5th December 2007 is a day that, perhaps curiously, I will remember for a long time. It was the final day of the first Test of England’s tour of Sri Lanka, in Kandy. Having been nowhere at 130-6, Ian Bell and Matt Prior took England to the brink of saving the match, batting for 45 overs against the indomitable threat of Muttiah Muralitharan.
This I remember so acutely because England collapsed to defeat within the confines of one French lesson. With every wicket that fell, I failed more and more to hide my displeasure as the screen on my portable DAB radio flashed up the bad news. In the end, Hoggard b. Malinga 8 was met with a louder-than-intended pained sigh, alerting the other cricket fans in the room to England’s sudden demise.
What I have just described has been a common quandary for cricket fans for decades. The necessary length of a Test match (even an ODI) means that it will always cut into your work/school day, and your job as a fan was to try and keep abreast of matters as surreptitiously as possible. Top marks always went to the one who could thread an earphone through the arm of their jumper and into the palm of their hand, so they could listen to TMS by “resting” their head. (My strategy during England’s tour of Pakistan in 2005).
Others would be forced into using more intermittent sources – remember, ubiquitous internet is a fairly new phenomenon – and would have to be even more creative to find out the score. The telephone was always an option, either through contacting a friend who had a radio, or via calling one of those score update services whose existence I never knew about until hearing about cricket in “the old days”. You might have used the work phone, or even the phone box down the road to satisfy your cravings. You might even have drawn up a complex plan, using timetables, to work out when the rooms which had working televisions were free, so you could check Ceefax (John Major’s plan of choice).
Rare it is that fans of other sports have to deal with this hardship. Only really during World Cups and Wimbledon do non-cricket fans engage in these activities, as since the widespread advent of floodlights in the 1950s, midweek football games are played at much more convenient times for the English working/scholastic hordes than cricket matches.
As time has gone on and technology has improved, there has been less and less need for these complex strategies – a smartphone on the lap is all one need use. You can even watch the match if you have the opportunity to log onto WiFi, or don’t mind incurring large data roaming charges.
How times have changed from having to conceal a transistor radio in your blazer.