Cricket images – two confounding conventions
Cricket images – convention no.1
Try this yourself.
Type the name of your favourite current bowler, followed by the word ‘bowler’ into the google image search panel. Or, select a recent Test match on cricinfo, click the ‘photos’ tab and check the images of bowlers.
The result, more often than not, is that the majority of the ‘action’ images are of the bowler celebrating a wicket or making an appeal. Arms high, delight written across the face; or dishing out high-fives to converging team mates; or screaming at the umpire for a favourable decision. They are emotional shots. But they are not cricket action.
One of the most individually distinctive sights and a feature of the sport is the bowler’s action. The bound, the wind-up and release are phases of the delivery, which even if shown in silhouette would disclose the subject to a keen follower. Even the run-up allows the bowler no anonymity.
Why are these essentials of bowling not the bulk of the images published? I don’t believe it is because still photography cannot convey movement. On the contrary, it can do so. I suspect the answer is context. A photo of, say Jimmy Anderson in isolation bowling in an England shirt, is much the same match after match. His face, even in close-up, won’t have registered a reaction, but be the same whether he is releasing a ball to clip the off-bail, take an edge through the slips or get crashed to the boundary. The appeal and celebration can however be attached to a significant incident of the day, however distinct from the dismissal, drop or denied appeal the image is.
Pictures that capture both the bowler and the act of dismissal occur, but are rare. This may simply be the technical difficulty of maintaining a sharply focused image of two objects almost 20 metres apart.
These are sensible reasons for the public record of the game comprising image after image of bowlers celebrating. But those pictures’ distance from the real action of cricket feels to me analogous to written cricket coverage that majors on what was said about the game in the interview room, not what actually went on.
Now a quibble with the moving, not static, image of the game.
Cricket images – convention no.2
Television coverage marks milestones in the game by showing highlights of the progress towards the mark being celebrated – an individual half-century; a hundred partnership, etc. There’s an aspect of the condensing of the action that is unsatisfactory for me. I have found I cannot really enjoy the strokes a batsman plays unless I see the ball all the way from bat to boundary.
A montage of cuts, drives, glances and pulls sells me short unless I see the ball bounding, speeding, soaring or spinning past the fielder and to the rope. The batsman’s footwork, balance and swing of the bat are the physical and aesthetic demonstration of batsmanship. That is what makes me coo and sigh. But I also need to see the impact and the outcome of the shot. The stroke without its conclusion, even when a boundary is strongly implied, leaves me an unfulfilled viewer.