Em­brace the in­flu­ence of tele­vi­sion


Sports talk He de­parted, in the best Aus­tralian cricket tra­di­tion, amid a tor­rent of curses and swear words.

The fact that tele­vi­sion has a huge in­flu­ence in mod­ern in­ter­na­tional sport seems to have caught some peo­ple by sur­prise. The Mitchell Marsh in­ci­dent in the third one-day cricket in­ter­na­tional, when the Aus­tralian was given out af­ter the um­pires saw the re­play on the big video screen in Hamil­ton, caused a na­tional de­bate.

Even the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship free trade agree­ment, the New Zealand flag and the fu­ture of Wai­tangi Day were pushed off the front pages. The Aus­tralians felt ag­grieved. Marsh hit the ball into his toe and it re­bounded to the bowler, Matt Henry, who caught it and ap­pealed gen­tly.

The um­pires did not re­spond to the ap­peal and Marsh feigned non­cha­lance. Then the video screen re­vealed Marsh had, in fact, been caught.

Af­ter a dis­cus­sion and an­other look at the re­play, the um­pires gave Marsh out and he de­parted, in the best Aus­tralian cricket tra­di­tion, amid a tor­rent of curses and swear words.

Later there was de­bate on talk­back, and in let­ters to the editor, about tele­vi­sion’s role in the dis­missal and in sport gen­er­ally.

Why that should sud­denly be­come an is­sue is be­yond me.

Tele­vi­sion has a huge in­flu­ence on sport, pri­mar­ily be­cause it pays most of the bills and, through its cov­er­age, al­lows sports to at­tract spon­sors and ad­ver­tis­ing.

Foot­ball matches don’t be­gin un­til tele­vi­sion is ready and the ref­eree has been given per­mis­sion to start pro­ceed­ings. Rugby matches now have ab­surdly long half­time in­ter­vals, to ac­com­mo­date tele­vi­sion.

The 2008 Bei­jing Olympic swim­ming fi­nals were held in the morn­ing, with the pre­lim­i­nar­ies the pre­vi­ous evening, purely to ac­com­mo­date Amer­i­can tele­vi­sion.

It cer­tainly wasn’t how the swim­mers wanted it.

But we wouldn’t have a lot of in­ter­na­tional sport if it wasn’t for tele­vi­sion. And be­sides, tele­vi­sion al­lows for much more pre­cise of­fi­ci­at­ing th­ese days.

The third um­pire in cricket and the tele­vi­sion match of­fi­cial in rugby are in­creas­ingly in­volved in de­ci­sion-mak­ing in big matches. Even sports like golf and snooker use tele­vi­sion on oc­ca­sion.

As tech­nol­ogy im­proves, the re­plays be­come avail­able ever quicker, as was the case in Hamil­ton. No longer do tele­vi­sion tech­ni­cians have to re­spool tape to set up a re­play!

In cricket th­ese days, there are four um­pires, and tele­vi­sion cam­eras ev­ery­where. There’s tech­nol­ogy like Hotspot, Ball tracker, Hawk-eye and Snicko, all de­signed to en­sure the cor­rect de­ci­sion is reached.

Why then would any­one have even raised an eye­brow when tele­vi­sion was able to con­clu­sively say Marsh was out the other day?

Rather than curse the New Zealan­ders, Marsh might have re­flected that he could have taken the moral high ground and walked off im­me­di­ately, be­cause he was the one per­son who knew he had hit the ball into his toe.

Two other com­ments about that in­ci­dent:

I de­test sledg­ing but did smile at Grant El­liott’s query to Marsh as he de­parted curs­ing and shout­ing. ‘‘Aren’t we play­ing caught and bowleds?’’ El­liott in­quired qui­etly.

And what about Aus­tralian wick­et­keeper Matthew Wade? He sav­agely be­rated El­liott with ‘‘Only a f*** coward sledges peo­ple when they walk off’’.

Of course, that’s just what keeper Aussie Brad Haddin did so unashamedly to the New Zealand bats­men in last year’s World Cup fi­nal.

But that was dif­fer­ent, be­cause the Aus­tralians were win­ning.


Mitchell Marsh, not best pleased with de­vel­op­ments in Hamil­ton.

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