Cricket on the Telly

Just a short while ago, it was nearly impossible to watch cricket live and legally in the United States. We were forced to watch dodgy pirated streams, or highlights on YouTube, or follow the ball by ball on Cricinfo.

Oh my how much has changed.

Which is why a year or so ago I started the World Cricket Internet Schedule for US Viewers. It is exactly what it says it is: a guide as to which matches are going to be streamed legally on the Internet, where to watch them, and when (all times eastern) – specifically for those of us living in the States. And tonight I took the time to update the schedule for the entire summer, from the Tri-Nation series in the West Indies that starts this week through to the end of the Ashes – (I have yet to add the England vs Australia one-dayers, but I will get them up there soon.)

And there is a lot coming up. In fact, there will be International Cricket live and legal online for 37 of the next 60 days. That’s right, nearly two thirds of your summer could spent doing nothing but watching cricket. Sounds alright to me…

The tournaments include:

– The aforementioned Tri-Nation (West Indies, Sri Lanka, and India) series in the Caribbean
– South Africa in Sri Lanka
– India in Zimbabwe
– The Ashes

ESPN3.com will be showing the first two series, and they have really picked it up with regard to broadcasting cricket – so it must be working for them, which is great news for us fans.

Some other notes regarding the guide:

– If you are planning to take a vacation and don’t want to miss anything, the longest gap between matches is August 14th through August 20th
– Ireland has a packed International calendar – and Cricket Ireland might very well stream some of their matches online – I will get them added as I find out
– As with everything else in life, the guide is subject to change

Do check it out – and cheers!

Cricket eh?

Yesterday, during the Champions Trophy final, I received this tweet:

I am taking him out of context, as were discussing ESPN’s decision not to put the final of the Champions Trophy on television, just online, but I think his point still stands: most cricket fans (far more than 42% surely), even the most ardent ones, think cricket is a joke, a parody of itself, and yes, a laughingstock.

We all love to hate cricket. Love to poke fun at it. Love to feel all sheepish when we tell people we are cricket fans.

Yesterday was no exception.

The tournament itself was a meaningless ICC cash grab, the organizers refused to put a reserve day in the schedule so the final HAD to happen on Sunday, the match was shortened to a 20/20 but with ODI rules, and the rain turned the entire game into a farce.

But.

It was a great day for cricket.

Gary Naylor said it best:

That is something we all tend to forget: it’s a great game.

Sure there are days when we all, myself included, want to call it quits as cricket supporters. The spot fixing scandals, the corruption at every level, the seemingly endless parade of meaningless and morally bankrupt T20 tournaments…

But at the end of the day, we are here for a reason: because it’s a great game. Every format brings something different to the table and has the capability to thrill and entertain.

Once the rain delays finally subsided yesterday, I found myself permanently glued to my computer screen. The game is just simply great entertainment from start to finish. Even when everything including mother nature was conspiring against yesterday’s final, it still delivered.

But maybe cricket is great to watch not in spite of the fact that it tries so hard to make us hate it, but because of that fact. Cricket is a coldhearted lover that we keep running back to. Because we think we can change them. Settle them down. Make them love us back with as much passion as we love them.

One more chance, this time it’ll be different.

Or maybe not.

Maybe the game has existed for all these years, in all these formats, on all these continents for one simple reason: it’s a great game.

Sometimes we all need to take a step back and remember while we are all here in the first place. For me, yesterday was one of those times – and I hope it was for you, too.

*

One thing I did learn yesterday, was that Indian cricket supporters have their convictions, and they stand by them no matter the outcome. I knew that already to an extent but when I tweeted that India would now forgive Dhoni and Ishant after the Morgan wicket, the response was fast and furious to the contrary:

screenshot 1

I tend to forgive the athletes on the teams I support rather quickly, but Indian cricket supporters do not. It speaks highly of their passion for the game and their team. A passion I both respect and admire.

As @fwildecricket put it yesterday, it was great to see India win, as they are “(t)he beating heart of world cricket.

