Technology has done so much to improve the game of cricket, and yet…

“I love this game, but it’s never-ending! There’s only so much that one can take.”

That was the world’s first recorded crib on cricket from a fan who tottered out of the stadium in Kingsmead, Durban. It was the 14th of March, 1939, the scene of the Timeless Test between England and South Africa that had gone on for 10 days — and still ended in a draw.

Unfortunately, economists and world leaders outside of the three-and-a-half cricket-playing nations had little interest in the game, otherwise they would have found the actual cause for the Great Depression — years of zero productivity because the crowds were forever watching cricket. And the matches were simply not showing any signs of getting over.

As always, the wise men got into their huddle and decided that the only way to end the depression was to change the way cricket was played. Test cricket was soon limited to five days. However, while this reduced the duration of the game, it did little to help overcome the financial shortcomings. The wise men returned for another innings.

This time around, they decided to use technology to change the way cricket was watched. Radio commentary began, and soon cricket was televised — a new channel for earning revenue had opened up. Meanwhile, the game continued to get shorter — one-day cricket was introduced, and much later, the more abbreviated version, T20 would revolutionise world cricket.

Technology soon added video replays — and a third umpire, to review decisions. Dizzy camera angles gave exciting new perspectives to the game, from the bird’s eye view through cameras attached to blimps, to the worm’s eye view provided by stump vision. The five-day action that was speeded up to last a little over three hours in a T20 game was also slowed down to 1,000 frames a second to capture every nuance of the game.

Ball tracking technology brought in Hawk-Eye to find out if the ball would have gone on to hit the stumps. Hot spot left the umpire in a tight spot in case he had wrongly given a batsman out lbw despite the bat making contact with the ball. Snickometer revealed if the batsman had edged a ball to the keeper. Dazzling graphics packages helped draw manhattans, worms and wagon wheels that could be superimposed on the field. Both stumps and key players were ‘wired’ with mikes to catch more of what was happening on the field.

Websites began to cover the game, live commentary online ensured that office productivity went from dismal to abysmal and live streaming ensured that fans could become couch potatoes even at the workplace. Sirji and 3G ensured that the game could be followed on the mobile as well. YouTube had zillions of hours of footage for cricket buffs to prove their point in an argument. Blogs turned millions of fans into cricket scribes while social networking sites turned them into selectors, commentators and critics.

Thanks to technology, the mobile, the computer and the TV now covered every game played, from Australia vs England to Awesome Adyars vs Enigmatic Egatturs. Each game was short and crisp, just about the duration of a three-hour commercial flick. The wise men approached the cricket fan. Now there surely couldn’t be any cribs — everything had been sorted out. They asked him. He looked at them bleary-eyed.

“I love this game, but it’s never-ending! There’s only so much that one can take.”

(sureshl.india@gmail.com)

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