Friday, October 7, 2011

Save our County Cricket Service

The BBC are making cuts at a local level and this could mean the end for the wonderful county cricket commentary that the online versions of local radios provide for those who cannot attend the matches, for various reasons.

During his post-match interview at Lord's with Mike Atherton, Andrew Strauss jokingly said, "I was just saying what a great medium radio is," after he had been disturbed from his interview with Jonathan Agnew. It may've been a statement in jest, but it raises a point. Cricket and radio go hand in hand. You can have debates about cricket, cake and break off into raucous giggling all in the space of a few balls. Test Match Special has been on the air waves since 1957. With the loss of cricket on terrestrial/Freeview channels, those who cannot afford, or do not want, to get Sky rely on TMS in order to get their fill of England's international summer. Whilst this is at international level, it's similar at county level as well.

If you can't attend a football match, you can switch on your local radio station and listen to it (unless you live far away and want to listen online, but more about that later). Cricket is our summer's national sport. County cricket, despite people believing the hype, is not dying. Not if I and many other younger people I know can help it. Not if you've been sat down at Chelmsford or Colchester or Southend this season. Not if you're a listener to the local BBC radio station's county cricket service.

I discovered BBC Essex's commentary during my AS levels. As I was revising the structure of antibodies, the voice of Dick Davies describing David Masters running in flooded around the room I had locked myself in and made me feel like I really down at the County Ground, rather than staring at a massive sheet of paper on a wall. The county cricket service got me through my A-levels and then this year, when I was finishing my first year at university. I'm at university in Lancashire, about 250 miles from my home in Suffolk and even further from Chelmsford. I was able to listen to the four day, CB40 and Twenty20 matches when, again, I found myself locked in my room staring at a piece of paper covered in notes about the English language. It meant I was able to be informed about how Tsotsobe was playing in "the worst two months of my life", was able to listen to Ravi Bopara scratch his way out of form and the crumbling of Essex's top order. It meant I was able to listen to it, rather than frantically refresh a scoreboard on Cricinfo that doesn't tell you whether there's any swing or just how nervous somebody looks at the crease.

And what I love most about being able to listen to the county cricket commentaries (for I don't listen to just BBC Essex), is that you actually can listen to them online. You don't have to subscribe to anything. You can put on the commentary and just carry on with your day as you listen to the county you support. This is something I can't do with my football team. Once you reach 3pm on a Saturday, the online Radio Suffolk service disappears saying, "This programme is not available". Why? Because Radio Suffolk doesn't have the internet streaming rights. Ipswich Town do, meaning you have to subscribe to Ipswich Player in order to listen to Brenner Woolley.

If you're not already, follow @SaveBBC_Cricket on Twitter and let the BBC Trust know your thoughts on local radio. The BBC local radio county cricket service is a fantastic resource. It is listened to around the world (e-mails to BBC Essex regularly come in from places around Europe, Asia and Oceania), around the country (You're reading a Lancashire based Essex fan from Suffolk, for example) and across the county in which the cricket is being played. It brings hours of joy to many people and employs people who work tirelessly and passionately about the counties that they cover. 

In such a golden era of English cricket, this valuable coverage should not be forced to die. Help make sure that it isn't.

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