My Dad was a great cricket fan. I’m sure he expected me to be good enough to turn professional, and one day play for England. I made a bad start by insisting I had to hold the bat left-handed, even though I am normally right-handed. And at the age of six, I lacked the hand-to-eye co-ordination of a competent player, so my Dad quickly gave up trying to teach me, and went back to gluing himself to the radio to listen to Test Matches.
Later, in school, I discovered the game wasn’t played with a tennis ball. Well; we’d used a tennis ball on Sunday picnics, so I assumed a real cricket ball was something similar. Nope. It’s more like a rock, and it gets hurled at you at about 140kph. Usually it bounces just in front of you, and if you don’t hit it with the bat, it hits you. It can hurt. Especially if it finds a tender part of your body. Although, most sensitive areas are well protected if you play seriously. But not protected at all if you play with your mates in the local park!
Anyways, I eventually developed an interest in the sport, even though I was quite sure I never again wanted to see one of those red rocks heading straight at my head.
But the game has changed over the sixty-or-so years I’ve experienced it. I suppose a five day Test Match is not so different. Two sides get two innings each and it usually lasts, well, five days. Sometimes one side wins. The players are now allowed more protective padding, and they wear helmets with face protectors. How sensible is that?
But now we have One Day Internationals, better known as ODIs. Something like a Test Match but with limited overs. And an even newer invention is Twenty20, or is it 20Twenty? No, that looks wrong. It’s the former. These can be exciting, so long as you are not a purist, and you don’t insist that it’s “just not cricket, old chap.” Each side gets only one innings of twenty overs. Other strange rules apply, but the general idea is to smack as many runs as possible in just 120 balls.
In some ways it’s more like baseball. The pace is fast and furious. Fancy uniforms. Loud music between the overs. The teams sit in a dugout. Informative on-screen graphics. Players hugging!!! They play at night, with floodlights. And, quelle horreur, they even have cheerleaders! As a result, it’s fun. And why shouldn’t cricket be fun? Somehow I don’t think my Dad would have approved.
Mostly though, I wanted to comment on the difference in how the game is watched. When I was a lad, there was only one way to watch… go to a match and watch it live. We didn’t have television, and even if we had, those things called “outside broadcasts” – in other words, live television – were rare. So, my Dad listened to the radio.
This was in the era when “portable radios” had only recently come into common use. And they were about as pleasant to carry as the early “portable computers.” “Luggable” was a better word. But there was a reason for this…
The transistor hadn’t been invented. Or, if it had, it wasn’t in mass production, and it certainly wasn’t in use in radios. They had valves, or vacuum tubes, if you prefer. And these things needed electricity, lots of it. The vacuum tube portable radio needed two batteries. One was a large and heavy multi-celled affair that produced 90 volts. That’s why the radio was so darned heavy. And, the batteries, which were not rechargeable, didn’t last long.
I just checked Wikipedia and learned that although the transistor was first demonstrated in 1947, it took a long time to get them into mass production due to the high manufacturing cost. That, and the fact that until the technique was perfected, only one in five made actually worked!
So, on the two summer Sundays that the sun actually shone in England, my Dad would lug his trusty portable into the garden and laze the day away listening to a Test Match. That is, until the battery died. At which point, everyone in the neighborhood would be made aware of the problem.
How times have changed! I recently discovered an iPad app called “Universal TV.” Amongst the dozens of available live channels, I can watch Eurosport. That means I can watch cricket. Live, and in High Definition. And I do.
India is currently hosting the Champions League Twenty20. All the matches are live on Eurosport. Because the games are short, most nights there’s two matches. The second is shown quite late in Malaysia, so I can watch it lying in bed.
So, in sixty years, we’ve gone from listening to live broadcasts on a box the size and weight of six bricks, to watching live on a wafer-thin tablet.
What would my Dad have made of that?