Can ESPN please bring Women’s Cricket back?

by Harry on August 20, 2015

Ok, I’m not going to go on and on about the Ashes. Just two things.

1. I got an email from the son of one of my dad’s friends the other day, saying he had heard that I knew how to watch cricket on tv in the US (he lives in DC —he also said he thought he last saw me on April 13th 1985, but that’s quite wrong, it was July 13th 1992, but there you go). YES. You can watch cricket for free on ESPN if you have apple tv, and at espncricinfo on the computer. It is wonderful—all the Ashes, lots of T20s and List A’s, from around the world—last fall, between classes, I could even watch much of the county championship match in which Lancashire narrowly failed to avoid relegation. And everything is archived for a while on ESPN through Apple TV, so you can watch hundreds of hours of cricket in a row if you want. (I had to pay $100 for the whole World Cup, and refrained from paying the $59 they were asking for the IPL only because I care too much about the quality of my teaching to risk getting sucked into the IPL near the end of a busy semester).

2. BUT! Last year ESPN carried women’s international cricket. The camera work was nowhere near as good, so it was sometimes a strain to watch it; but still, often worthwhile. But none of this year’s Ashes has been shown. Why? Am I missing something? Anyway, because of this, I cannot thoroughly evaluate Andy Zaltzman’s assessment that the single Test match was well worth watching. I can, though, say that Zaltzman, whom I find to be merely somewhat amusing comic, always manages to be thoroughly interesting and compelling when writing about cricket, and that whatever those of you lucky enough to have been able to watch that Test thought of it, his argument against getting rid of Tests for women is utterly compelling. (Just to add: I know Ian Healy’s comments about the wives and girlfriends was, maybe, unfortunate, but in mitigation he robustly defended continuing Tests for women in the recent TMS podcast). Anyway, why no women’s cricket on ESPN any more? How much can it cost?

{ 25 comments }

1

Layman 08.20.15 at 6:08 pm

The WatchESPN app is also available on Amazon’s Fire TV platform. In addition to cricket, there’s rugby!, both Union and League.

2

Trader Joe 08.20.15 at 6:20 pm

Those with a more selective attention span can listen to the BBC Radio 5 commentary and then when something happens within a minute or two you can usually get a short video replay either on BBC-Sport-cricket or on U-Tube. Considering that the UK matches overlap much of the U.S. workday, I find this approach sucks up less bandwidth and increases the amount of work I can get done…that said, its a much more casual approach.

Ages ago (mid 90s) I lived about a block from Lords and still have fond memories of watching matches on TV with my window open so I could hear the crowd roar seconds before watching the out or lbw on TV…almost as good as being there and I had Geoffry Boycott’s instant analysis to boot.

Managed to go a few times too, but usually couldn’t spare the whole day except on a Sunday – as bad as England was at the time by Sunday it was usually a done deal.

3

Nick 08.20.15 at 6:58 pm

All the Women’s Ashes (it’s contested using a points system over T20, ODI and a Test) was broadcast by Sky in the UK so it could be some sort of rights thing – although by the sounds of it much of that is populating the ESPN stuff in the US. In short, no idea, but I know that it was broadcast.

4

rootlesscosmo 08.20.15 at 7:01 pm

The Internet has made it possible to watch other sports that have small US audiences, too. YouTube has hours and hours of championship snooker, three-cushion billiards, and the more arcane varieties of US pool, such as one-pocket. I haven’t yet worked out how to get live, real-time snooker, which I know is shown on the BBC, but that’s OK with me; the 2015 World Championship, held in May, was up on Youtube by some time in June. And because the US daily press doesn’t cover cue sports, I was in just as much suspense about the results as if I had been watching the matches in the Crucible.

5

Theophylact 08.20.15 at 8:14 pm

Ages ago (mid 90s) I lived about a block from Lords and still have fond memories of watching matches on TV with my window open so I could hear the crowd roar seconds before watching the out or lbw on TV

Was it on three-second delay for some reason? Was Boycott frequently bleeped?

6

Trader Joe 08.20.15 at 9:23 pm

@4
Mr. Boycott said any number of things which were outrageous or ridiculous, but I can’t recollect him ever using a profanity or being bleeped.

I don’t know why there was a lag – maybe it was just a live TV thing – but there was definitely a lag and as a result I never missed a play.

7

Neil Levy 08.21.15 at 3:29 am

Compare and contrast.

Mike Selvey on the current test:

“An abnormal series that at times has scaled the peaks of absurdity finally reverted to normality in south London. This was tough Test cricket on a surface that offered some early help to the bowlers but nothing extravagant, demanded caution and solid technique and rewarded diligence”.

