I know I haven’t blogged of late; fending off Cricket Ahead‘s annoyingly insistent requests to link to him had exhausted me. (And even though I finally caved, the guy doesn’t seem to have reciprocated and actually added this blog to his roll. Oh, web etiquette: so complicated to learn.)
But now I’m back. Like many people outside India — hell, maybe those even in India — I follow cricket largely through YouTube (and a few really, really illegal streaming websites). Highlights don’t always do the trick; in Test matches, in fact, they are downright criminal (and not just copyright-wise). But they’re better than most things, and sometimes, they crystallize the most exciting and inexplicably dramatic parts of a match. Actually, with the Twenty20, I think highlights are the perfect and most compatible package: why look at a 100 boundaries in 2 hours, when you can look at the 6 best in 2 minutes? What’s the qualitative difference?
The good people who run the IPL, however, disagree. After 40-odd matches of some scintillating, made-for-YouTube moments, the empire has struck back. Some of my favorite channels are falling like pins, turning up pink with suspension notices. You can keep tabs at YouTomb, a wonderful website that collects videos that don’t end up in heaven, but online limbo.
This isn’t the first time that the brand-crazy IPL has done this. Cricinfo ran a very difficult, and ultimately unsuccessful, campaign to allow websites to have access to photography straight from the matches. (The ensuing news agencies boycott has meant that very few foreign newspapers carry the IPL information.) The ICC didn’t do much better during the World Cup either, when it took the same route, even though ratings were abysmally low and easy online publicity was the best way to get some viewers to tune in. But YouTube is the perfect vehicle to heighten fans’ interest in the game: as more and more fans tune out of the Test cricket, they turn more for the excised versions, which feature only the dramatic moments (the boundaries, or the wickets, or the sledging, or the celebrations).
Again, realize what’s going on: cricket fans are being sidled out again and again, as brand marketers and corporate managers figure out how to monopolize and control the game. Perhaps that’s too much, because most of these YouTube clips were just straight highlights reels. But more than anything, it was YouTube that drew me into the IPL, of which I was initially skeptical. And now, the IPL is gone, and this cricket fan lost.
Now if only someone would post highlights of the New Zealand-England Test series…