In this era of lightning quick transmission where an SMS arrives on your mobile phone even as the ATM machine disposes the money, pictures of the IPL matches take at least 12 seconds to hit the television screens.
The surprisingly inordinate delay was found when HT monitored live action at the ground and the time it took for it to hit the TV.
According to experts, a delay of up to six seconds is common between live action and the feed appearing on TV due to the lag caused by transmission, but even they were surprised when pointed by HT that the feed of IPL matches was taking twice that time to reach viewers.
A key production official, who was handling the Delhi Daredevils versus Mumbai Indians match at the Ferozeshah Kotla in Delhi on Thursday, could not believe it when told of the time lag. "We can't delay the feed. Our feed is ok. You must be watching the match on Sony (channel). For the live ball, link from here will go to Singapore and come back to India. It takes some time. It could be an issue with the connection of the provider also. But down link is supposed to cause a delay of only three to five seconds, 12 seconds is a huge gap," he told HT.
While this can trigger a debate over the technical reasons, such an unusual delay can be exploited by illegal bookies, who employ pitch-siders - those deployed at grounds to phone in the outcome of each delivery, over, etc., exploiting the time lag to place bets before TV delivers the pictures.
The ICC sees pitch-siders as a new challenge as the game combats the menace of corruption. During the World Cup, a man was arrested from inside a stadium during the New Zealand-Sri Lanka match at Christchurch while providing information to an offshore betting syndicate.
The 12 to 13-second delay between live action and TV broadcast can also give room for 'market manipulation' in countries where betting is legal. Well known UK-based betting sites such as betfair offer betting options like score after the first over for IPL matches. Thus, a bookie's 'employee' calling in updates from the ground after the sixth ball, which he has seen 12 seconds before the TV viewers, can manipulate the odds and earn a fortune. It can also put someone who is betting on the match at an advantage.
When contacted, Prasanna Krishnan, business head of Sony Six, the broadcasters, said: "The broadcast of any event live from the venue to the viewer's television screen involves the transmission of the broadcast signal across several intermediate stages via satellite and cable which leads to a time lag of a few seconds. This is standard across the industry irrespective of the event being broadcast."
The IPL is yet to recover from the 2013 spot-fixing scandal with a Supreme Court-appointed committee yet to give its report on the two teams in the scanner, Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals.
ICC head of media communications Sami Ul Hasan then said: "It's a live commentary sort of thing that they are providing which gives people sitting outside the country a little bit of an advantage so they can place a bet on a wicket fall or a dropped catch. Because they are at the venue, they have a 4, 5, 6-second advantage, depending on the delay."