20 The Daily Telegraph Monday 13 July 2020 *** Sport moment and clearly means different things to different people. I do not think we need to worry too much about there being many Marxists in the England dressing room or in the Sky boardroom. Holding delivered his particular message about it with perfect clarity. His words, and those of Rainford-Brent, will have been radical for some, and some viewers may have found them uncomfortable. But that is not always a bad thing, because sport can function as a welcome escape without being a denial or a retreat. Even though this would already have been an extraordinary Test match, it is a segment of broadcasting that will live in the memory. The live coverage on the whole has been surprisingly business-asusual. Football’s response to televising without a crowd has been to pipe the cheering and noise over the top, which I personally find rather patronising and, in the case of having artificial applause for the NHS cued in, just bizarre. At the cricket, there has been more of a gentle hum, a sort of Lord’s at 10am timbre that gives a bit of backdrop without the sense of being kidded. Some will have missed hearing the Barmy Army and the beer snakes in the living room all afternoon, and some people, well, will not have missed that at all. Overall, the curious staging had no discernible detriment on the viewing experience of the live coverage. On the BBC’s highlights, however, it seemed to stand out more. The early-evening programming each night worked fine, but given that one is used to catching up with the key moments soundtracked to a crowd roar, it seemed flatter than the live broadcast. It might also be that several of the voices – Alison Mitchell, Michael Vaughan and Phil Tufnell – are more associated at the moment with the radio than television, but there was a vaguely quality to the commentary, which was discursive, thoughtful, chatty. None of which is wrong, of course, but for this viewer at least, the highlights had a more sealed-off, vacuum-like quality than the live coverage. But all in all, a great week for televised cricket: quality coverage of a fine Test, cricket back on the BBC, and millions reached by a debate about something that matters more than any of the above. Sky excels by looking beyond the boundary I Holding’s words, and those of RainfordBrent, will have been radical for some. But that is not always a bad thing t has been a big few days for cricket, and a big few days for cricket on television. Sky’s coverage of England and West Indies was Test class as ever: no sport’s TV fans are better served by the depth of analysis on offer, if they are willing and able to pay for it. While the television audience for a Test match on Sky is small, the reach of the clipped-up videos of Holding and Rainford-Brent was enormous. Anchorman Ian Ward said on Saturday’s coverage they had been viewed five million times via social media. There cannot be a cricket fan alive who does not revere Holding, the Whispering Death who has become one of sport’s most distinctive and passionate broadcasters, full of grace and clarity of thought. Rainford-Brent would not be so well known to all viewers but, as the first black woman to play cricket for England, and the director of women’s cricket at Surrey, she speaks with utter authority about the black experience in English cricket, as well as being a shrewd analyst. Sky Sports will have thought hard about how to cover the teams taking the knee before play, and about the Black Lives Matter badges, and about the history between not just the two cricket teams, but between the peoples of Britain and the Caribbean. A rain delay on the first morning meant that it could not, really, just “stick to the cricket”. There will be some viewers who simply do not want to hear about racism or politics or a view beyond the boundary and think Holding, for instance, should talk only about bowling. In my opinion, this is self-deluding: sport, played as it is between humans, cannot exist other than in a matrix of power, money, history and human relationships on both individual and societal levels. Black Lives Matter is a slogan, a movement, one or more activist groups, and a global The broadcaster also turned its attention to events beyond the hitting of cricket balls and donned the Reithian mantle to inform, educate and entertain, by facilitating Michael Holding and Ebony Rainford-Brent to share their lived experiences of racism in cricket and in life, and to talk about Black Lives Matter. Perfect delivery: Michael Holding addressed the subject of racism with passion and clarity TMS-ish
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