Monday, May 08, 2006

How to cope without British TV and Radio: Cricket Supplement

Here's another supplement to Mark's now famous series of posts:

In the first of my posts in the series How to cope without British TV and Radio (see also Part 2; Part 3 and Football Supplement), I included a paragraph about cricket:

Cricket is initially more of a problem, but I think I've found the solution. It seems that Dish Network has the rights to the UK test matches for the next four years or so, and the good news is that Dish is much cheaper than Time Warner Cable. It'’s around $30 a month. You have to pay a premium, something like $70-$90 for the cricket for the season, but since that is now also the case in the UK too, with Sky taking the home test matches, it's not so much of a big deal. So at some point soon we are going to be making the switch. It's a fantastic thought that I will still be able to watch cricket in the summer. I could hardly hope for more.

Well, the time has now come to take action, and it turns out that this is the most expensive so far of all the different methods of coping without British TV and radio, but it should be worth it. The test series against Sri Lanka begins on Thursday coming, May 11 (is it just me or are the test matches getting earlier every year? It seems like the season has hardly even begun), and it is indeed the case that Dish Network have the rights in America. Details are at Dish Pay Per View: Sport Listing and see also Dish Network Programming Pay Per View Cricket and Summer of Cricket schedule. It's more expensive than I had realized (above), but apparently $199.95 gets you all seven test matches (three v. Sri Lanka and four v. Pakistan) and a bunch of One Day Internationals too. (I am take it or leave it with the One Days, but heck, if it's in with the price, all the better). Of course to get to that point you first have to have a Dish, so we have made the switch from the more expensive Time Warner Cable to Dish, and our new system is to be installed on Wednesday. In theory, therefore, I should be able to get up early on Thursday morning (5.45 a.m. ET start) and watch live cricket from Lords. It's a mouth-watering prospect, but I tend to be pretty pessimistic, believe-it-when-I-see-it, with exciting things like this, so I have made the decision not to look forward to it yet.

But $199.95 for the test cricket is not too bad given that if we were still in the UK, we'd be paying for it for the first time this summer too. Sadly (because their coverage was so good), Channel 4 (Sunset and Vine) lost the rights last summer and now the only way to watch live test matches in the UK is to subscribe to Sky Sports. We used to have Telewest when we were in Birmingham, and it seems that they are charging £22 a month for Sky Sports (in addition to all the other charges), so at £100 for the summer, it's not a lot different from the $199.95 we will be paying. At this point, I have no idea what the Dish Network coverage will be like but I'd assume that they simply grab the Sky Sports coverage and take that over direct for all eight of us in the US who will be watching. What Fox Soccer Channel do with the football is to take over the Sky commentary but to repackage it with their own introductions and conclusions.

Speaking of the paucity of cricket fans on this side of the Atlantic, it is unremarkable to see how little there is on the web for American cricket lovers. The international cricket site, CricInfo, has a nice article on Cricket in America: An Historical Survey, from which this is an excerpt:

The first cricket clubs in the USA were established in the 1700s, not long after they made their first appearance in England. Originally played by officers of the British Army with local landed gentry predisposed to be Anglophiles, cricket became a major recreation of American gentlemen of leisure...and indeed, several Founding Fathers of the United States were known to be avid cricketers---John Adams among them, who stated in the US Congress in the 1780s that if leaders of cricket clubs could be called "presidents", there was no reason why the leader of the new nation could not be called the same!

The article goes on to explain how the sport declined in the US at the turn of the century; it remained "stubbornly elitest" at a time when baseball was taking over the American scene. The article claims (and I have not checked the validity of these claims) that baseball "created its independent mythology, and obviated the sport that gave it birth. In a few decades, cricket in America had become only a memory."

Current American cricket websites include, the United States of America Cricket Association and Cricket for America, all of which do a great job, but these are all focused on playing the game. I am delighted to see that interest here, but there is next to nothing for those of us who would love to be players but who are not, on account of being so rubbish. The last time I played cricket was for our Dept of Theology cricket team in Birmingham, captained by Professor David Parker, and I came back injured or exhausted after each match and haven't played since. What is lacking over here is anything for those of us for whom cricket is all about watching others do the hard work, while enjoying a beer in the sunshine. On the off-chance that there are others like me, stranded in the States and missing the sights and sounds of first class cricket, I've set up a Yahoo!Group for English Cricket Fans in America. You never know, there might just be others out there, and I'd be interested to hear how others have coped. For one thing, what about Test Match Special? In the winter, it was unavailable over the net here, and I am guessing that the same is going to be true this summer. Is there any way around it?

May 10, 2006

An update to this post can be found at:
How to cope without British TV and Radio: Cricket Supplement Update

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