson still took 20 wickets in that series, compared to Broad (18) and Anderson (12). Playing back home in his favourite conditions, don’t expect the wheels to come off again. MJ’s got unfinished business to attend to.

WRONG: Oops. The wheels did come off again: a duck and 0-170 in Brisbane. If Troy Cooley is such a coaching genius, how could he allow MJ to start the test series in such terrible form? Steve Harmison was better prepared in 2006. Getting Johnson ready for the Ashes should have been their top priority. Instead, Johnson was dropped after a dreadful start, before coming back for a one-off blitz in Perth, with 6/36 still the best bowling figures of the entire series. MJ is sometimes very good with the bat and sometimes unplayable with the ball. And yet, if Strauss had the option to include a Mitchell Johnson in his team, would he be selected? No chance. Too unreliable.

Home Advantage
Look, mate, Australians are always going to enjoy watching an England team struggle. But an England team as full of itself as this one, a team so quick to assume the mantle of favourites, with that bloody Graeme Swann mouthing off… The Aussies are really going to love watching the slide from The Hill in Sydney. All this Australian pre-series doom and gloom…you’re not really falling for it, are you?

WRONG: They only sing when their winning. The famous MCG walk out – the Australian fans, that is, not their batsmen – demonstrated the fragility of the local support. In contrast, all credit should go to the loyalty and good humour of the Barmy Army (speaking as a brief member myself – Perth, WA, 1994, which is a long way to go to watch England lose by 329 runs).

Reality Check: Why England Will Lose The Ashes

In Uncategorized on November 22, 2010 at 2:26 pm

Easy wickets
There are too many softies in the current English batting line up. The West Indies, South Africa and Pakistan have all demonstrated that.  Alistair Cook is a gimme, with a test average of 27.60 in Australia. In Perth, he was bowled for 5 by a Leicestershire 2nd XI tryer called Steve Magoffin. Kevin Pietersen has declined significantly since he was last in Australia. His pre-tour form, in England, South Africa and in the Australian warm-up games is poor – as it has been for over a year. Neither Bell nor Collingwood frighten the Aussies. They’ll respect Strauss, remembering all the while that he was ranked the 11th best batsman of the 2006/2007 series, with an average of 24.70.

KP bowled: Oops. There he goes again.

Lack of Stayers
Full credit to Mr Trott for finally nailing a double ton for England vs Bangladesh in the summer. At last someone has done it; the last player to do so anywhere for England was Rob Key, versus the West Indies in 2004. In other words – Bangladeshi heroics aside – this is a team with a proven track record of not scoring the kind of big ton which is a critical element of a successful tour down under.

Four Bowlers
What on earth are we thinking? Typical Australian scores in Brisbane at the end of day one: 2/321, 3/344…These guys are bred to occupy the crease for hours on end, and the longer and hotter it is, the more they like it. There is no way this quartet is going to survive a five match series, let alone snaffle up 20 wickets a go. Expect some brutal days in the field.

James Anderson
Terrific against Pakistan in the summer, but the conditions in Australia are the opposite of jimbo-land, and we know from previous experience that when the shine goes off the ball on a day of blue skies and hot sunshine, then the great Jimmy starts to go for some, and then some more, and some more….Rewind just one year to the tour in South Africa, and Jimmy’s 1-104 at Centurion or his 0-111 at the Wanderers. Is he really that much better now?

Jimmy Aaaaah: Have I got to 100 yet?

Ricky Ponting
He is by far the best batsman in either side. Yes, Ponting has the burden of captaincy on his shoulders, but he remains the real deal: obdurate, destructive, hungry. You’ll remember that he wasn’t at his best against England in 2009, struggling to a series of average of…just over 48. That’s the thing about this guy – his wicket is so precious that we forget how expensive it is to acquire it. Playing at home, against a side he’s successfully bashed about for years is likely to bring the best out of him. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Mitchell Johnson
Australia lost the 2009 Ashes as a direct result of Mitchell Johnson’s abysmal display in the Lords test of that year. He was so bad that even Cook filled his boots. All the signs are that Johnson has long since got his mojo back and – being the best and fastest bowler on either team – that’s bad new for England. Even including the Lords debacle, Johnson still took 20 wickets in that series, compared to Broad (18) and Anderson (12). Playing back home in his favourite conditions, don’t expect the wheels to come off again. MJ’s got unfinished business to attend to.

