Opinion: Three years ago, Claire Curran, the Minister of Broadcasting, indicated that someday, in a golden socialist future, we might actually be able to watch our national sports programs on free TV again. Then Curran was unemployed and the price of cups like you and me was affected the most if we wanted to watch both the All Blacks and the Black Caps on TV.
The New Zealand Cricket sale of broadcast rights to Spark Sport should be considered a national scandal. The numbers tell us that cricket is dying in our schools, yet the board has chosen to take more coins to the detriment of the crowd.
How many cricket fans would have watched New Zealand destroy the West Indies last week? How many men will Ken Williamson face off against former Caribbean greats at Wellington this weekend? And if we spend the money, there is no guarantee that the picture will not remain late. Sometimes, it can be like watching a stop motion animation.
* Why aren’t our national sports shown on free TV?
* Directing Sky TV hubs and proposing to claim refunds from sporting bodies as a balancing act
* Mark of Reason: Kyle Jamison joins the fickle cricket group of senior beginners on the audition
If I want to watch both rugby and cricket in these unenlightened times, I must pay Sky $ 33 a month and Spark $ 24 a month. Which low-income family can afford it? However, we may or may not see, in the case of the majority – the best New Zealand cricket test team in history.
Surely there can be no argument now that Ken Williamson is the best batsman in this country. Even the captain of the West Indies was pleading with his men to strike like Williamson. How funny that sounds. Country Viv Richards, responsible for the explosion, was asked to imitate a malicious alarm from Toranga.
There is also a very strong case for the view that this was New Zealand’s strongest bowling attack ever. He lacks a first-class player and can struggle abroad, but the arrival of Kyle Jamison means there is now no complacency for rival teams. They no longer consider throwing off the opening pair and then pooling runs.
Half of the schoolchildren in this country should enjoy the idea of going out into their backyard and telling their classmates as they slash a tennis ball in the garage door; “Williamson takes over the guard, a century later, and here he is, through the backcovers of the hind foot, the crowd stands to honor the wonderful New Zealand captain.”
Instead, there is virtual silence on the imaginary airwaves because most young people in this country will not be able to see the real thing. I roughly asked my brother the other day what he would choose, if forced to choose between a festive trashy game or a backyard cricket game for Christmas.
He said; “It’s not fair. It’s like asking me to choose which of my kids to throw from the lifeboat.”
Caleb cares so much about the game, but I don’t think for a second that this Labor Party does. How ridiculous it is that Grant Robertson is the sports secretary. How could he have the time to sponsor our National Games while also being Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Infrastructure and Racing?
I can imagine a sketch where Robertson is sitting in a room and arguing with himself. But then perhaps no one else in the Labor Party wanted the job. They’re probably all armchair-bound pretenders who think deep cover is something you put on the back of a sofa.
The other day, a reader named Bridget Hargreaves wrote a letter to Stuff titled “Not Just Cricket.” Pleaded with Bridget; “The pain of Wellington’s horrific spring could have been alleviated by watching a little T20 cricket on the sofa. But no! NZ Cricket has sold the TV rights to Spark Sport, which means it has to jump through a number of technical hoops to get coverage. I’m worried. About elderly people in rest homes.My grandmother used to like to watch cricket in her retirement village, and it wasn’t even on Sports Radio anymore.
“Bringing cricket back to the people.”
Bridget wasn’t quite right. The early T20 games were offered for free, even though my technically savvy son wasn’t aware of it. The radio coverage may have moved, but it is still prominently heard. However, many of us will agree with Bridget’s feelings. People who love New Zealand cricket have been sold out.
In 2017, Curran told me, the Labor Party was not prepared to “risk the continuity of our mathematical laws by turning everything upside down”. What it seems to be saying is that the Labor Party will continue to allow the capitalist market freedom of movement until the cricket governing body in this country can transfer money back into the wages of elite players, while the game at the schoolboy and club level continues to wither.
The only voice against this in the recent government was Winston Peters, whose party sought to amend the broadcasting law in order to bring more sport back into free broadcasting. He cited the case of Australia and many other countries that held several free events and argued that such a move would contribute to a healthy and cohesive society.
But Peters is no longer in Parliament, but government alone, so cricket will continue to die in this country. At the turn of the millennium, nearly 18,000 school children and girls were playing cricket. The latest census showed that the number has dropped to under 10,000, which is even lower than that of badminton.
I watch the current West Indies team with tears in my eyes. Their bowling offensive wasn’t until the third of the great teams of the 1970s and 1980s. The game is dying on the islands. Once upon a time if you talk cricket, you are a friend at any pub in the West Indies. You are now just a weirdo.
And I can see the same thing happening in New Zealand. Make the most of this amazing team of Kane Williamson, because this is the end of the golden summer. Soon New Zealand won’t be good enough to play a game against East Punjab again and the joke will continue – “Imagine if we had to play all of Punjab”.