In light of the last two T20’s that have been ruined by rain, I thought I’d reflect on wet weather entertainment during the cricket coverage of the past, particularly from an Australian perspective. Whilst T20 games are very short anyway, and thus there doesn’t need to be much ‘filler’ during rain, coverage of wet test matches is a whole different story. Hour upon hour of waiting for the rain to stop must drive networks crazy, as they try with all their might to keep people tuned in during the delay.
However, wet weather entertainment on television has changed somewhat in the last few years. I presume that commercial pressure is on networks to pull away from the coverage as soon as rain falls, and thus re-run’s of sitcoms are common. But, there was a time when wet weather was a time when some of the more interesting discussions took place, and some of the greatest classic matches were shown.
I need to explain right now that I am not someone who just enjoys an Australian victory, quite the opposite, I love seeing good test cricket first, and the result comes later. So when I say that during Australia’s period of dominance during the 1990’s and early 2000’s, sometimes the most interesting part of the cricket coverage was when it rains! It really did get VERY boring watching Australia crush teams over and over again. So, when Richie Benaud came on and advised us that the outlook was grim, I would settle into my chair ready for some good entertainment.
Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of wet weather entertainment of the past was the discussions about the game Benaud conducted with his fellow commentators. Hearing the likes of Tony Greig, Ian Chappell and Michael Holding talk candidly about the game, without having to describe the action, was just so enjoyable. They covered so many different subjects, from fielding practices, to the quicker nature of the game, to lessons from the past, these were knowledgeable men given a freedom to chat that they generally did not enjoy.
If the rain continued on the network wasn’t so quick on the draw to “return to normal programming”, but would allow Benaud to introduce us to classic games of the past, where you could actually watch Australia in a contest, rather than a walkover. These glimpses into the past gave the viewer an idea of how the game had evolved, whilst also showing the legendary names of the sport in action.
Now it seems that there are two options for wet weather entertainment. The first is to return to that dreaded normal programming, and the other is to replay the previous day’s play, or the most recent test match. This can, of course, be interesting. However, most of the time it is tedious, as you have just seen the game the day or week before. There is none of the joy of remembering past players you had forgotten, or seeing the likes of Ambrose and Walsh in tandem once more, and that is a great shame.
The situation during wet weather breaks may well be different in various parts of the cricketing world, and in fact I did see a ‘round table’ discussion during wet weather on the Sky Sports coverage in England, which was very enjoyable. But I feel that this kind of meeting of minds is all too rare. No one likes a wet weather break in the cricket, but if it does eventuate, the enjoyment of great discussion and classic matches, far outweigh the never-ending re-run of M.A.S.H.
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