x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Access all areas in the Ashes at Lord's thanks to technology

The expanding role of the media is changing the experience of watching cricket, writes Paul Radley.

TV replays saved England's Jonny Bairstow after he had been bowled by Peter Siddle off a no-ball.
TV replays saved England's Jonny Bairstow after he had been bowled by Peter Siddle off a no-ball.

Where would we be without technology? Really, what was the world like before machines evolved far enough to bring the umpire Decision Review System into being?

England might not be 1-0 up in the 2013 Ashes for a start. Jonny Bairstow might have been out for 21 yesterday afternoon and reading about how his place in the England side is in jeopardy this morning.

Far more importantly, without the creep of technology, thousands of cricket supporters the world over would be none the wiser about what the inside of the fabled Lord's Pavilion looks like on the first morning of an Ashes Test.

Until yesterday, it was just something people spoke about.

Those privileged few players who represented England in the 2005 Ashes, when the home team finally broke a long hex to reclaim the urn, have dined out on recounting the atmosphere on the first morning of the Lord's Test ever since.

They were bayed on, apparently, with uncommon ferocity by sporting spectators who are otherwise famed for their fogeyish ways.

And now, as a result of Sky's behind-the-scenes cameras, we all know exactly what it is like. These were indeed, "privileged pictures," as Michael Atherton termed them on commentary. The Pavilion does not feel quite so exclusive now.

Is it possible to know too much? Nowadays we know how many times the ball revolves when it comes out the spinner's hand. We know how quickly it is propelled down the pitch. We know where their feet are landing. We know when the rain is going to arrive.

There is no mystery about anything anymore. Remember the days when a mystery spinner was allowed to be just that, and did not have his myth debunked forensically in super-slow mo? Me neither.

And now we even know what the confines of the Long Room look like on major match days. Surreal.

Is nothing sacred anymore? The snooping cams, which were presumably on static hoists at the either end of the sport's most famous room, made it feel a little like cricket's version of reality television. Lord's does "Keeping Up with the Kardashians."

Where can Sky television's access-all-areas pass take us from here? Maybe inside the kitchen to see if Tim Harrington, the executive head chef at Lord's, gives his underlings the Gordon Ramsey hairdryer treatment if they are tardy about preparing the cucumber sandwiches? Or perhaps a stealthy webcam inside the arm-rest of Queen Elizabeth's chair in the Pavilion's committee room?

The fact the host broadcasters had been granted these unprecedented views shows just how far Lord's has come.

Not so long ago, cricket's headquarters was a byword for conservatism. Only relatively recently, advertising boards were not permitted on the fence at the front of the Pavilion, as the MCC members thought they impaired the view. The mats bearing the title-sponsor logos were not even allowed on the field at that end of the ground, as said members thought them an eyesore. Now, it seems, anything goes.

Some ancient sporting institutions move with the times, some don't. Just one channel away from the cricket on OSN, the leading male golfers of the world were playing the British Open, safe in the knowledge they would have no women members to worry about.

It seems ages ago now since the Lord's Pavilion was similarly regarded as a bastion of male chauvinism. Yesterday the Queen and Charlotte Edwards, the captain of England's women's side, both appeared to be welcome female guests.

This is a thoroughly modern Lord's Test. So it was appropriate technology influenced the proceedings on the field, too.

Bairstow was reprieved after he was bowled by Peter Siddle. Kumar Dharmasena, the umpire, opted to ask for a video review of the bowler's front foot, as he often does.

A magnified still frame showed Siddle's front foot landed with nothing behind the popping crease, and was thus a no ball.

Had it counted, Australia would be well on their way to a series-levelling win. As it is, they are still in the box seat.

pradley@thenational.ae

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