Cricket: Video killed the Radio Star. Did twitter save the five-day game?

It’s the middle of the 5th Test of a series we’re 3-0 down in and we’re still tuning in. Why?

So we’ve been bad, not that bad, but bad enough to end up with a scoreline that looks like regulation Australia v England 1989- May 2005 in reverse bad. Let’s look for silver linings though, as a fan this actually feels like an old-fashioned Test series, despite the loss I don’t think there’s necessarily a hollow feeling. It’s been tough but we’ve endured and ridden the series highs, lows and in-betweens. Despite the loss this feels like a series of substance. But why?

There has been pining for the good old days, the captain as highest office in the country next to the PM, Test series and players that engage the nation, before the days of complete AFL/NRL media takeover.  And it strangely has felt like that over the course of this series no matter how badly the team has performed on occasions and how bad the end result has been.

In 2013 Test cricket is surely a relic, something out of step with instant culture. Surely its T20 that’s meant for this age. Well in a word, no.

No T20 match has ever inspired the social media explosions that Agar’s knock, the last wicket stand, Broad’s non-walk or Khawaja’s dismissal did.

The spread of Twitter has given Test cricket a new dimension. The oldest, supposedly most out of step form of sport in the world is actually the one that is best suited to social media. No other sport has such frequent breaks (ball by ball) that allow us to share our thoughts without missing any action. The notion of a more instant, non-stop action world has been thrown upside down, because it’s the non-action parts that allow us to participate and savour it. The wax and wane of Test cricket gives us breathing space to actually be involved.

Twitter and sport is made for the smart arse tweeting sports fan; taking the piss out of players, taking the piss out of commentators. Watching sport with Twitter is like watching it with a lounge room full of friends, each trying to do outdo each other with banter. Cricket and Twitter is made for this fan because you have to time to do it and take it in.

Twitter is a form of sports commentary, so in many watching cricket with twitter is like creating your own radio commentary of the match that drifts off into the peripheral and absurd. But ultimately it’s the commentary that you want and you are involved with, this is unique because there isn’t the time to do this even in other forms of cricket.

Why is it this series that has produced the great marriage of social media and cricket? Obviously the prestige of the Ashes lifts the profile, but it also happens to be the first Ashes we’ve seen in prime-time since the explosion of Twitter. It also explains why we haven’t seen the same explosion for home Tests. In home Test series we’re at work during the week, or, on the weekend, playing sport, kids sport or making the most of the sun. It’s all day time and that’s not when we can enjoy and immerse ourselves in it. In the middle of winter starting at 8pm each night we can. A further argument for day/night Test Cricket in Australia.

It has been a series of disappointments for fans in an on-field sense, but as a viewing public it’s been tempered that we’ve experienced it together and found a new dimension to our fandom.

And who would have thought that it would be Test Cricket that would be the sport that takes to the digital age better than any other. As unlikely as a Number 11 batsman scoring 98 on debut – but that’s Test Cricket.

Comments

  1. I don’t think it is just twitter. People often claim that test cricket is out of step with he modern time-poor world, but I see the opposite. The trend for sports coverage (and news coverage) is away from big events everyone sat down in front of the tv for – match-of-the-day – and towards blanket 24/7 events, more content, and allowing people to dip in and out across a variety of platforms.

    Test cricket, which has always been dipped in and out of, and is more followed than watched, is, as you said, and as weird as it sounds, the most modern of sports. Although its media and ticketing partners don’t seem to realise this.

  2. Neil Belford says:

    Yes. This caused me to reflect about when I first started using CricInfo – it was a seriously long time ago, in fact I think it was about 1997. Then it was for all the world like a twitter feed and I loved it. IT is the perfect medium for cricket.
    The almanac community should band together to tweet every boundary and every wicket of this summers Ashes series – along with suitably informed commentary :)

  3. Shane Kennedy says:

    The Tour de France still ranks as the best sporting vehicle for the use of social media. From music spotting, cow spotting, commentary changeovers to critiques of Gate’s cooking, it is sometimes hard to focus on the riders. Also helps to keep you awake as Ligget and Sherwin’s voices slowly hypnotise you approaching 2am.

  4. It’s also my first choice when watching Eurovision and will be for the election night coverage!

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