I could not agree more.

Congrats to India and their supporters. And congrats to all of cricket. A great day.

A Good Day for Cricket?

On Thursday night, I watched Game 7 of the NBA Finals – well, I watched the second half anyway – and this morning I am watching the Final of the ICC Champions Trophy.

I am not going to compare and contrast the two sports – they are so diametrically different that that would be a silly and churlish exercise. Like comparing Beethoven to Katy Perry.

But I want to make a note about the fans at each game. First: the NBA.

It was Game Seven of the Finals: the Miami Heat, who for really ridiculous reasons are the NBA’s most hated franchise, against the San Antonio Spurs, who became the darling of all the neutral fans mostly because they were not the Miami Heat.

All of that added a real flavor to the game, and plus it was game seven, one of the greatest events in sport, and it was the Finals, and it was Lebron, the greatest player of his generation.

But, the fans in Miami, like all fans in the NBA, still needed to be told when to cheer. Like sheep being herded into a pen.

I mean, when your team is up by four with three minutes to play and the other team has the ball, you shouldn’t need urging from the PA Announcer and the electronic scoreboard to chant “DEE! FENSE! DEE! FENSE!”.

But NBA fans do, for some reason, and I think that is just plain dumb.

And some might say that the Miami Heat are the exception, that they have really terrible fans, and while that might be true, every NBA team prompts their fans to cheer certain ways at certain moments. The same is true in baseball, and gridiron football.

It takes all of the rock n’ roll out of sport. All of the spontaneity. And, I dare say, a great deal of the fun. It turns the fans from a living, breathing part of the game, into a group of corporate automatons.

My American friends often ask me “why cricket?” – and while the answer changes daily, today the answer is: because cricket fans don’t need to be told when to cheer and when not to.

All of that said, it was a cracking game. If the NBA was always that entertaining it would be bigger than the NFL and the Premier League combined.

*

Watching the Champions Trophy this morning and I have to give credit to the fans: Edgbaston has a party-like atmosphere, despite all of the rain and start/stop nature of the game. They have been patient, engaged, and loud.

And also: 90% Indian.

When the USA Men’s Soccer team plays a home match against Mexico, or a Central or South American squad, the crowds are decidedly for their opponents – unless the game is in the northern half of the country.

But that is expected, because soccer is not that big of a deal in America, and we have a large immigrant population. But cricket was invented in England, and while they also have a large immigrant population, it does not change the fact that the game is no longer England’s…it is India’s. And the makeup of the crowd today in Birmingham is emblematic of that fact.

The future of the game lies in Southeast Asia, and not in Northwest England.

But today is today, the future is not here quite yet, and England is having a real go at India’s top order, and this might just be their day.

England beating India in a limited overs tournament final, in England, in front of decidedly Indian contingent, shows how healthy the sport really is.

**UPDATE** Of course, India ended up winning in thrilling fashion, so the sentence should read: India beating England, in England…etc.

And that’s not even mentioning that the match is being broadcast live and legal on ESPN3 here in the USA.

Despite everything, and I know most of you will disagree: it’s been a good day for cricket.

America, Infinity, and British Baseball Announcers

America

I love America.

And not in the ultra-nationalist, “AMERICA FUCK YEAH” sense – but in the “grand experiment”, utopian sense. When I bike by a park in the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis on a summer’s evening, and it is full of people of every shape, size, color, and creed, playing soccer, softball, lacrosse, horseshoes, and chess: that is when I love America. That is when I am proud to be an American.

And, so, last weekend, as I was walking the dog, I noticed kids playing cricket in the park down the street from my house, and I was in love with America; I was proud to be an American.

Of course, that sounds silly, and of course America, and especially Minnesota, has serious segregation issues. It was not a rainbow of humanity playing cricket on Saturday, in other words.

But my point stands, as cricket slowly but surely inches its way into the average American’s consciousness, I fall a little bit in more in love with my country.

Cricket becoming popular in America is what America is all about.

