Source: Tom Shaw for the ECB

Thoughts on The Hundred – Part Five – Camera-operation

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Sky’s camera-operators can count themselves among the best in the world, but they aren’t always allowed to display their talent fairly. Here are some comments about the way cameras are used to cover The Hundred.

We are offered a staggering number of angles from which to enjoy the game, from all around the ground, from the air, from the stumps, from the players themselves. Do they all help us to read the game?

I’m the only person left in the world of cricket who would prefer to be offered a view of a match from one prime position, not two. As soon as an over is completed, we switch from one end to the other. ‘We don’t want our view obstructed by the keeper.’

‘Oh yes, I do!’

We so easily lose our bearings with that switch, the position of the sun, the direction of the wind and slope, any irregularity in the pitch, the position of the short(er) boundary. The spectator on the ground is constantly aware of these details.

The modern camera can offer close-ups of intense clarity. We can inspect a batter’s nostrils to our heart’s content. But once again, the closer in we are moved, the less aware we become of the surroundings. What is the field-setting? What are the fielding captain’s tactics?

The helm-cam is like a four-year-old boy’s new toy. He throws it around till eventually it breaks. Commentators laugh and say the cam is making them seasick. The producer doesn’t listen; he (it must surely be a ‘he’) carries on playing with his toy as the screen jerks around nauseously.

It’s the same story with the replays of a shot. The producer has little time before the next delivery to offer four of five angles of the stroke, so we are given clean camera-work alongside distorted versions which may be out of focus or off-centre. No matter, all the producer wants is drama.

At the centre of my argument is the question: does the innocent viewer experience the game more authentically when brought into its very centre? Or should the playing area be kept sacrosanct, the exclusive property of the players?

Is a youngster who has never been to a cricket match more willing to take part after viewing action at home in extreme close-up or from the boundary edge? Perhaps the answer these days is the latter. If so, that’s a great pity.