Book Review: Heads You Win

World Cup Cricket and Football - viewing experience compared

Having burnt midnight oil the last couple of days watching the World Cup Football semi-finals, I could not help doing some comparisons between India's National Sport (I don't mean the "official" one, but the popular one), and World's National Sport with respect to television viewing.

Cricket World Cup:  Hmm!  which World Cup are talking about - the one-day World Cup or T20 World Cup?  Is there a World Cup for test matches?  In terms of time-frame comparisons, the T20 format comes closest to football (assuming the latter has extra-time and penalties).

No World Cup cricket match can happen outside India's waking hours.  After all, the bulk of the revenues, which accrue from advertising needs Indian viewership.   In contrast, the best of the football matches happen when India sleeps.  (Yeah, if it is organized in Asian countries, we may be lucky to watch them before our midnight).

Cricket is a sport with breaks - break between overs, break when wicket falls, break when a ball goes missing after a six is hit... There is only a half-time interval in football, and perhaps another one, if the match goes to extra-time.  So you better plan restroom breaks (or even food and other things) suitably. 

By the time you complete viewing even the shortest of cricket matches (in the best of pay-per-view HD channel), you end up watching at least 15 minutes of advertisements - from latest cellphone models to two/four-wheeler to chewing gum (seriously - Centerfresh comes to my mind) and other assorted items.  If you watch in the normal channel, you get to watch match in part of your TV screen - the remaining filling with a stream of ads.  Hard to believe the sport originated in colonial times - one would be inclined to believe it is a creation of television media!

In contrast, the only advertisement you get to see during the football World Cup are the advertisement hoardings around the playing area, whenever they get to appear during the match.  During the interval (which is long enough), there is no reason for you not to change the channel.   The one additional ad that I got to watch during the match was the word Sony below the occasional score display (once in 10 minutes or so).

There is enough time to show replays in cricket - between balls and during the breaks.  The replays in football are few and far in between - squeezed during the few seconds when the ball has gone out, there is an injury or a foul.  All the more reason to stay alert during the match.

And finally the commentary.  With all the ex-cricketers crowding the commentary box and trying to earn their post-retirement pay, the matches are best watched in mute.  (I am not getting into the hindi commentary at all!)  I thoroughly enjoyed the football commentary and was prepared to risk turning up the volume in the dead of the night with a sleeping kid next door.  The commentators seemed to know the players without looking at the jerseys (based on the position that they played).  They had a great sense of humor and provided insights in a way which blended with the occasion.  And at no point of time, did any of the statistics or other tidbits manifest on the screen, camouflaging the action on the field.  

"Here is Oscar - he has little chance of getting one tonight" (referring to the Brazilian player who was not at his best and thus not worthy of the Oscar awards).