Mike Selvey on the women’s Ashes:

“But life really is too short to watch Anya Shrubsole steadfastly block her way to a 47-ball nought even if it was to support Katherine Brunt in trying to salvage something from a ruined innings….Playing Test cricket is an indulgence, which the women may well enjoy but which, in what is now a professional era for them, is not something that can be said for spectators”

8

Meredith 08.21.15 at 5:32 am

Sometimes I have imagined myself abroad, in Europe, when an important baseball game at home was playing. I have imagined myself in a lucky place where the American game was being shown for some reason, and I got to be in “the right place” to watch. Really, this is one of my recurrent imaginings. Don’t know what it says about me, or about games, or about summertime, or about imagining.

9

Igor Belanov 08.21.15 at 7:06 am

@ Neil Levy

Good point. It is unfortunate that the ‘minority’ version of sports are expected to give so much more entertainment to justify their existence in comparison with the established sections. The same goes for football- a goalless draw between Iran and South Korea would be classed as tedious in a way that one between Germany and Spain would never be.

The different pace of the game in cricket (and the changes in tempo) are one of its attractions IMHO, and I would concur with the first quote by Selvey. The second quote, however, just shows a kind of misogynistic hypocrisy. I wonder what he said about James Anderson’s 55-ball duck when trying to save the test against Sri Lanka in 2014?

10

reason 08.21.15 at 9:15 am

Re Healy,
given who his niece is, it is not surprising that he might support Women’s test cricket.
Perhaps he is human enough to suffer from some cognitive dissidence.
http://www.espncricinfo.com/australia/content/player/275486.html

11

ZM 08.21.15 at 10:00 am

I am not a great sports fan myself but a couple of days ago there was an article on the Australian national broadcaster’s website on making the women’s Australian Football League professional, and they mentioned the importance of broadcasting for a professional women’s AFL:

“The women’s exhibition match between the Melbourne Demons and Western Bulldogs on Sunday drew an impressive TV audience – nationally peaking at 500,000, and out-rating Essendon’s massive loss to Adelaide.

There is clearly an appetite to watch top flight women’s sport on TV, and it’s essential in attracting players, sponsors and bigger fan bases.

The most logical way to achieve this would be to tie clubs to existing AFL teams, playing curtain raisers to the men’s matches.

This would allow a cost effective approach for broadcasters, who can take advantage of their existing setup for the proceeding AFL match”

Even though I am not a great sports fan I took an avid interest in this because one of my cousins’ daughter is an excellent young footballer with many prizes already and if the women’s league goes professional in 2017 this will be good timing for her.

12

harry b 08.21.15 at 12:21 pm

Great pair of quotes from Selvey. He should be sacked. That last day of the lost Sri Lanka test — esp when Ali and Anderson were together, but Ali all day long — was a perfect example of what makes test cricket so thrilling. (And: all these people bemoaning how the England and Australia teams are incapable of digging in — none of them seem to remember Moeen’s innings last year. I think he’s going to get dropped, soon, despite being #3 in the batting averages, and that only because batting at 8 he has to make runs as fast as possible and get out before he loses his partners).

Healy. He talked about his niece with utter excitement. To be fair to him, as well, it was a single sentence, and the the tms piece he said that he thought families should be on tour, but that measures should be taken to ensure that the single guys spend plenty of time with the other guys (and maybe with their families). Derek Randall, apparently, pined for his wife throughout every tour (you can hear it in his Desert Island Discs) and, good as he was, I’ve heard at least 2 teammates say he’d have scored hundreds more runs if he’d had his family with him on tours.

13

harry b 08.21.15 at 12:24 pm

Just to add — Alyssa Healy’s boyfriend is one of the (several) Mitchells (how many Mitchells are there in Australia??)– and she is in England right now (for her own tour) so I think Ian Healy was pretty quickly put in his place, and seemed pleased enough with that.

14

Igor Belanov 08.21.15 at 12:35 pm

@harry b

I can’t see Moin Ali getting dropped any time soon. He’s the most stylish batsman on both teams in this Ashes series, and his batting has been as consistent as anyone else’s despite, as you say, his need to make quick runs. His bowling is more a bit of variety, but he has picked up wickets and I can’t think of an out-and-out spinner in county cricket who is likely to replace him.

15

Trader Joe 08.21.15 at 12:52 pm

@14
Couple of nice wickets right before lunch today. He’s never going to be top shelf, but a solid all-rounder I think…could do worse anyway

16

sanbikinoraion 08.21.15 at 2:06 pm

Finally a thread on here I can contribute to with some expert knowledge!

The problem with running womens’ games as a twofer in soccer is that most people simply do not want to sit in a football stadium for 4 hours — as evidenced by the audiences at the double-headers at the WWC in Canada, and on a local level, I’ve seen it fail with Doncaster Belles, who did it a few times last season with really limited success; they are having more luck with offering mens’ team season ticket holders access to a few womens’ games instead.

The FA has also now insisted, I think, that all WSL teams are affiliated with a mens’ team, in order to draw on their supporters. This has worked pretty well except for the fact that most top-flight womens’ teams don’t play at stadiums anywhere near the mens’ team stadium. Arsenal play up at Borehamwood, an hour’s tedious slog from the Emirates. Bristol play in the arse-end of Filton. Chelsea play in Staines. The teams with the best attendances this season? Man City, whose womens’ ground is right next door to the Etihad, and Notts County, who are the only top-flight team to play at the same ground as the men.