MJ's Mission: I Want My Ashes Back

Home Advantage
Look, mate, Australians are always going to enjoy watching an England team struggle. But an England team as full of itself as this one, a team so quick to assume the mantle of favourites, with that bloody Graeme Swann mouthing off… The Aussies are really going to love watching the slide from The Hill in Sydney. All this Australian pre-series doom and gloom…you’re not really falling for it, are you?



Your 2010/2011 Ashes Digital Digest

In Uncategorized on November 20, 2010 at 7:33 am

Brisbane. Excited yet? The Ashes are just days away. To be precise, four days, three days, two days…just use your Sky Sports countdown clock to keep up to speed, to the hour and the second. The clock is perhaps the most obvious little bit of digital content currently being served up by the cricket media ahead of the five match England vs Australia series. Here is a selection of other tasters from popular online sources.

PODCAST: The web is heavy with chat, as analysts put forward their trenchant views on four man bowling attacks and the wobbly Australian middle order – without fear, yet, of contradiction by actual facts. Cricinfo’s weekly podcast with the firm of Miller,McGlashan & Dutta is bouncy, opinionated and not too long. My pre-Ashes top pick, however, must be the Times’s pre tour discussion panel (3 x 20mins) which included such heavy weights as Michael Atherton, CMJ, Richard Hobson and the venerable John Woodcock, all good ‘voices’ with educated opinions. Woodcock (The Times cricket correspondent 1951-1988) is the star, thanks to his magnificent Edwardian tones and incomparable back catalogue of cricket tales (‘as Bradman once told me when we shared a taxi…’). Once the action is underway, Test Match Special’s end of day podcast with Jonathan Agnew and Geoff Boycott will be unmissable.

TWITTER: This is cricket’s new media of choice, thanks essentially to Kevin Pietersen’s twitter tantrum (twantrum?) after being dropped by England last August. KP’s output since then has all been Brylcream and adidas, but I will tune in if things go poorly for him Down Under. Instead, my top twitter recommendations would be a) Graeme Swann’s (Swannyg66), which is less frequent than KP’s (kevinpp24) but much funnier. And b) Agnew’s rather un-BBC musings and updates from the tour (Aggerscricket).

Where did it all go wrong?

Where did it all go wrong?

TV: Sky, of course. This is now available online live as well as via satellite services. The overall visuals and graphics are exemplary, but I find their commentary somewhat ponderous. Michael Holding is great in limited doses, but match him with Willis over a long wicketless spell and the sparks don’t fly.  Nasser is a terrific analyst but lacks the brevity and the bite of Simon Hughes. Botham is dull, as are Gower and Atherton. Together, there is an irksome pomposity about the output of the Sky commentary team, perfectly represented by their nauseating publicity poster. The Sky commentator we all want to listen to has to be HRH Shane Warne, preferably with Australian tottering at 95-6. I was amazed to read that Richie Benaud will be doing the Australian coverage for Channel 9. Lucky buggers. The value of non-Sky subscribers to the ECB is clear from the fact that with just one week to go, they hadn’t even decided where to place the Ashes free-to-air highlights package. ITV4 got it with 10pm slot, so too late for kids.

ONLINE VIDEO: Graeme Swann. What a theatrical lovey. He just cannot get enough camera time, as evidenced by his Ashes video blogs on the ghastly mess which is the ECB website. They are a bit patchy but the third one is hilarious. There is something about these productions which bug me…Oh yes, I remember. Isn’t Graeme Swann supposed to be a rather important cricketer? As in ‘The Man Who Can Win Us The Ashes’? Can’t all that Question of Strictly Celebrity Factor stuff be put on hold for a bit, please? As far as us fans are concerned, he has only one job this winter: taking 25+ wickets. For archive and nostalgia, the BBC’s Ashes TMS flashback is enormous fun.

