“You can stick with your original decision, you’re on screen now.” Met, we can only assume, with a sigh of relief from the on-field umpire, this utterance from the third umpire signals an unsuccessful review.
It’s one of myriad sounds I savour from November through to early March annually.
The sounds of summer – while no longer containing the familiar and comforting tone of Richie Benaud, or playful agitation between Bill Lawry and Tony Greig, all so aptly recreated by Billy Birmingham – are captured and distributed to millions of living rooms across the country.
While the pinnacle of cricket coverage, for me at least, is ABC Grandstand, with the informed voices of Jim Maxwell and Harsha Bhogle, as well as the addition of Chris Rogers for the most recent Australian summer, we oftentimes resort to Channel Nine because we want pictures. We want to see the action.
And despite its flaws – the chronicles of Spider Cam, and the introduction of ‘Pitch Scan’ (which, needless to say, pales in comparison to the old-fashioned key test) – annually, we watch. Free coverage of the game we love, how could we not?
With cricket’s status within Australia often seen as a source of concern for those in high places, efforts to improve its coverage and to bring the crowds back have been concentrated in the form of day-night Test matches.
They have been an irrefutable success, with the highest viewer ratings over the last two summers being for the two day-night matches at the Adelaide Oval, as well as at the Gabba.
It is the perfect time slot, and don’t the commentators love to remind us of how much of a raging success it is – all the while failing to give a quality insight to the happenings of the match, of course.
It is a shame, therefore, for both those covering the cricket and those of us who want to watch it, that at the moment, an incredible opportunity is being missed.
The hours of play for the Test series in India coincide almost exactly with those we would use here in Australia for day-night Test cricket, the optimum viewing times for the majority of the Australian public.
As it happens though, only a minority – those with pay TV – can enjoy it.
I understand the value of TV rights, and that my argument stems from nothing more than an unceasing desire to watch cricket, and a frustration that it must come at a cost, but it seems a shame that many among a cricket-supporting nation are missing out on a most enthralling series, full of fire, spite and heated competition.
It just isn’t the same catching up through media reports and delayed video highlights, and those who would broadcast the game on free-to-air, let alone the people responsible for its promotion, have let a fantastic opportunity go begging.