What appears to be working for the WSL now is a combination of a block-grant from the FA of £70k per team, 27 players on central FA contracts (£20.5k salary) for England, and the TV money brought in by BT Sport screening a dozen games over the course of the season. That’s allowing more and more teams to train full-time, raising professionalism and giving a lot of spectators a pleasant surprise when they tune into a game. The matches themselves also manage a very family-friendly atmosphere, with mixed seating and cheap tickets. It’s a virtuous circle, but it needs a gestalt from outside to pump the initial money in to make it viable.

17

Igor Belanov 08.21.15 at 2:41 pm

The take-over by men’s clubs of women’s football is one of the saddest things happening in the game. It shows a blatant feeling in the FA that women are not capable of running their own set-up, and reinforces the already over-important nature of the leading male professional clubs.

At least in Germany Turbine Potsdam and 1FFC Frankfurt are among the foremost women’s clubs.

18

harry b 08.21.15 at 3:08 pm

My worry about Moeen is that people talk about him as if he is a bowler who bats, which he is clearly not. Warne commented that he would have him opening the batting in the UAE, and I’ve been thinking that much of this series — replace Lyth with Moeen, and Moeen with Adil. He has the flair of a Gower and the grit of a Tavare;

But… the absence of a really top flight spinner is a problem for them whenever they’re not playing in England, and Moeen is, as TJ says, unlikely to become that. Though — who knows, playing on a wicket that actually favours spin might help him (and he’s a good player of spin too).

I thought of running a thread last year on the wrist-bands affair. What was so nice about that was the way some of the crusty old conservative players talked about it — Ian Chappell, for example — I groaned at what I imagined he would say, but in fact he pointed out the hypocrisy of the rules (they honored WWI combatants in that very match), and said that Ali had made his point, because everyone was talking about it and something like “good on him”.

19

TheSophist 08.21.15 at 4:29 pm

The simplest way around the IPL problem referred to in the OP is to teach a class entitled “Sports and Society” and then show IPL games in class. Worked for me, at least.

I was also in NZ with a student group during the WC. There was something rather wonderful about watching a group of American teens hootin’ and hollerin’ along with the locals as NZ crept closer to SA’s total in the semi-final…

20

Trader Joe 08.21.15 at 6:05 pm

@18
After today’s collapse Moeen will be the least of the potential replacements. Lyth is toast for sure, he was on the hot seat anyway. I don’t think Butler is too secure either.

Don’t have much to add on the women’s cricket. I’ve not really watched, not for lack of interest, just bandwidth. Sorta the same as women’s FA, the WNBA or the LPGA – nothing wrong with any of them – but any sport needs something or someone that makes you want to watch. It may be my own ignorance, but I’ve not become aware of such an athlete that makes me want to tune in or makes me think “can’t miss it.”

Men’s sports suffer this too. Look at the ratings for mens tennis, PGA golf ex-majors, formula one….all need an icon to draw the eyeballs.

21

derrida derider 08.22.15 at 8:16 am

Yes, here in Oz it’s a great pity we couldn’t easily get to see our women restoring the natural order of the universe after our men so meekly allowed it to be disturbed. From the highlights I saw, too, the standard was pretty damn high.

22

Igor Belanov 08.22.15 at 10:12 am

@ harryb

Ian Chappell is probably one of the most decent commentators out there, his image as a tough and possibly unpleasant opponent outweighed by some of his very progressive opinions on issues such as Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers and his involvement in recognition for Aboriginal cricketers.

23

harry b 08.22.15 at 12:35 pm

Igor — well, that explains it! And its really good to hear. I actually always admired him (he was Australia’s captain when I fell in love with the game, and, obviously a great captain of a nearly great team). His comments about Moeen were humane, and wry, and I’m glad that’s just what he’s like.

24

reason 08.25.15 at 7:30 am

Igor Belanov @17
I’m not sure that the takeover of women’s football by men’s football teams is on net a bad thing. One thing it does mean is more professional support staff and more financial stability. If you ask the elite women’s players themselves, I doubt if they would agree with you.

But what women’s football badly needs is professional referees. Refereeing is difficult and error prone at all levels, but the referee’s in the women’s game are a joke.

25

sanbikinoraion 08.26.15 at 12:31 pm

@Trader Joe – try Man City. Not an individual but a team full of stars led by a captain with true grit – who despite being a centre-half can lash in 25-yard direct free kicks and score with her head and feet.

@Igor – the best womens’ teams in the country are the ones that makes best use of the facilities and personnel of their affiliated mens’ team. Man City, Chelsea, Arsenal. Not coincidentally those teams have the best week-in week-out attendances too.

@reason – The refs in the top Euro leagues are fine, in my experience — Euro2013 had no such reffing scandal that Canada 2015 had.

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