Thursday, February 24, 2011

World Cup isn\'t given the time of day Richard Hinds

February 24, 2011

YES, Channel Nine — along with Fox Sports — has the rights to the cricket World Cup. No, it is not showing live a potentially entertaining match between Australia and New Zealand tomorrow. It is the only Australian match, incidentally, that begins in the afternoon (local time) and concludes before midnight.

Instead, Nine will treat viewers to the movie Bride Wars. Which, apparently, has nothing to do with an encounter in the Brighton shopping strip featuring Simone Callahan (nee Warne) and Liz Hurley.

And, yes, Nine also chose to delay coverage of Australia\'s opening World Cup match against Zimbabwe until the viewer-unfriendly time of 11.30pm.

Advertisement: Story continues below So, uncabled cricket fans, feel free to scream if you have not already. Or, if you like, wait until the lobbyists turn up and tell you how lucky you are that so much sport — including, notionally, the World Cup — is preserved exclusively for free-to-air television.

Of course, with 50-over cricket no longer the hot item it once was, some homes with only free-to-air television might consider themselves lucky to be spared the laborious early stages of the 42-day, 49-match tournament. Even if the alternative offered by Nine on Friday night features floral bouquets and high heels at 20 paces.

In the lead-up to its more exhaustive World Cup coverage, Fox Sports screened an entertaining documentary chronicling the tournament\'s history. There was the obligatory, and now ancient, footage of a young Viv Richards throwing down the stumps from impossible angles in the famous 1975 final. Great crossover artists — Test players turned one-day bashers — such as Kapil Dev and Ian Botham flinging the bat with abandon.

That you could feel so sentimental watching these heroics is an indication how the once rebellious form of the game is now part of cricket history.

It is also a reminder that, by comparison with these \"good old days\", the 50-over-a-side matches now fail to capture the public imagination.

One-day cricket is cricket\'s unloved middle child. With neither the earnest countenance of Tests or the cheeky impertinence of Twenty20, it must constantly work to reinvent and re-energise itself to retain the attention of an indifferent public.

The strong ratings and crowds for Nine\'s coverage of the recent Australia-England one-day series should not be mistaken for a revival in the 50-over format.

That was, you suspect, a flow-on from the intense interest in the Ashes series — and, from local fans, a yearning to see the home team beat the Poms in something. Anything.

The World Cup\'s long-winded format, let alone Nine\'s apparent indifference, will do nothing to engender interest in the early stages of the tournament. Although, unlike the 2007 version, the laborious round-robin stage is followed immediately by a straightforward knock-out format in the quarter-finals.

In the past, quirky results have seen countries such as Kenya go deep into the tournament. Still, there remains the chance of upsets such as Ireland\'s defeat of Pakistan in 2007 — an outcome that would now prompt a full investigation.

Encroaching on the early stages of both the AFL and NRL seasons, how will the World Cup rate? Pretty well, if you enjoy lashings of Ravi Shastri, the ubiquitous face of the Indian host broadcaster\'s coverage. Not well, if you have neither Foxtel nor insomnia.

ABC radio will broadcast 28 World Cup games on its digital station Grandstand 2.

The ABC\'s Glenn Mitchell will call the Australian games.

This, of course, means you need a digital radio. But, given the ABC and others, such as SEN, are now frequently using digital channels to broadcast events they can\'t squeeze into regular programming, you will probably get good value for money from your fancy new wireless after the World Cup

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