Women's Cricket

If the BCCI is serious about women’s cricket, it needs to start live-streaming India’s matches

All it takes is a camera and an internet connection.

A picture speaks a thousand words.

And a video speaks millions.

We live in an age where we turn to YouTube for everything, even for singing our toddlers to sleep. “Broadcast yourself”, they say. The internet has provided the way for those who have the will, or even whim, to be seen by the world. You can speak thousands of words more than a picture can, for those who care to watch.

All you need is a camera and an internet connection.

Which is why the lack of video content available for the India women’s series against the visiting West Indies has been frustrating. Especially since India effected a rare clean sweep on the World Twenty20 champions. It was a peak in India’s tattered international history, being the first whitewash against a top-six team since 2002.

And almost no one could see it.

Why video is important

Sure, there were interviews and video clips of the players on the Board of Control for Cricket in India website, commenting on the game. They offered previews, gave us something to laugh about, and it was good. But no child will pick up a bat because they read Veda Krishnamurthy’s interview. No child will take up leg spin after seeing Devika Vaidya discuss her debut, no matter how well she speaks.

They need to see them play.

What does it take to create a broadcast? Not much, said Jaj from Streaming Live, a Delhi-based webcast service provider. “The feed from the camera needs to be provided and there needs to be internet connectivity, basically”, he told Scroll.in. “If these two are given to us, we can stream it live on YouTube, with simply an encoder and a streaming engineer at the venue. The costs vary, but a rough estimate is about Rs 15,000-20,000 a day.”

All you need is a camera and an internet connection.

The BCCI already has two cameras stationed at each end, used by the team video analyst besides the two used by the third umpire – this is true for all matches under the BCCI. So, according to Jaj, it would not need rocket scientists for the BCCI to stream an entire game on their YouTube channel (They would need to create one though.)

It is a strategy that has been successfully adopted by other countries, when a television broadcast is not available. In 2015, when the New Zealand women’s team visited India, the One-Day Internationals were broadcast on Star, but the Twenty20 Internationals were not. New Zealand’s Sophie Devine promptly broke the record for the fastest T20 fifty in the first game, and the New Zealand cricket website featured a compilation of her boundaries using the video analyst camera feeds. You can see it here. It isn’t pretty (especially if you are an Indian supporter), but it is pretty impressive. One look at that, and your daughter will be going, “I want to hit the ball like that!”

The ground realities reflect it as well. Hemant Kinikar, head coach of Pune’s HK Bounce Cricket academy, recalled how there was a spurt in girls coming to the ground after the World Twenty20 earlier in the year, in which a number of women’s matches, and all of India’s, were broadcast. “It created a craze”, he said. “So many people in Pune don’t know that a Pune player (Devika Vaidya) made her ODI debut. If they knew, it would generate so much more interest.”

Take the cue

A number of countries have adopted this strategy in the last couple of years to promote women’s cricket. In the last year, New Zealand Cricket live-streamed their women’s home series against Pakistan, England, Australia and Sri Lanka, all with minimum investment.

A camera and a trusty iPad. Amazing how much you can do with how little, if you want to.

All you need is a camera and an internet connection.

Australia have gone a couple of steps further, broadcasting select games from their domestic one-day competition, the Women’s National Cricket League. The stream – a four-camera feed, complete with commentary – was available all over the world, through their mobile app, which meant I could sit in my living room and watch Meg Lanning smash 190 in a 50-over game. And so could millions of viewers across the world. Cricket Australia will also be broadcasting 12 matches from the second edition of the Women’s Big Bash League on Network Ten, and live-stream all the remaining 47 on their website and Facebook.

Live-streaming a match is nothing new for the BCCI. They had announced plans to stream Ranji Trophy matches on their site, at short notice, when they terminated the contract of Nimbus Communications, as far back as 2011. So, it not a question of can they, but rather, why don’t they?

The percentage of the population that uses the internet in this country is 34.8%, which is around 462 million people, according to this website, at the time of checking. Allowing for this Wall Street Journal report, which says that Indian men outnumber women on Facebook three to one, 25% of that 34% means over 115 million females online. Even if 1% of them stumbles upon a live feed of India clean-sweeping the World Twenty20 champions, more than 11 lakh women would have seen India win. If even 1% of those females were interested in cricket, the BCCI would have reached out to 11,000 potential future stars. If that will not help the game grow, I don’t know what will.

A picture speaks a thousand words. To speak to a country of one billion, you need video.

You need a camera and an internet connection.

Snehal Pradhan is a former women’s international cricketer. She tweets here.

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