Sky TV's whims produce ruinous, strange cricket schedule

GLENN MCLEAN
Last updated 07:14 05/11/2012

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OPINION: Made for television.

No, not some B-grade movie, I'm talking about the HRV Cup, although you could argue they are not poles apart.

New Zealand Cricket is the latest sports body to bow to Sky Television as the pay-TV network tries to fill its prime time Friday night slot.

The whitewash hasn't even disappeared off the provincial rugby fields and Sky is already filling the gap.

Never mind the fact that New Zealand Cricket does not really want its most marketable competition run like a two-bit club championship - the void must be filled.

It matters squat to Sky that there is a massive imbalance in the draw, teams miss out on important home fixtures because it doesn't suit Sky's budget for taking their cameras around the country. Rub off the fact teams have to put up with crazy breaks between games and have to flitter between two different formats, sometimes only a couple of days apart, just to fit in with what their paymasters want.

If NPC rugby coaches had a legitimate gripe about the lack of days between games and a punishing schedule that actually didn't allow them to coach, then their counterparts in the cricket pavilions must feel quite rightfully livid about what's being thrown at them.

Otago and Northern Districts had to delay their start to the Plunket Shield season to fit in Friday night's first Twenty20 game. If that wasn't bad enough, Otago had to forfeit home advantage because it was cheaper to run the outside broadcasting vans from Auckland to Hamilton than pack everything up on a plane and head to Dunedin.

The essence of fair and equitable competition has been thrown out the window all for the sake of a few thousand pay television subscribers who, apparently, need their fix of Friday night sport.

If losing home advantage was not bad enough for Otago, they now have to wait 42 days before their next HRV Cup match.

There is no doubt Twenty20 has a decent market in New Zealand. It suits the modern New Zealander who can't be bothered hanging in there to watch any sort of sport that lasts longer than three hours.

It's wham, bam, thank you ma'am, with a few ads thrown in, of course.

Is this the future for top level domestic sport in this country? You betcha.

Rugby has long had to put up with what their paymasters want and now it's cricket's turn.

The problem for New Zealand Cricket, and New Zealand rugby to some point, is they are in no position to argue.

There is no other source of income that provides the cash to sustain the sort of level they want for their players and, at the end of the day, they are powerless to stop whatever Sky Television wants to implement.

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The country does not have the population base or simply enough people willing to get off their chuff and go and watch sport to change the road we are all heading down.

Crowds continue to dwindle while television ratings continue to rise.

I wonder how long it will be before stands are demolished so television cameras can get better angles?

The person who actually hands over a dollar to watch their heroes play live doesn't matter anymore.

All that matters is that prime time slot is filled.

It feels like we are living in America.

glenn.mclean@dailynews.co.nz

- Taranaki Daily News

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