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Media Monitor: Requiem for the daily departed; Express, Guardian, TV6 flounder in cricket coverage

We have been asked to announce the death of cricket reportage.

In this post-Tony-Cozier age of e-literacy when T20 has shifted the focus squarely onto entertainment, its final passing, long in coming, will probably go largely unremarked and certainly unlamented.

The only ones crying will be those media owners who have for years been short-changing sports desks in voice, vision and print media and laughing all the way to the bank.

Along with the unfortunate few who don’t yet own a cell phone.

Photo: TKR fans battle nerves during the CPL final against St Kitts and Nevis Patriots at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy in Tarouba on 9 September 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

Take Friday, for instance. Unsurprisingly, both the Express and the Guardian led their sports pages with West Indies’ defeat by Australia in their second World Cup 2019 match after victory over Pakistan in the first.

Long before you got to Vinode Mamchan’s insipid Page A30 account, the Guardian’s headline clued you in. DEPRESSING DEFEAT, it yelled, below a strap that read “West Indies give away 27 extras and lose by 15.”

Huh?

With one over left, Jason Holder’s men still needed 29 runs. None came off the first two balls. Unbridled Australian exhilaration gave Ashley Nurse free rein to crash boundaries off the last four.

So, “West Indies give away 27 extras and lose by 15”? Please!

But the story—I use the word loosely—merits its headline; it offers the reader nothing. Cricket, reporters know—or should know!—is a game played above the shoulders; irrespective of format, every cricket match worthy of the name is played in the minds of the opposing captains. Apparently, nobody has ever bothered to alert Mamchan.

At best, his “story” can pass itself off as an annotated scorecard. Or a bad, unedited highlight reel. It’s all hands and feet and runs and wickets and stats and records and uninterrupted sequence; heads, strategy and tactics get nary a look-in.

Who, What, Where and When are adequately serviced; How and Why are consistently treated as poor, perhaps even non-existent, relations.

So I think we can safely announce the death of cricket reportage.

Photo: Late West Indies and Barbados cricket pundit Tony Cozier.
(Copyright BBC)

For its part, the Express highlights a BATTING MELTDOWN. “Windies collapse in run chase,” says the drop head, “to hand Australia victory.”

Interestingly, in paragraph three, Barry Wilkinson completely removes the flooring from under the feet of the Guardian’s headline writer: “…the margin could have been wider had it not been for Ashley Nurse smashing four consecutive boundaries to end the game…”

But like the Indian in the poem who, nonplussed, watched Columbus’ doom-burdened caravels slant to the Caribbean shore, Wilkinson, in Nottingham, clearly did not understand what he was witnessing. Had he done so, he would not have added, “in a cameo that came a little too late.”

Wilkinson’s effort certainly qualifies as a story—but it’s a bad one! Headline notwithstanding, two of its five columns are used to shore up the thinly veiled suggestion that the umpires—not, mind you, the umpiring—cost Taylor’s team the game. The remaining three constitute a largely sequential recounting of the highlights, treating readers to abundant helpings of Who, What, Where, When and How and leaving Why almost completely out of the picture.

That, mind you, on Friday morning, when every Tom, Dick and Harrylal who has not seen the live transmission almost certainly has not also missed the by then ubiquitous post-match highlights package.

So I think we can safely announce the death of cricket reportage.

Photo: Trinidad Guardian and CNC3 cricket reporter Vinode Mamchan.

On Thursday evening’s TV6 Sports, Joel Villafana did not actually call the West Indian defeat “depressing.” He did, however, present it as if it were a major catastrophe—which it isn’t, though a disappointment it indisputably is—before treating viewers to the highlights. That done, in a most off-the-cuff fashion, he introduced a brand new segment styled Six & Out.

In T&T, these things are rarely carefully thought out. You often get the impression that someone had a brainwave—or a brain fart!—not long before the start of the programme and had nonetheless somehow managed to get his/her idea on air.

During the segment, Serjio DuFour and Vinod Narwani treated us to a—let’s be generous—discussion of the day’s match. It seemed—still being generous—pointless.

Both gentlemen are manifestly ignorant of the fact that, although cricket captains in any format need proficiency in arithmetic, a clear understanding of both geometry and algebra is absolutely essential for success in the One-day game. The segment had not yet ended when I ran off to jot down some thoughts on it.

Were he still around, my brother would have scolded me; know, he has always insisted, what you are rejecting. Asked to select his all-time best West Indies squad, I have previously pointed out here, he named Cozier as his first pick.

So I think he would agree that we can safely announce the death of cricket reportage.

Photo: TV6 sport reporter Joel Villafana.

Mind you, I understand what TV6 is reaching for. It’s adapt or perish. This is 2019, after all, and, with a click or a swipe, virtually every consumer who is genuinely interested in seeing international cricket “live” may so do. So every producer who is locked into some 20th Century!—read ‘prehistoric’—way of packaging the news is doomed to settle for an ever-shrinking proportion of the dwindling population of oh so vital end-users.

Trial and error is the order of the day. Already acutely aware of the struggles, those of us who watch TV6 were poignantly reminded on Friday night. Did you catch The Great Doughnut Caper, aired before the start of sports, no less?

Please, is it really asking too much to demand a little serious market research? To require that genuine reflection precede trial?

Is there no interest ex-ante in how this thing is likely to work and only interest ex-post in how it went down?

Where, pray, are the standards of yesteryear? Who’s minding the store?

Truth is that I have long since ceased to be bothered by the crap that now passes for news between 7pm and 7.30pm. on the television, between 7am and 7.15am on the radio and between pages 1 and 7 of the daily papers. But, long alerted to the dangers that inhere for cockroach in fowl party, I leave to Suzanne Mills and Noble Phillip, Dennise Demming, Renee Cummings, Fixin’ TT and MATT treatment of the issues surrounding, inter alia, the prevalence of crime and death in the front of the newspapers.

My focus remains steadfastly on cricket reportage, which, along with Dave Cameron, has long threatened if not to kill us all of boredom, certainly to kill whatever little joy West Indies cricket used to bring us.

Photo: TKR supporters get behind their team during the CPL final against GAW at the Brian Lara Academy in Tarouba on 16 September 2018.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)

Yes, I think we can safely announce the death of cricket reportage.

The Express and the Guardian may not agree. Both got a bligh after the Pakistan win; it was the WI’s first game.

But did they improve a week later?

Dare the twain now declare—let alone demonstrate—that the report of this death is greatly exaggerated?

I’m not holding my breath. WI are in action again tomorrow and the reporting team remains unchanged.

About Earl Best

Earl Best
Earl Best taught cricket, French, football and Spanish at QRC for many years and has written consistently for the Tapia and the Trinidad and Tobago Review since the 1970's. He is also a former sports editor at the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Express and is now a senior lecturer in Journalism at COSTAATT.

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