Technically Speaking, it's not 'just' Cricket!

Published: Friday, July 27, 2007, 23:53 [IST]
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If you are the kind of cricket lover, who likes to playback old matches and relive moments of some of the cricketing greats of yester year, then the two camera coverage of cricket is something that you will be able to identify with. Ofcourse, that is a far cry from the present 30 cameras and more coverage of the same game. We live in the technological age, where we take for granted, things that we never even dreamt of that we could ever do.

The first live television broadcast of a cricket match happened almost 70 years ago! Thats right, as long ago as that. It happened in the June of 1938, in London, where after a successful broadcast of a live football match and the boat race previously that year, the test at Lords would be the next in line to get the live telecast benefit. All five days of the Test were telecast live and later in the summer, another match was televised from The Oval, where the great Len Hutton scored his record-breaking 364.

Radio has it's charm, but television with the visuals speaking much louder than words, just had to be the preferred medium where sports is concerned. Think about it, in radio, you can just keep improvising with microphones and better frequencies but with television, you go from a double camera coverage to 30 and more and within that you can innovate on a number of counts.

For almost 30 years, the TV viewer had to rely on seeing cricket action just once, for action replays did not exist till about the 1960's. Now of course, we get replays from various angles and they are not only slow motion, they are super slow mo and even ultra motion where action is shown at a 1000 frames per second. Needless to say that high-end cameras are used to produce the finest quality of pictures, making watching cricket an absolute delight. Another interesting observation is the fact that cricket action was covered from one perspective only for as many as 4 decades. For instance, as a viewer you could see all the action only from the pavilion end angle. But all that changed and one could see an all-round view of the game.

The innovations in cricket coverage improved with passing years, from the introduction of action replays to actually watching matches in colour, and with 'pyjama' cricket being introduced, you can imagine the visual feast. With the Kerry Packer age of cricket, came the additions of onscreen graphics, which were earlier just typed out scorecards, that would appear in between overs! Animation and characters such as the sad duck that used to shed that awesome tear and waddle off, were soon elements that the viewer could identify with. Cricket had surely become an entertaining television display.

The drama on field became larger than life and with the introduction of stump microphones, soon all the verbal interactions from the middle of the pitch became audible to viewers worldwide. This just added to the overall appeal in television broadcast. From stump 'mics', to stump cameras, cricket coverage was going from the basic to the complex to the positively dynamic and cricket lovers lapped it all up.

Other aids that were added to the telecast were snick-o- meters, to denote if the bat had nicked the ball, or the speed gun, that measures the raw pace of a fast bowler. The run out cameras, to show viewers even more clearly whether the batsman had grounded his bat before being run out, the zoomer, that zooms in on the ball to show whether the fielder had grounded the ball. Hawkeye, a ball tracking visual simulation, is one of the latest and most talked about novelties that have been introduced to the coverage. This device aids the commentators and shows viewers a number of aspects of the ongoing game. Bowlers 'overs' are recreated with balls bowled being animated. There are pitch maps that are drawn up to gauge the line and length of the balls bowled and wagon wheels are testimony to the batting prowess of the batsmen. This system has a lot more to offer but the trajectory of the ball is the main principle that it works on and therefore leg before decisions are often seen from Hawkeyes point of view. Add to this some fresh never used before camera angles and what you get is unbelievable cricket, on television.

Visually all this cannot be wrong and for the cricket lover, the more the changes the more acceptable, but the debate arises when human error meets technology. The International Cricket Council, decided that contentious decisions that involves the umpire should be referred to the third umpire or TV umpire, so that justice was done to the batsman. Surely this move would make cricket more precise and the element of human error that much more minimized.

But in cases like this, how often should one be allowed to refer to the third umpire? Does this minimize the ground umpires role largely? The challenge of umpiring does lie in giving decisions instantly and correctly and therefore they are the umpires of the game with whom lies the final decision. Is it wrong then that technology helps in bettering the game, but minimizes the role of the umpire? There will be varying thoughts on this, but one can say that a good umpire will test himself and not refer to the third umpire in most cases. But when in total doubt, given the aid of technology, perhaps referring to the TV umpire should be taken as a positive!

All said and done with technology, the game of cricket has received a huge boost. For the television viewer, watching a game of cricket, whatever be the format one dayers or tests, will always be a visual delight. For the cricketer, with computer technology and video recordings, the chance to better one's game gets enhanced. As for the umpires, well they just have to go with their gut feeling on most occasions and for that really contentious decision, theres always the third umpire to refer to.

With time, there will be more innovations that we can only imagine. But we know that the time now is not to ask why? But to think big, think out of the ordinary and ask why not?.


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