I have often thought about the concept of cricket in cyberspace. That is, the internet allows me to follow cricket in so many ways that were previously unavailable. In the old days, we were reliant television, radio and newspaper. But that limited a person to cricket involving their native land, and in more recent times, required one to have pay TV as less and less cricket was made available on free-to-air radio and TV. As I said, I have been aware of the bounty on offer on the world wide web for quite some time but due to a certain event, have only recently started to make use of it.
That event was I became sick of my household using our monthly download allowance before the end of the month. I called my provider and selected a plan offering a capacity that I could never hope to use in one month. For now. This presented the challenge of trying to get value for money and using as much of the allowance as possible.
My first endeavours in this area were to watch streamed, live coverage of the Australia versus India Test series in India. Please don’t tell anyone because I am sure that I consumed an illegal product, but I watched a lot of that series and enjoyed it immensely. But then that was over.
I have never been a big Youtube user but it occurred to me that every bit of TV ever screened has been uploaded by some enthusiast or other. This theory held true for cricket. More than I could have hoped for.
I started by thinking of events that I had never seen, that I have wanted to see. For example, I decided to watch Michael Clarke take 6-9 on his first, rollicking tour of India. Naturally, I held true to the new age of instant gratification and only watched that. I didn’t bother to watch the ensuing collapse as Australia failed to score the 106 runs required for victory in that same match.
Then I watched highlights of the 1999 world cup semi final between South Africa and Australia. The tie. I watched only highlights of the second innings and what a match. Surely the best one day match ever. I did actually watch that one live but the match was so exciting that I got tense all over again, watching it on Youtube, 14 years later.
Aside from getting side tracked by all of those suggested videos down the right hand side (e.g. 8 impossible short leg catches, Malinga 4 wickets in 4 balls, the 10 best catches ever etc), I decided to watch some close finishes that I had never seen. In my living memory, I could recall Australia having lost by one wicket on three occasions and on all of those occasions, they had chances to win – but I had never seen those missed chances, nor the final stages of those matches.
The first I looked at was Australia versus India in Mohali, October 2010. India won by one wicket on the back of a big eight wicket partnership. While on the subject of technology, I remember following the final stage of that match, walking home from the station with my daughter and we were following the Cricinfo ball-by-ball commentary on her phone! Anyway, it got to nine wickets down with a handful of runs to go. Wouldn’t you know it, there was a big appeal for lbw which even the Cricinfo scribe thought was out and Billy Bowden gave it not out. I wanted to see that.
With the wonders of Youtube, I did see it. And there it was. Billy denied Ponting what would have been his only Test win in India and as it turned out, his last away win as captain. Hawkeye showed that the ball would have hit middle, half way up. It was stone cold out. But at least we found out why Billy gave it not out. In the confusion and excitement of the moment, the batsman (Ojha) came down the pitch. Steve Smith swooped in, collected and threw at the stumps. Had he hit, Ojha would have been run out. But he didn’t and it went for four overthrows, which were given to Ojha. Billy ruled that the batsman had hit the ball but replays showed he didn’t. To my mind, Billy Bowden has been a notorious non-giver of lbws and for that reason alone, I supported the direct referral system (DRS).
I also watched the conclusion of the Pakistan versus Australia Test at Karachi in September 1994. That was Tubby Taylor’s first Test as captain. He made a pair but nonetheless, Australia was in a good position to win. But Pakistan managed an unbeaten 57 run partnership for the final wicket. In a true climax, Warne bowled to Inzamam-ul-Haq. Inzi came down the pitch and was comprehensively beaten. As was Healy who missed the stumping as the ball grazed the stumps. The ball went for four byes and the match was over! I heard that Healy was distraught at losing the match for Australia, but on finally seeing that dramatic moment, it was a very difficult chance and quite forgivable.
And finally, West Indies versus Australia in the third Test in 1999. Lara scored an unbeaten 153 to lead his side to victory by one wicket. However, with the West Indies almost at their target, and still two wickets in hand, Lara edged to Healy, who dropped a sharp chance in front of first slip. The ninth wicket did fall in the next over and had Healy taken the chance from Lara, Australia most likely would have won. I was glad to see all of that and much more from “the vault”, as we might call it.
And finally, surfing in Cyberspace has the potential to educate egocentric perspectives. For the many Australians who have dined on a diet of parochial local commentary, and until recently, enjoyed a lengthy period of domination for their team, they might be excused for thinking that the world of cricket was Australia’s oyster. It has been eye opening to see that Australian cricketers are much maligned. Videos abound that are titled things such as “Cheating Aussies”, “Ponting caught cheating again” and “Sunil Gavaskar serves it up to cheating Aussies”. You can’t inadvertently claim a catch from a bump ball and go unnoticed!
And in the same vein but on a more civilized note, I watched highlights of the 2005 Ashes series. These were excellent and were prepared for British TV. They say that the victors write history! It was ironic to see the anchor man for the Australian cricket channel, Mark Nicholas, showing his true colours for the British channel. As I said, the highlights package was excellent, even allowing for the abrasive Simon Hughes and it was comforting to see the Brits are every but as parochial as the Aussies. It was great to hear things from the English perspective. Australia may have ultimately lost by just two runs at Edgbaston but it was amusing to hear desperate Pommies recounting the ordeal as Australia inexplicably closed in on the target. I’m off now to watch some more footage from the Youtube archives.