An error in judgment which hopefully is not repeated again.
By Sujeet Rajan
In a terrible judgement, one of the worst ever by a television channel, Willow TV, which acquired for the first time the rights to telecast live in the United States the ongoing World T20 tournament in India, abruptly cut off the exciting Oman vs. Ireland encounter in Dharamsala, to cut to the last stages of the South African innings in their 3rd T20 encounter against Australia, in Cape Town.
The faux pas by Willow didn’t turn into total disaster. The channel switched back to the Oman innings after the break in the South African innings.
Viewers were in for a big shock at the transition once again, looking at the scores: Oman needed just 4 runs to win with 4 balls left to play. Oman won by two wickets, with a ball to spare. The bespectacled all-rounder Aamer Ali, originally from Pakistan, who had just smacked a six after he walked out to bat – before Willow decided it was a rubbish match and switched matches – went on to win the match for Oman with a knock of 32 runs off 17 balls, with 5 fours and a six. He was awarded the Man of the Match.
Earlier, around the 16th over, viewers, especially Oman and Ireland fans in the US, got their first shock as the match, which was delicately poised in the last stages of the Oman innings, suddenly got switched to the Australia-South Africa match. At that stage, Ireland were on top as Oman needed over 10 runs an over to clinch the match. But they had 5 wickets in their kitty.
Probably, the rapid succession of Omani wickets that fell, after a solid opening wicket partnership, prompted some dolt in Willow TV to make the poor decision to switch the match to the South Africa-Australia match.
Tennis fans often see this tactic watching Grand Slams on TV, as broadcasters expertly flip over to other matches on different courts, to keep viewers in the loop and glued in on exciting encounters.
Oman, who made their debut in this T20 World Cup, after impressive wins over Afghanistan and Scotland in the qualifying stages, had earlier done well to restrict Ireland to 154-5, after winning the toss and electing to field.
Comprised of expatriate players from India and Pakistan, the Oman team seemed to be in the match with their more experienced opponents all along. They never buckled under pressure. Their bowlers pulled back the Irish innings with some resolute and disciplined bowling. The star bowler was the India-born M Ansari. With a swingy action reminiscent of the way Malinga delivers his potent stuff, with variety to boot, Ansari bagged three wickets.
It’s probably for the first time that a major cricket channel has made such a terrible decision, and that too in a game of T20, which is fraught with possibilities with every over bowled or batted, whichever way the teams in it want to look at it. If Oman had gone on to win the match and Willow TV had not showed those winning moments, it would have been as terrible as Kapil Dev’s magnificent unbeaten 175 against Zimbabwe, in the 1983 World Cup, which was never recorded.
Of course, in today’s world of as many smartphones as seats in a stadium, Oman’s heroics would have been recorded by some fans in Dharamsala. But viewers in the US would have never forgiven Willow for their absurd tactic.
Hopefully, Willow will not show this kind of stupidity again, as the tournament progresses.