Mon | Apr 24, 2017

Coverage then and now

Published:Saturday | September 13, 2014 | 9:00 AM
The Jamaican 4x400m team at Helsinki (from left) Arthur Wint, George Rhoden, Herb McKenley and Les Laing.
BOWLED: Jamaica's teenage fast bowler, Michael Holding, uproots the middle stump of the Australian opening batsman, Ian Redpath, for the second time in the Jamaica-Australia match at Sabina Park in 1973.
Donald Quarrie ... won Olympic 200-metre gold at the 1976 Games in Montreal, Canada.
Tops In Sport For 1989: Sprinter Merlene Ottey (left) and boxer Mike McCallum, pose with their trophies. McCallum is Jamaica's first world boxing champion.
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Tony Becca, Contributing Editor

Many things have changed in sports coverage over the past 40 years.

In 1973, I visited China for the first Asian, African, and Latin American table tennis tournament, and again in 1974 when I covered my first Test match, the West Indies versus England at Queen's Park Oval.

Since those days, I have moved from a typewriter to a computer, I got the copy home through every conceivable way imagined, except by pigeons, and I have covered many sports, including athletics, football, table tennis, tennis, golf, boxing, and last but not least, cricket.

The most significant changes through those 41 years related to what I had to work with, how what I wrote managed to reach home and got published, and the level, the class of those who played in those days, especially cricket, and the great and glorious West Indies.

I remember when I went to China it seemed to take a week to get there, and after the matches in the nights I wrote the stories on my typewriter, went to the telegraph room, and waited for the copy to be typed and sent off.

I never got to bed until one or two o'clock in the mornings.

I moved from the typewriter, a so-called portable Royal typewriter, to a Tandy, to a so-called lap top, and finally to the comfort of a real, small laptop computer.

In the early days, it was terrible. The copy was sent by telegram, and I had to wait until it was sent in order to make sure it was sent. After that, it was sent by telex, and I still had to wait to make sure it was sent, and especially so in India. And in doing previews, in doing a copy for the Rest Day, and in doing reviews, I had to find the telex office to get my copy out, and I also had to type it myself.

I still remember those nights, those late, late nights.

I remember the night in China when I went out into the rain to send my cable and fell in a pool of water, I remember the night in India when I had to take a rickshaw to the hotel after a late, late night at the Kanpur cricket ground, and I remember the night, in Nagpur, also in India, when I gave my copy to the desk clerk at the hotel and she kept telling me that she cannot get through despite many attempts.

When later in the night I called the office to explain why the copy did not reach, the young lady replied: 'What copy? Mr Becca, we almost have a room full of copy from you.'

my fear

I still remember my fear travelling through the crowded streets of Kanpur that night on the back of a three-wheel cycle.

With the Tandy I could file by attaching it to a telephone, but that was mostly a hit-or-miss exercise. I travelled around with a printer, just in case I had to fax it.

Towards the end, around 1995 or so, things got easier. I simply pulled out my little laptop, wrote my copy, attach the computer to the telephone, fax the copy, and went about my business.

Around 2000, it really became easier. I simply wrote my copy, click on destination, email it, and that was that.

Within a minute or two after filing, the copy landed, and it was, apart from a little editing here and there, ready to be published.

The biggest changes, however, has occurred in the sports themselves, and mostly in cricket.

In 1973, cricket was a relatively slow but interesting and absorbing game, and international cricket was only of five-day Test cricket. A Test series lasted for five Test matches, regardless who are involved. And the tours were long. They were two and three months each.

On top of that,
in the days when the captain arrived at the crease to a round of
handclaps from the fielding team and when umpires were considered to be
above reproach, Test matches were played with umpires from the home
team.

Cricket has changed

Today, all
that has changed. Captains are not treated in any way special, and
apart from Test matches, which are now, most times, limited to two or
three, and apart from tours which last a month or sometimes five weeks,
cricket has changed to include the faster one-day version and the much
faster Twenty20 cricket.

Cricket today is a spectacle.
Almost entirely gone are the four-day tour matches, and in its place
have come, not only the helmet and the big, heavy bats, but also the
shorter, brighter versions with their coloured clothing, music, and
dancing, the Dilshan Scoop, and the big, long sixes that disappear in
the distance.

Cricket is no longer conservative,
marked, especially, by front foot and back foot play, classic drives,
delicate cuts, and marvellous pulls. Cricket, T20 cricket, is now,
mostly, a carnival-type atmosphere, with an hour, or 12 overs, at the
crease expected to value 100 runs or so.

Cricket,
however, remains cricket. It is a game of bat and ball, a game of runs
made versus wickets taken.

In my time, West Indies had
enjoyed mixed fortunes.

Coming from the drought of
the late 1960s and early 1970s, West Indies cricket produced some of the
finest and greatest cricketers of their time, and West Indies cricket
became the envy of the world.

From Garry Sobers, Rohan
Kanhai, and Conrad Hunte, Wes Hall, Charlie Griffith, and Lance Gibbs,
to Lawrence Rowe, Viv Richards, Clive Lloyd, Alvin Kallicharran, Roy
Fredericks, Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Andy Roberts, Michael
Holding, Joel Garner, and Colin Croft, to Jeffrey Dujon, Richie
Richardson, Brian Lara, Curtly Ambrose, and Courtney Walsh, to
Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Chris Gayle, the West Indies produced some of
the greatest cricketers of their time, and some of them, like Sobers,
Richards, and Lara, are rated among the best who ever
lived.

The West Indies, between 1962 and 1966, was
rated the best in the world, and between 1976 and 1995, they were
unquestionable the best in the world. In fact, the team of 1976 to 1995
is considered by many as the greatest team ever in the world of team
sports.

Things and times have changed, for example,
from when Don Quarrie won his Olympic gold medal to when Usain Bolt and
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce won theirs, and from when Michael McCallum won
his first world boxing title to when Nicholas 'The Axeman' Walters won
his, but I am sure that they all enjoyed it, especially at the
time.