It was announced today that the upcoming Test series between India and England will be broadcast in the UK by Channel Four.
Surrey Chairman Richard Thompson has given his thoughts on this deal in the below article.
At 4am this Friday I imagine a great deal of you will be up, cup of tea or coffee in hand, watching the start of one of the most eagerly anticipated Test series of recent years.
Even more excitingly, for a great deal of you who don’t have Sky, it is the first time you will have been able to watch live Test cricket since that classic Oval Test of 2005 – as the series is being broadcast live in the UK on Channel Four.
From 1999 to 2005, Channel Four were incredible partners for the game. They shook up the way cricket was broadcast, pioneering innovations that were genuinely game changing and have paved the way for the multi-award-winning world-class coverage that Sky have produced over the past fifteen years.
If I had one reservation about that seismic occasion back in 2005, it was that there were no Surrey players representing England at their home ground. Just two years earlier – in Alec Stewart’s final Test – Mark Butcher, Graham Thorpe and Martin Bicknell had carried The Gaffer around the ground, the memorable crescendo of an era of incredible success for the Club.
It has taken a few years; but we are now back to those days. The four Tests in India will start off with our Club captain Rory Burns opening the batting and wicket keeper Ben Foakes behind the stumps. Over the course of the series, we are hopeful of great things from our exciting young batsman Ollie Pope, wonderful all-rounder Sam Curran and even – maybe – the sight of Amar Virdi sprinting halfway across the world’s largest cricket ground and joyfully punching the air after snaring his first Test Match wicket.
We all know what incredible emotions that can be stirred as a classic Test twists and turns its way over a full five-day duration – culminating in a final hour with all results still possible and animated fielders crowded around the bat, casting long shadows over the wicket as two tailenders bat for their life. Just recently the India win – over five days – in Australia delivered edge of your seat drama that is hard to be matched by any sport other than cricket.
This series could be a classic. As well as the Surrey contingent, England have 1,123 Test wickets from Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad alone, an exciting battalion of batsmen and breakthrough superstars like Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes. India are led by the great Virat Kohli and, as they demonstrated with their recent win for the ages, have talent, grit and charisma to burn.
To think of a nation brought together by this extraordinary competition is wonderful. Families confined to quarters by the national lockdown will be eating their breakfast with the cricket; home schooling with the final session, discussing the state of play over lunch, replaying key moments in the garden and then getting an early night to go again the next day.
Later this year, the likes of Jason Roy, Tom Curran and Reece Topley could be turning out for England in T20 Internationals, live on the BBC. The Vitality Blast will return, giving these new fans a chance to watch their heroes in person and experience the fabulous atmosphere of the Kia Oval.
I hope this is a classic contest, with Surrey’s finest leading the way as England produce a victory for the ages, in front of millions.