Monday, February 22, 2010

The tape-delayed game in the Internet era

Yesterday, I indulged in a little bit of tomfoolery that managed to evoke some nostalgia and simultaneously remind me of the brave new world of cricket watching.

As folks on the East Coast know, the India-South Africa one-day internationals start at 4AM in the morning and run till noon (approximately). This is not a bad time on the weekends (well, not the 4AM start, but if you stagger out of bed at a reasonably early time, you can catch a bit of the end of the first innings and then watch all of the second). Well, I got the early part down and caught the end of the Indian batting. And a little bit of the South African batting.

But then, duty called. I had 'work' to do (don't ask, its a long story). I would have to leave at 10 AM and return at 1PM. When I left, South Africa had lost their third wicket (and some of their early momentum). In normal circumstances, on my return, I would have checked the scores to see what had gone down in my absence. And even with the Internet's wonderful ability to provide highlights, I would have had to wait for those to go up (they would have been available sometime Sunday evening).

But there was one more option that was now available to me. I could simply replay the video stream (willow.tv makes available the entire stream for a while after the game ). And in that case, I could simply recreate my own "tape-delay" version of the game.

So, I fired up my machine, studiously avoided looking at the final score column on the right of the screen and clicked through to the replay. I then forwarded the video stream to approximately where I had left off, and watched it from there. I had to make sure, of course, that for the next couple of hours, I didn't visit Cricinfo (or any Indian site for that matter). The ending of the game was suitable reward for such diligence on my part.

My favorite tape-delay memories are of listening to radio commentary from the West Indies and of watching videos of the 1996 World Cup. As old-timers will remember, radio commentary from the West Indies would begin at 8 PM Indian time. It would run live till 1 AM. The post-tea session would then be taped, and played back starting at 5 AM. I would, after listening to the pre-tea sessions, sleep with a transistor next to my pillow, and on waking up, tune in again.

The illusion was perfect; how could it not be? There was no way to find out the scores and the only intervening experience had been that of sleep. It was thus that I heard the commentary for what I still consider one of the most exciting test finishes of all (albeit at India's expense): the West Indies' chase of 172 runs in 25 overs in the 1983 Kingston test. Viv Richards played, what was by his own judgment, his best innings to score 61 off 36 deliveries; Gus Logie hit a six off the first ball he faced in the second innings; Mohinder Amarnath lost the plot. When the match ended, I hooped and hollered; it was a great finish; I wanted a result; it didn't matter that India had lost to the mighty West Indies after all.

When the 1996 World Cup rolled around, I was living in Manhattan, and working in the Bronx. The day-night games began early in the morning and ended in the afternoon. So, I would set up a VCR with a tape on long-recording mode, and leave for work. My office had no internet connection (once again, don't ask, it's a long story), and so when I returned home, I was in a state of blissful ignorance. The tape of the match was waiting, full of pleasures yet to be discovered. Sadly, this is how I stumbled upon the disastrous riot in the semi-finals.

The modern tape-delay is even more flexible, I suppose. It's online and thus remotely accessible from a variety of locations. Sadly, Willow.tv's interface is not the greatest and because its monopolist position in the world of cricket broadcasting it seems to feel no need to improve it, or its customer support (and the non-functional media player for Linux is a huge irritation). One can only hope that these blemishes will be removed in order to be truly realize the value of this broadcasting resource.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Jaunty Quicksand said...

Willow TV does have the wonderful video scorecard feature that can be used to see just the dismissals or just one batsman's inning, etc.

Their customer service is actually quite receptive. They have responded to all my emails recently called me to talk to me on the phone when one concern of mine was proving to be too serious to be discussed over the Internet.

I like the low-commercial feed that that have. What a blessing to not have to be inundated by them.

6:11 PM  
Blogger Samir Chopra said...

JQ: Thats interesting. My main beef with them right now is that they have not answered my last four emails asking how I can get my media player working on my Ubuntu machine. I'm seriously considering canceling my subscription and asking for a refund.

There are plenty of things about them are actually quite unprofessional! But they have a monopoly so we get screwed.

8:30 AM  
Blogger craigslist said...

Waiting for your next blog on Sachin's double ton in the ODI ....

May be you can summarize his 20 years....

2:08 PM  

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