A bizarre moment during the World Cup final pretty much summed up all the coverage by SET Max through the tournament. Cutting back to action from a commercial break, we were treated to a celebrating Australia in the 33rd over of the Sri Lankan run chase. Apparently, the Lankan batsmen had accepted an offer to walk off because of bad light with three overs to go (in a 38-overs-a-side-final), sparking off premature celebrations in the Aussie camp. Of course, we didn't know that, because we were watching the ads.
Many moments later, the channel did it again; just when Australia were about to take off with the World Cup trophy, they cut into Charu Sharma, Mandira Bedi and co.
Cricket nuts would agree I'm sure; that the coverage this world cup has been appalling, and we're not just talking about the final.
To further embellish the point, there are two specific areas where TV audiences have been ripped off; all in all adding up to 200 causes for irritation each night in a match of 100 overs. I'm talking about the beginning and the end of each over.
At the end of each over, the folks at SET Max would switch to the ads the moment the batsman in question hit the last ball. So diligent in their task were they, that many times they cut into the ads before a run was completed. And if the last ball were a boundary - there would be no replay before or after the ad break. An example: when Australian captain Ricky Ponting unfurled two gorgeous drives in the 2nd and 4th over during the semifinal match against South Africa.
Some may say I'm nitpicking here, but take a look at what would invariably happen when the channel cut back to action. Captain setting the field? Cut to a model peddling a liquour brand, (asking you what your 'score' is). Change of bowler? Time to remind us that some newspaper is now No 1 in Punjab. So in the space of seconds, it would be back and forth between the cricket and advertisements - the viewer be dammed.
That isn't all - action replays would have advertising 'bands' obscuring a catch. These bands would even come in the way of a player close-up.
Were we watching cricket, or advertisements with cricket 'breaks'? Forgive me for not knowing the answer.
Of course, this isn't how it should be. Among other things, cricket is a game of anticipation & pauses, and much of the story plays itself out between deliveries. Killing a tense captain-wicketkeeper conference at the beginning of an over, or a change-of-ball, or a bowler change with advertisements takes away half the fun of the game. I'm sure there are many of you who agree.
I'm registering this protest in the hope that something will be done about the way cricket is presented in the next series. Sports channels cannot easily be made accountable in the present system. The BCCI which has sold the rights, may not want to dictate terms to broadcasters, and perhaps better coverage is not even legally enforceable. But you have an option - the remote.
This article was originally posted here.