As Mohammad Amir, playing in only his Third Test Match after a long hiatus came in and hit the green Edgbaston deck hard on a bright, sunny day in Birmingham, English captain Alistair Cook just let the gentle loosener pass him by on the occasion of what was the hosts’ 500th match in Test cricket.
In the build-up game, a very passionate Misbah-Ul Haq had spoken about the fact that Pakistan hadn’t played a single Test at home in a long time, compared to the hosts, who became the first team to reach the 500-test landmark.
With the series evenly poised at 1-1, cricket fans in India were pumped for a crackerjack of a match, even though it involved their fierce rivals from the sub-continent. Those sitting in front of their screens at home had just settled in on their couches in anticipation of an exciting, gripping contest.
Pro Kabaddi? Seriously?
However, disbelief set in as the Star Sports 1 channel appeared on TV sets. India’s premier sports broadcaster was re-running one of its numerous compilations, “Best of PKL Season 4 2016.”
Confusion was the initial reaction as cricket lovers were unable to understand why a telecast of the archived footage of the local Kabaddi league took precedence over the live broadcast of international test cricket.
The other seven channels did little to assuage the pains of expectant viewers, as four of them ran a show called “Rings of Glory” in English and Hindi, in SD and in HD. Star had clearly gone to great lengths to repeat a show which signalled that they had bagged the Indian telecast rights for the Rio Olympics 2016.
Soon, the cricket-loving Twitterati, unable to take it anymore, started flooding Star Sports India’s official handle, demanding an explanation.
Later, a source at Star clarified that this non-telecast of the test match was because of the Olympics, which would mean a clash with days 3, 4 and 5 of the Test match. Presumably, it had decided not to pick up the broadcasting rights at all.
Star replied to each tweet, replicating the standard response that there were “scheduling conflicts”. This lame explanation offered by a broadcaster which runs not one or two but eight channels did not go down too well with the Twitterati.
While it's understandable that the network might want to devote its prime channels to the Olympics, could it not use even one of the eight it runs to give viewers the Test Match?
In the years gone by, Star’s dominance of the sports broadcasting market has been built on its aggressive approach towards cricket-related programming. Indeed, the broadcaster's expansion to eight channels allowed it to play endless cricket compilations, with artless titles such as “Jai Ho”, “India Victorious” and “Great Centuries”.
But with Sony ESPN now playing aggressively in the Indian market, Star's hold over prime sports coverage might be a little harder to maintain. Which makes it all the more strange that the network chose to ignore the England-Pakistan Test.
But then, maybe the network is diversifying aggressively now. Star has moved all of its international non-cricketing sports properties to two brand-new premium HD channels, Star Sports Select HD1 and HD2. While this has put them out of reach of the common man, it signals an intent to carve out a premium market.
Which is all very well, but where does that leave cricket-lovers who wanted to watch Pakistan take on England?