WEBSITE: The old webpage now counts as traditional media. A browse through the Telegraph is uninspiring, as is the output of their correspondent Derek Pringle. The Guardian is enjoying a good phoney war, thanks to Steve Busfield’s minute-by-minute Ashes Update and the analysis of Duncan Fletcher. The BBC also go for the ‘real time’ Ashes coverage with their Ashes Countdown. The Times coverage (see podcast above) is voluminous and generally good quality but the new paywall is a huge obstacle. One unintended but  pleasant side effect is that their comments section is less blathery and more interesting, with regular posts by the columnists themselves. Cricinfo is good for reminding the Anglo Australian reader that there will be other cricket going on over next few months.

ASHES FREE ZONE: A salute to the Wisden Cricketer website, who’s front page glories in not one mention of the Ashes at all. A magnificent achievement, enhanced by an excellent article by Matthew Engel on cricket corruption in the sub-continent.

Young, Media Savvy and In Love With Cricket

In Uncategorized on April 1, 2010 at 2:07 pm

Rewind for a moment to the Saturday of the 1st Test between England and Bangladesh, 13 March, 2010.

I had to catch an early train, and caught up with the test score at 6am via my mobile phone on the overland section of the Hammersmith & City line. Despite the early hour, and the less than electrifying cricket as England progressed sedately to a declaration, BBC Sport’s Over-by-Over website was humming. Cricket fans from all over the planet were pinging in their thoughts.  You know the kind of thing: “What a welcome return for KP yesterday! Let’s hope for a double century for Captain Cook and a 600+ score?”

A couple of things struck me about the user generated content on the OBO report, enough to make me copy off all the text content from that session. This is a complete, un-edited list of where all the emails and text messages came from, in order:

Abu Dhabi, Somerset, Victoria (Australia?), north London, Wrexham, New York, England (“My family are from Bangladesh – I am an avid England cricket fan”), east London, Kuala Lumpur, Al Ain, Sussex, Bournemouth, somewhere near the Vietnam-Laos border, Spain, Niigata, Japan, and the Gulf of Mexico.

Planet Cricket

Pretty remarkable, no? Gotta love that ‘somewhere near the Vietnam-Laos border’. The mind boggles. Obviously, the audience is influenced by the time zone, but it’s still an extraordinary global spread which demonstrates how cricket fans – English and Bangladeshi -get about.

But there’s something else interesting about this vibrant virtual community. Take a look at a few of these comments:

“Having spent the last six hours writing a very boring essay (and going nowhere it seems!) I thought I’d take a break and send you guys an email!”

“Can’t believe I’m up at 5, to watch Ian Bell in Bangladesh. Am I that sad or just a cricket fan to the max?”

“I’m sure I’ve got this the wrong way round, I should be getting up for the cricket and not settling down for it as I’m getting home.”

Notice anything? About the tone, as well as the content? Obviously, the ‘writing a very boring essay’ is a bit of a giveaway. They just sound so young. They’re fresh, new media savvy, international, mobile, communicative, peppy and in love with cricket. Those who are striving to promote cricket in the UK should be kicking the door down to reach that market. Not one of these contributors act or sound like the English cricket county members who appear to be the ECB’s target market: they’re still waiting for the Sunday Telegraph to tell them score from Chittagong. Yes, I know that the governing body puts a lot into grass roots development as part of the Sky deal, and they sincerely would like to think that they’re building a new and youthful future for cricket in the UK. But by restricting its entire TV output to a costly satellite-based subscription service, and then diverting the lion’s share of that income to the counties – to satisfy over-aged county executives and an OAP membership – they are not doing young cricket fans any favours. In the meantime, this new cricket audience is pinging the BBC OBO and watching the IPL for free on YouTube.

