During my occasional returns to the homeland, I am regularly surprised by the number of television channels that currently exist to serve the cricket fan. Yes, cricket is a big market in India, and it’s likely to get bigger with each succeeding year as more Indians join the ranks of the fabled middle-class. But there are markets and bubbles, and even in these years of packed calendars, there are days sans cricket (like today, or uh, yesterday). So what to these channels do? They play hours and hours and hours of cricket highlights.
Now, if you are part of the Indian diaspora, cricket highlights are a regular feature of your programming. There’s no way an expat cricket fan, no matter how dedicated to the game, can watch all the hours of a cricket game live. I imagine many do what I do: follow the game as much as possible on Cricinfo and Twitter, sneak a stream-viewing when possible, but then find extended highlights on YouTube or (if you’re smart), Cricket-online.tv. I enjoy this routine, but in a recent article (not about cricket, but sports in general), Chuck Klosterman had this to say:
It doesn’t matter how much I sequester myself or how thrilling the event is — if I know the game has finished, it’s difficult to sustain authentic interest in what I’ve recorded. I inevitably fast-forward to the last two or three minutes (even when I have no vested interest in the outcome). Since I’m watching the game purely for entertainment, it shouldn’t be any different from the real thing. It should, in fact, be better, just as it’s more enjoyable to watch self-recorded episodes of Frontline or Storage Wars or any other traditional show that lives inside my DVR. In theory, I should be able to enjoy every single game I want to see, on my own schedule — all I need to do is avoid the Internet for a few hours and not glance at the ESPN ticker on public TV screens. But it never works: I get home, I start watching the recent past, and I find myself rushing toward the present.
For other sports, I think Klosterman’s right — it really, really sucks not to be able to watch Wimbledon live, because I can’t bear watching tennis highlights. Those episodes typically jump from moments in a set and show some great shots from players, which is cool and everything, but a tad repetitive by the end. But I do enjoy cricket highlights, and not just because I happen to like anything related to cricket. For one thing, watching how a wicket occurs is often fascinating — they only occur 10 times an innings, and it’s high-drama when it happens. But secondly, the best cricket highlights also provide a little context that build up a moment. Think of that Flintoff over against Ponting, or Ishant Sharma’s extended test against Ponting at Perth. You get an abbreviated story there, but an interesting little battle nonetheless.
Or am I just addicted to cricket? Thoughts on highlights?