Children of Asian immigrants playing cricket on a baseball diamond in the Midwest United States is what America is all about.

The next step is for children of all backgrounds to join them; that’s when my heart will really swell.

*

Infinity

I have been greatly enjoying the Champions Trophy.

There is a part of international cricket that I have a hard time wrapping my brain around: the infinity of it all. Tours and tests and round and round with no clear season or winner or ending. I think my inability to comprehend it or for my brain to find sense in it springs from the fact that I am an American and that I came to the sport late in life. But tournaments such as the one taking place in England and Wales this summer are the opposite of forever: a short period of time, a clear winner, and most importantly: an ending.

It is a nice antidote to the literally endless international schedule.

Also, the tournament itself, despite being a wasteful ICC money grab, has been a great success. Thrilling matches, great individual performances, packed houses, and the final everyone wanted: India vs England.

Well, that was the final I wanted.

*

British Baseball Announcers

This is worth your time if you have not seen it already. Downright hilarious; especially for those that follow both baseball and cricket:

Cricinfo’s Minnesota Roots

Short post tonight, but if you have not done so already, be sure to listen to (or read) The Cricket Couch‘s fascinating interview with Rohan Chandran, one of the founding members of Cricinfo.

I found the interview especially interesting because I learned that Cricinfo has very strong and clear Minnesota roots. Back in early 1993, when the site was not a website at all but a glorified Internet Relay Chat (IRC), University of Minnesota students Neeran Karnik and Simon King were integral members of the core group of amateur coders, mechanical engineers, and just general cricket nuts throughout the world who used IRC as a way to “broadcast” cricket scores to fans around the globe via the Internet – and their work eventually morphed into the Cricinfo website we all know today.

In fact, many Internet and cricket historians credit Simon King as the true “founder” of the site for his development of the #Cricinfo IRC bot in the spring of 1993. 

And finally, one very key moment in Cricinfo’s development was its move from IRC to Gopher – one of the very first web browsers – which was of course invented by a team from the UofM. And Chandran gives clear credit to Neeran Karnik for setting the site up on Gopher.

I urge you to go listen to the podcast or read the transcript – it is really fascinating stuff.

For more on Simon King, I recommend Cricinfo’s 20th anniversary timeline.

And finally, cheers, as always, to The Cricket Couch for always providing us with such amazing content.

**

Update: More great information from Rohan Chandran’s blog. Also both Chandran and Neeran Karnik are on Twitter.

Remarkably, despite the fact that both Karnik and King were at the University of Minnesota at the same time, the two never met in person.

**

Update #2: Be sure to check out Neeran’s comment below for even more of the Cricinfo backstory.

Cricinfo

Cricinfo is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary.

It is truly remarkable, considering the state of the Internet in 1993 compared to the state of the Internet in 2013, that the site has not only endured, but thrived.

Sambit Bal wrote a lovely tribute to the site that I cannot recommend enough. He says it better than I can:

In the sands of human history two decades are no more than a speck, but it is the sum of life for the World Wide Web. The internet has been around in some form or the other since the early 1980s, but websites as we know them didn’t come around till about 1993, by when, incredibly, Cricinfo existed. Before Twitter, before Facebook, before Google, before Hotmail and Yahoo, before iPhones and BlackBerries, and even before proper web browsers, there was Cricinfo.

Familiarity dulls our sense of wonder and we are prone to take for granted things that become part of our daily routine. But consider this. Before Cricinfo, the only way to find out what was happening in the game from a non-cricket part of the world was to put in an expensive international call. I have a friend who had his mother in Delhi post to the US newspaper clippings of each day’s report after every Test. She once forgot to include the last day’s report, which left him tormented for days.

As Simon King, who led a bunch of cricket samaritans in shaping and nurturing Cricinfo through the early years said: before Cricinfo, it was the dark ages.

The site is entirely integral to the sport. And while there are both positive and negative things one could say about its stranglehold on Internet based cricket reporting, I honestly believe that Cricinfo saved cricket.

