The delight of watching cricket on seating a sofa was not possible until 1938 when for the first time in the history of cricket a Tests match between England and Australia was televised at Lord’s. The scenario was entirely different from today. Nevertheless, the TV coverage was not digital. It was transmitted from Alexandra Palace in northern London. The signal was available about 20 km from Alexandra Palace.
Going back to the history, the first national service in the world was launched, with some hitches, in England in November 1936. Receiver was almost unaffordable (around Rs. 24000 in today’s price). So, it was a luxurious thing, and not affordable for everyone.
However, the thing was different in Australia. Portable radio receiver was quite easy to handle. So, sensing the popularity of the cricket first radio commentary was launched in Australia back in 1924-25. It was a match between Australia and England at Sydney Cricket Ground. Clem Hill was the summarisers. The two Tests at SCG were covered from spot in the old score board.
Subsequently, in 1925 first ball by ball trial radio broadcast was organised. The response was awesome. From 1926 radio broadcasting of a cricket match had become a regular affair of cricket.
Cricket commentary in England took one more to come. During a warm up match between New Zealand and Essex at Layton a trial broadcasting was organised.
BBC radio, the pioneer of sports commentary first covered the Ashes in 1930 in England while the matches are covered in Australia by use of cable reports. Synthetic reports – local commentaries based on ball by ball cables- proved very popular.
But it was in 1934 BBC first gave the detail coverage of a Test match, and in 1937 the first commentator Marjorie Pollard broadcasted on the England vs Australia women’s Test at the Oval.
However, full-fledged television broadcasting of a match took four more years for BBC to organise. In the 1938, June 24 at 11.29 first television broadcasting of a Test match between England and Australia came into reality. The pioneer of commentating Teddy Wakelam held the mike and amazed the world.
The transmission was entirely different from today. Aside from black and white, there were no replays, no highlights. But, the biggest thing was that it brought match lives at home. It was also not known the exact figure of how many people had watched the match. It was known that estimated 7000 TV sets were sold at that time. The signal was only receivable 20 km of Alexandra Place.
TV was not among the daily necessity of a family at that time. But when BBC brought the match live with commentary, a lot of people were attracted by it, and as a result the pavement of a particular TV owner’s house got crowded.
The amazed people enjoyed the live TV coverage in the next summer Ashes at the Oval when Len Hutton scored his record breaking 364. The excitement continued in 1939 as well, both London Tests against West Indies were broadcasted.
But, the BBC’s television service was shut down at the outbreak of war less than a month after the Oval Test for fear that the German might use the signal to guide their airplanes.
As the world war got over the next cricket was seen on television broadcasted when England took on India at the Lord’s in June 1946.
Since then the great post war era of radio commentary begun with John Arlott, Jim Santon and Rex Alston all joined the BBC. Commentaries on the tour were broadcast on the Eastern Service; Abdul Hamid Sheikh commentated on the same channel in Hindi.