Cricket commentators at a match in Dubai survived a technical disaster yesterday thanks to an iPad and a piece of quick thinking.
The BBC crew were commentating for Test Match Special, a radio show that has been a British institution since 1957. Although now available online on digital radio and even via podcast, it remains one of the few regular shows available on long wave radio, making it available to British expatriates and cricket lovers around the world.
Given the slow nature of cricket games, the lengthy scheduled breaks, and the frequent extended gaps without play because of bad weather, Test Match Special is known not just for its ball-by-ball commentary but for the broadcasters’ ability to fill gaps with ramblings on a variety of subjects.
That announcing came to an abrupt end yesterday when all ISDN lines (used for broadcast quality radio sound) at the Dubai International Stadium failed. Normally in such circumstances the Test Match Special team would fall back on a portable satellite dish, but they had not been allowed to take one into Dubai.
That left the team stuck with two unappealing options: hunting for an ordinary landline telephone that would mean the broadcast would be filled with crackles and hisses, or letting a worker back in the UK provide a bare-bones commentary while watching the TV broadcast of the match, losing the flavor of the show.
Fortunately producer Adam Mountford, who was on hand in Dubai, had the idea of trying out the broadcast crew’s collection of gadgets. Using smartphone apps such as Skype and Facetime didn’t work because the connection wasn’t strong enough. However, commentator Jonathan Agnew had an iPad on hand and they were able to connect to BBC HQ via Skype.
The commentary team then went back to work, passing the iPad back and forth as they spoke. Although the crowd noise and sounds of on-field action couldn’t be picked up, the sound quality of the announcing proved perfectly adequate given the tiny microphone.