Not Sky Sports, not Sachin Tendulkar, not the Twenty20.

It was Cricinfo, all along, that kept the game alive through some of the darkest decades the sport had ever experienced, and now that the sport is entering a new golden age (my opinion) it has Cricinfo, and ESPN by extension, to thank.

And speaking on a personal level: I am not a cricket fan today if Cricinfo does not exist.

Fact.

And I would bet that many of my fellow American born cricket supporters, and continental European cricket supporters, and other cricket fans from the sport’s backwaters are also not fans if Cricinfo does not exist.

Furthermore, the Asian Indian ex-pat community, as Sambit states above, relies entirely on Cricinfo to stay in touch with the sport they left behind. There are 2.8 million Asian Indians in the USA right now – would they still be cricket fans without Cricinfo? Or would they have moved on to baseball, or soccer. Tough to tell, of course, but you have to at least give Cricinfo some credit for keeping them hooked.

(And that is a bit of a chicken or the egg situation: Are Asian Indians ex-pats the world world over still cricket fans because of Cricinfo? Or is Cricinfo’s status in the sport due to the fact that there are tens of millions of Asian Indian ex-pats? Probably a bit of both).

*

And so, like I said, I really do not have a lot to add here. I do urge everyone to check out Cricinfo’s anniversary coverage. It really is fascinating. There is a great story on what it was like to do ball-by-ball commentary during the 1996 World Cup.

And while some have issues with the site, and while some might think that its status constitutes a monopoly and is bad for the game, I think the site is just brilliant, from top to bottom. Not infallible, of course, but I love that our game has one space for us all to conger, unlike football or basketball. I think we fans are extremely lucky to have Cricinfo – shoot, I think cricket overall is extremely lucky to have Cricinfo.

I also believe that this thriving and wonderful blogging community that we all enjoy is also extremely lucky to have Cricinfo: not just for the story ideas and the match reports and Statsguru: but I think its monopoly in a lot of ways created our underground cricket writing community. And I think we can all agree that that is something to be thankful for.

And so, thank you Cricfino writers, editors, and code jockeys. Thank you Walt Disney and Wisden and ESPN. Thanks to the poor souls that have to sell their advertising space. Thanks to accountants and office managers and assistants. Thanks to everyone involved.

Happy birthday and here’s to another 20 years! Mazel tov!

America and Cricket

Most of you have probably seen the latest “article” from BuzzFeed: Why The USA Needs To Give In And Embrace Cricket.

A synopsis of their reasons:

1. The games aren’t as long as most think
2. The players don’t always wear white – in fact sometimes they wear PINK
3. It’s similar enough to baseball
4. It’s hard
5. Players have to pay attention or they might get hit in the face (with the ball)
6. There’s trash talk
7. The fielding positions have funny names
8. Fans dress fashionably but also sometimes they wear costumes
9. There is beer
10. Sometimes it rains (?)
11. Hardly any countries play it so America could dominate (Paging, Peter Della Penna. Peter Della Penna to the front desk.)
12. Alastair Cook is super hot
13. Lily Allen likes cricket
14. Benedict Cumberbatch likes cricket
15. The princes like cricket
16. Doctor Who likes cricket
17. And you can play it whilst eating a sandwich

*

Yes, I know, it’s all meant tongue firmly in cheek, but some of those reasons are quite valid, and my list of reasons why Americans would love cricket, while shorter, was at least kind of similar:

1. The Two Chucks (what happened to those guys anyway?)
2. The blogging community
3. Lasith Malinga
4. Twenty20s
5. There’s beer
6. The fancy dress

Of course, with the exception of number three, those are all things that happen off the pitch, but here is an open letter to American Sports Fans explaining what they are missing out on by ignoring what’s happening on the pitch:

The game lasted five days. There were over 2,700 balls delivered. And yet somehow, despite all logic to the contrary, the game was not decided until the final ball was delivered…

It’s a great game, America.

Trust me. Trust BuzzFeed.

It’s time.

Join us.