The better deal: Watching cricket on TV or the in-stadia experience | Crickit
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The better deal: Watching cricket on TV or the in-stadia experience

ByAmrit Mathur
Jun 14, 2024 06:56 PM IST

It is not an easy call to make and eventually boils down to personal preference

For cricket crazy fans, festival time is in full swing - Diwali, Christmas, Eid all in one attractive package. The celebrations started in early April with the IPL and stretch till June end with the ICC T20 WC.Fans greedily consume ‘live’ cricket that is home delivered at a convenient time. The television visuals (captured by 34 cameras) are stunning, interesting stats and trivia is shared, experts in the com box dispense knowledge and the occasional spicy comment. Things couldn’t be better.

Fans during the Group A match between India and USA in the ICC T20 World Cup 2024, at Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in New York(Surjeet Yadav) PREMIUM
Fans during the Group A match between India and USA in the ICC T20 World Cup 2024, at Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in New York(Surjeet Yadav)

Most fans are tv addicts with eyes glued to the flickering images on screen, ears straining to catch wisdom floating through the airwaves. But some swear by the unique thrill of the stadium experience, for them nothing beats going to the ground to see action ‘in person’ as it unfolds in front of their eyes.

So, the question: which is better, watching cricket at home or in the stadium?

If this was subjected to an exit/ opinion poll, recent events would suggest caution because the result could be wildly inaccurate. There are anyway always two sides to everything ( the pros and cons; the one hand versus the other ) hence a straight answer is not easy . But I suspect the majority would vote for catching cricket on the telly.

And not without good reason. Watching cricket at home is convenient, it is relatively cost-free and hassle-free. If cricket is tense (as in the India - Pak thriller) it's great fun. If cricket is one sided (as in England finishing off Papua New Guinea in 19 balls !) you would feel cheated.

Visiting the stadium has its challenges - lots actually. First the trauma of finding tickets, then the various battles to find parking, handling security and queuing up to reach your seats. All this is only for the brave who also put up with excited gents desperate to be ‘caught’ by the camera and determined aunties taking selfies and doing FB chats with friends. The downside is the stadium is populated with all manner of people, many there more for having a ‘good time’, less for cricket.

Not that watching cricket at home is an entirely pleasant experience -there are plenty of annoying spoilers. One, tv commercials not only eat not into cricket coverage but are often crude and tasteless. What wouldn’t one give to delete/ fast forward the poor-quality stuff from which there is no escape. Of course, in the carpet bombing of gutka ads and similar terrible stuff there is the occasional silver lining - Rohit (Sharmaji ke beta ) is funny and relatable, his on-camera performance as effortless as the front foot pull over mid wicket.

The broadcaster contributes massively to spoiling the tv watching experience. The pre/post programming is a master class in hero worship, a relentless PR exercise devoted to certain players, a trend Gautam Gambhir called out. And if this syrup-coated cringe narrative isn’t bad enough, viewers have to deal with the breathless excess of OTT (over the top) commentary. Batters invariably hit ‘kamal ka shot’ , they ‘stand and deliver’ and ‘take the aerial route for another maximum’. Ugh !

Why must commentators think viewers need technical tutorials and cricket education? While tennis and golf commentary are crisp, cricket has nonstop references to seam position/wrist position/bat speed/hard lengths that reduces viewers to a group of students in the Kota Bansal institute waiting to crack entrance exams. It's forgotten that most viewers only want to know the basic equation: runs rate, asking rate, strike rate.

Watching a cricket broadcast also has some inherent drawbacks; for instance, you only see what the camera shows you. What is lost is the drama that unfolds on the ground between overs as players change ends. What you receive is edited action, not the full frame. Moreover, television ‘deadens’ action, it fails to convey speed and this makes the game look easier than what it actually is.

Watching cricket in the stadium presents the complete picture, the on-ground action embraces the spectator and he tends to be more involved. At home, he is distracted by dinner, telephone calls and playing with his mobile whereas watching cricket ‘live’ is more immersive and focussed. People enjoy the ‘mahoul’ and the atmosphere, and get excited by spotting Virat Kohli at long off and other celebrities in the hospitality boxes.

Much more important is the thrill of hearing the sound of the bat hitting ball, specially when an aggressive shot is hit from the middle after a full swing of the willow. As the ball flies off the bat one admires fielders standing close to the bat- at short point, catching cover and mid wicket- who rely on instinct and anticipation and have mili seconds to react to what is coming at them.

Ultimately, whether it’s the television or the stadium, it’s a matter of personal choice. But what is undisputed is India’s craze for cricket - there is never enough!

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