Today’s World T20 final was broadcast live in the United States on ESPN2. To the best of my knowledge, it was the first live cricket match ever to be shown on mainstream TV in America.
I was at the pub for the Arsenal match (the less said about that, the better), and they were generous enough to put the match up on one of the smaller TVs. It was the first time I had watched cricket outside of my home since I was in London during the 2011 World Cup. So it was pretty cool.
What was also cool was all the heads that were turned over and watching the cricket instead of the football. Now, surely, this had something to do with what was going on at Goodison Park, but it also definitely had something to do with the cricket. And why not? It was the first time most of the people in the bar had ever seen live cricket – and while they were not treated to the game at its zenith – they saw that it was more than just 22 guys in sweater vests drinking tea. It’s flashy and moves at a good pace. It ebbs and flows and has tangible energy. It’s subcontinental and therefore is attractive for its exoticness.
I am not sure if we won any converts. But it goes to show that American sports fans – especially those already interested in foreign sport – would watch cricket if given the opportunity to do so.
And speaking of which: ESPN has the domestic rights for the 50 over World Cup next year. I wonder if they will have the bravery to put the final of that tournament on one of its flagship channels? We shall see.
For those curious, the first televised cricket match ever was in 1938 – England vs Australia at Lord’s. The match featured double centuries from Wally Hammond for England and Bill Brown for Australia – who carried his bat in the first innings – and it ended in a draw. The series itself ended 1-1 and Australia retained the urn. World War 2 would break out the next year and so it was the last Ashes series until 1946-1947.
Reading a bit about that tour, and despite the fact that of course there were no other formats to play besides the Test, Australia were in England from the last week of April until mid-September. On top of the five Tests – one of which was abandoned without a ball bowled – they played a whopping 27 tour matches. 27!!
Just further evidence that times have sure changed. On that day at Lord’s in 1938, there was one camera perched atop the Nursery End stand and Kerry Packer was only six months old. Today at Mirpur they played a format that is only two years older than Twitter and there were at least 20 times as many cameras – and the match was beamed all over the world – including to the cricketing backwater that is the United States.
Times change. But so does cricket. That, for me, bodes well for its future.