Great innovation lacks stardust

In Uncategorized on March 29, 2010 at 7:10 pm

It’s still March, and the English cricket season is already up and running, thanks to the MCC. They have decided to shift the traditional season opener between the county champions (Durham) and the MCC to Abu Dhabi, UAE, in a day night game under floodlights and using a pink cricket ball.

Congratulations to the MCC for this imaginative innovation, especially the courageous decision to forsake the traditional season’s opener at Lords in London. By moving the game to the UAE, and bringing the match forward a few weeks, it has raised the profile of the contest significantly and helped get people in England thinking about the domestic season ahead.

That is why the MCC team selection for this match is such a huge disappointment.  Isn’t this supposed to be an all-star team of emerging talents? Won’t the MCC game give the England selectors something to think about? Not really, going on this line up:

MCC XI: Alex Gidman (capt), Scott Newman, David Sales, Dawid Malan, James Taylor, James Foster (wk), James Middlebrook, Tim Murtagh, Steve Kirby, Jon Lewis, Dean Cosker

James Taylor, the young player of the year, and the brilliant wicket keeper James Foster, plus the hard hitting Dawid Malan all stand out. But a  bowling attack of Cosker (Glamorgan, 32-years-old), Murtagh (Surrey, 28), Kirby (Lancs, 32) and Lewis (Glos, 34) does not spell ‘showtime’ to me. No wonder the BBC described this prestigious event as a ‘warm-up’. Ouch.

Clearly, the real all-stars are back-to-back champs Durham. Aside from the pink ball, it would be exciting to think that this game will best be remembered for the first class debut of Ben Stokes, Durham’s young all-rounder, batting at number six. The bowling and batting performance of Stokes at the ICC Under 19 World Cup in New Zealand  this winter (and yes, he is English) put this observer in mind of that big Lancastrian all-rounder chap…See any similarities?

http://iccu19worldcup.yahoo.net/gallery/videos/inen2101.html

The Analyst

In Uncategorized on March 25, 2010 at 9:23 am

I am a fan of the BBC’s Test Match Special podcasts. These are bit sized summaries of the day’s play (12-14mins), usually hosted by TMS mainstay Jonathan Agnew, working with a guest analyst. For the South Africa series, there was some entertainment in listening to Agnew try to control the robust and opinionated Geoffrey Boycott, who could be particularly loquacious at the end of a long, hot day.

The big names took a pass on the second half of the winter tour in Bangladesh, so the podcast baton was handed to Simon Mann. A new addition to the TMS team, Mann is a likeable and  professional host with a gentle but committed style. It’s his analyst, however, who was the real star: ex-Middlesex bowler Simon Hughes. Hughes is best known as the author of A Lot Of Hard Yakka (William Hill Sports Book of The Year 1997), and as the TV analyst for C4 during the Ashes and, latterly, his C5 test round ups. I remember one cricket convert telling me, back in 2005, that Hughes’ TV summaries were the main reason for him resuming his interest in the game. There was possibly an understandable feeling that virtually anyone associated with that glorious summer of 2005 was going to come up smelling of roses, but I think Hughes’ careful but vivid explanations really did contribute significantly to the overall feast. And what happened immediately after? The ECB signed a deal with Sky, ditching C4’s BAFTA and RDS award winning production team Sunset+Vine, Hughes included.

The former Middlesex bowler has since worked as a columnist for the Daily Telegraph as well as the C5 cricket highlights and the odd spot on TMS, but he continues to lack the profile he enjoyed 5 years ago. He wrote the book ‘Morning Everyone’ a disjointed trawl through the world of cricket journalism, which failed to thrill even those of us interested in the subject. The faintly embarrassing hagiography of Richie Benaud, which give the book its title, was hero worship without adding any particular perception or insight into the great man and his methods. By far the best bits were – surprise, surprise – his analysis of the 2005 Ashes themselves and how England won them. And yet this takes up barely a quarter of the book. Maybe some publishing boffin thought the market was too crowded and suggested a broader approach? Bad decision. Hughes was the perfect person to write the definitive text on the subject – a companion piece, maybe, to Duncan Fletcher’s necessarily self centered ‘Ashes Regained: The Coach’s Story’.

