Cricket is a game of tradition.
This season, tradition has been dragged out to the back field and shot.
New Zealand Cricket has made the surprising and brave decision to walk from their two longtime broadcast partners and move in a different direction in television and radio. Sky Sport's TV rights have been shifted in favour of the new digital kids on the block, Spark Sport. Radio Sport lost the radio coverage rights to the Magic brand.
This desertion of the two major players I suspect is driven by money (which is entirely predictable in this era) and could herald the end of the two most trusted and respected voices in the game, Ian Smith and Bryan Waddle. Traditionally these gentlemen have been the vocal backbone of the game that relies so much, especially in radio, on the highly tuned and perfectly honed talents of the folk behind the mic. In one fell swoop, both characters are lost to the cricketing populace.
Yes, tradition is the illusion of permanence. Yes, the only constant is change and yes, all good things come to an end, but there is something enormously comforting about familiarity as the gentle zephyr of cricket commentary blows through our hazy, crazy days of summer. The loss of those two dominant, and sometimes (if you're running the game) unpopular voices will be keenly felt. The double whammy of rejecting tradition across both platforms is an incredibly audacious, if not reckless move by the Grand Poobahs of NZ cricket.
I'm unwilling to climb into the quality of the brave new world coverage, as both organisations deserve time to understand and deliver, but I'm watching and listening to them as they attempt to take the place of two long-term and exceptional exponents of the art of cricketing media production.
The other pachyderm in the parlour is the platform on which Spark operate. Although the audience is small, rural consumers of the game are left hanging with their suboptimal internet access and my personal bugbear; the inability to rewind and fast forward 'in pictures'. That precise facility being lost, to me, this means an inferior product. The sooner internet technology can solve that issue, the better.
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The Black Caps are a successful and compelling team, and New Zealanders' love for the game is strong. This alone should be enough to convert the masses to both providers. The lack of a decent test program however and the perceived quality (or lack thereof) of this season's tourists may generate reticence to change. Yes, the Aussies are coming, but the fast-food nature of their fixtures, T20s, might not be enough to satiate traditional fans who want a decent feed.
Sometimes the strict adherence to the archaic values of the game makes for problematic digestion. The toss springs to mind, on what planet does raw luck have such an influence on a professional sport? The 'spirit of cricket' concept where the preposterous ideals of gentlemanly behaviour isn't superseded by hard and fast laws i.e. the controversial Mankad dismissal. These traditions need to be euthanised, but the traditional sound of summer is one loss I'll struggle to accept.
Obviously I'll have to, such is my love for the game. Let's hope this isn't the summer of our discontent.