Anyway, back to the podcasts. It seems as if the pithy but trenchant10 minute test match summary is Hughes’ particular forte. His broadcasting manner is crisp with a touch of acid and a clear sense of detached objectivity: these England players are not his heroes. He is forthright, even snide, without any particular axe to grind or agenda to push. He can be open-minded and generous, but does not hesitate to stick the knife in where necessary. After the first test, Hughes used the podcasts to criticise – in his forensic style – England’s team selection for the match, urging the inclusion of a fifth bowler (Tredwell) at the expense of a batsman (Carberry) – which is exactly what the England management did for the second test. Of Bangladesh, he gave praise where it was due while remaining clear eyed about their limitations. Here are a few of his podcast extracts:

On Collingwood’s surprising dismissal for a duck against Bangladesh: “[Rubel Hossain] produced the perfect ball for Paul Collingwood, who has been Mr Consistent throughout the winter. He’s allowed a failure. He just got the one ball that had a bit of ‘essence of Waqar Younis’ about it.”

On Alastair Cook’s captaincy and his failure to contain the Bangladesh tail: “Dozy…Too many runs went down to third man, and there’s a simple reason for that. Against fast bowlers, tail enders are going to be late on the ball. because they’re not very good batsmen. They just don’t see the ball as early as a good player does, so naturally a lot of balls will end up going behind the wicket. OK, two or three balls down to third man is excusable. But not nine balls. Not 45 runs.”

On the pitch in Chittagong:

“It was a totally unsuitable surface for test cricket, which just broke the bowlers heart. You always want some kind of contest between bat and ball, and there wasn’t one at all. It was totally in favour of the bat.”

Here is a particular highlight from the 2009 Ashes: Andrew Flintoff’s run out of Ricky Ponting in the final test (“the speed was stunning and the aim was precise”).

For cricket fans, it would be great to see Hughes once more given a leading role in live TV coverage in the UK. Sky do a decent enough job on test cricket, but they still lack the best match analyst in the business.

The Ashes on TV: The Three Fifths Solution

In Uncategorized on March 23, 2010 at 1:25 pm

This Is What Compromise Looks Like:

Three Fifths: this is what compromise looks like

The ECB, the ruling body of cricket in England and Wales, has released a somewhat overwrought, not to say hysterical, statement concerning the disaster that will befall English cricket if the government interferes with its lucrative Sky Sports contract.

According to the ECB, the loss of the Sky deal could cost them £137m. And that if that happens, it will lead to a ‘mass exodus of players from the international game’ and the ‘collapse in the entire fabric of cricket…from the playground to the Test match arena.’

Come on chaps, pull yourselves together. The current TV deal lasts until 2013, so the £137m figure is – to say the least – questionable because it is based on a future, post-2013 deal which has yet to be offered and accepted. It also assumes that without Sky money, there would be nothing whatsoever to replace it, which is simply incorrect. BSkyB are not paying huge sums into the ECB coffers to satisfy their keen desire to develop women’s cricket in England. They are not in it for the ‘grass roots’. There is value in English cricket even without Sky, and the ECB should have more faith in its own product.

The Ashes: Our Crown Jewels

Check out what our American cousins are doing with the highly successful MLB.tv, and compare with the ECB’s TV site. Note that MLB.tv is owned and operated by the sport’s governing body.

The issue for the government, and many cricket lovers, is the exclusivity of the BSkyB deal, preventing as it does a repeat of the 2005 dream scenario when a nation enchanted by cricket sat down to watch the game in their millions. In 2005, a peak of  9 million people watched the Ashes on C4. For the Ashes in 2009, shown exclusively on Sky Sports, the peak was nearer 2m. That is a huge discrepancy and one which the Government wants to address. Driving the reform is a desire for cheap TV for all – the ‘crown jewels’ theory that test cricket belongs to the nation – as well as the more reasonable belief that a sport which is severely restricting its own exposure for short term gain is following a false strategy [*]. Cricket in England is not so robust it can shrug off the loss of several million TV viewers.

May I suggest a sensible compromise? I call it the three fifths solution, and this is how it works: BSkyB acts as host broadcaster for the five match Ashes series, with the obligation that the first two tests of the Ashes are made available for simultaneous broadcast to the highest bidding free-to-air channel. A reasonable reserve price should be set for this auction.

This solution satisfies the public service remit (the ‘missing millions’ who did not watch the 2009 Ashes) allowing the non-Sky subscribers a full 10 days of high quality and dramatic action on free-to-air TV to promote interest and participation in the game. This stimulous would be all the more effective for coming earlier in the summer season: June/July rather than September. The BSkyB package would therefore be reduced, but with the important benefit of retaining exclusivity for the significant majority of the competiton (three fifths), not to mention the ‘business end’ of the Ashes series: they would get the ‘decider’, which, for the last two Ashes, has been the final test at the Oval. BSkyB would also enjoy the added advantage of the terrestrial, free-to-air product effectively advertising BSkyB’s exclusive coverage of the remaining three tests. Imagine the effect the 2005 Egdbaston test would have had on demand for Sky subscriptions leading into the final three tests of the series: available exclusively on Sky. Ditto Lord’s 2009.

The three fifths solution gives BSkyB precious, exclusive content they would be happy to pay for, with any potential shortfall in income to the ECB made up by (significantly) increased sponsorship & advertising generated by larger viewing figures for the free-to-air product.

[*] Take the IPL 2010 on YouTube. Was this a deal whose goal was to increase the revenue of the IPL? Or was it a deal to use the broad reach of YouTube to reach a new audience and boost the international profile of the IPL brand, based on a strategy to establish the IPL as the world’s dominant T20 competition?

Thoughts on IPL 2010 on YouTube

In Uncategorized on March 22, 2010 at 1:26 pm

A daily fix of T20 cricket from the best big hitters and death bowlers in the world is going to prove seductive to any cricket fan.

Here are some thoughts: The YouTube image has pretty poor resolution. You can’t read the graphics. This is because YouTube, despite their enormous profile, have a particularly low res player which is not ideal for live streaming. The TV show and the players are billboards for some remarkably ugly overbranding, with logos & patches everywhere. Altogether, this smudge of different names ends up making the IPL and their backers look cheap and sloppy. The pyjama kits also need a rethink appropriate for a new but already powerful feature of the international sporting calendar. The marketing and TV production team behind the IPL could learn a lot from the UEFA Champions League coverage, where enormous care is given to the presentation of the four main competition sponsors, with integrated graphics and advertising. It makes for a better product for the viewer, and better value for money for the sponsors.

What a mess: IPL 2010 team logos

The IPL use pitchside cheerleaders to applaud wickets, fours and sixes. They do not film them very close up, which seems to defeat the point, no? It’s like the camera keeps a respectful distance, which is odd. Whatever, the cheerleader thing is a tired gimmick which seems a bit dated. And they’re not even dancers with proper routines. They just giggle about and wave their pom-poms. Also, these girls are not Indian, so presumably they are flown in for the purpose – which is a bit creepy, don’t you think? We’re told that the IPL makes huge profits, and two new franchises were recently sold at auction for a combined total of $803m. As Dolly Parton said: “it takes a lot of money to look this cheap”.

I just love the T20 format, and I like to see the ball smashed out of the ground as much as the next fan. There is little in sport to match a lustily struck six over long on. But as a format, T20 suffers from the fact that an early batting collapse, particularly in the first innings, totally kills the game. So when the Declan Chargers lost early wickets and then collapsed to 92 all out again Bangalore, it was pretty clear after just 10 overs what the likely outcome would be. Jacques Kallis and 20 yr old MK Pandey, under no pressure, knocked off the runs without incident. Impressive, but boring. I’m not sure there’s a solution to that, but it strikes me that while I’ve seen some fine batting and bowling, I’ve yet to see a close finnish.

Finally, Tendulkar is a genius in form: catch him if you can.

Sachin Tendulkar of the Mumbai Indians