In recent weeks, any visitors to the ICC website will have been presented with a pop-up advert, reminding them that the ICC.TV service was streaming the Ashes (both men’s and women’s) in selected territories.

There’s a couple of issues I have with this. One is that they are charging a fee for the men’s Ashes in territories where it was previously shown for free, hardly reflective of a commitment to growing the game in new territories. The main issue I have it with though is that they have never done with this with any of the ICC pathway events that the service has streamed in the last four months.

Despite the overkill of the England v Australia rivalry in recent years, the Ashes does remain the Test series that has the highest profile, though any India v Pakistan Test series would likely beat it in that regard. But, whilst it is part of the ICC’s Test Championship, it remains a bilateral series not organised by the ICC. Why are they giving this series (both on their website and social media channels) more promotion than their own events?

When the ICC announced that they would be live streaming their pathway events, I was very excited. Finally, the exciting nature of contextual cricket in these events was going to get a wider audience. But if there is no promotion, the wider audience isn’t going to come.

Thinking about this has made me review how the streaming service has gone in what are admittedly its early days.

The production quality obviously isn’t up to the same standard as full member bilateral series or major ICC events. I didn’t expect it to be. But it is also not up to the same standard as other live-streamed cricket, notably those produced by the European Cricket Network. On some occasions, independent live streaming from the same grounds has been better than the ICC live streaming.

The on-screen graphics can sometimes be behind the action by a few balls. The scoring system often wasn’t closed down correctly at the end of an innings, leading to a team being shown as batting 19.5 overs even at the start of the chasing team’s innings and an incorrect target being displayed. The scoring system used displayed bowling figures as runs for wickets rather than the standard wickets for runs, an error that should have been resolved after the first day the system was used in Spain but never was.

Low production quality can obviously be overcome by quality commentary. Whilst there were some excellent commentators on display, notably Andy Leonard, Peter Della Penna and the Hong Kong based Jay Dansinghani, many commentators appeared to be poorly researched about both the players and the wider context of the tournaments they were covering.

Ill-informed commentators are par for the course when associates are playing in ICC global events, but this was an opportunity to inform and educate viewers about cricket at this level. It’s disappointing that it wasn’t taken. Though if nobody was being directed to the coverage in the first place, they were unlikely to be informed and educated anyway.

Next up is the user-experience of the service. The streams would often fail – though this likely has more to do with local internet than the service itself – but there was no explanation of what was going on when trying to access the stream, just the digital equivalent of a shopkeeper’s “back in 5 minutes” note. The same message appeared whether the stream wasn’t there because it was down, because there was a stoppage for rain, or if there was an innings break.

Viewers could only access one stream simultaneously on the same log-in. We live in a multi-screen broadcasting world where viewers expect to be able to watch multiple games at once and this is especially important in tournament play when games are on at the same time as what happens in one game can impact on another game. We shouldn’t have to create separate accounts just so we can watch multiple games.

There was little to no access to highlights or full game replays after the conclusion of the games. People want to watch sport at their convenience these days, even if that means watching a game after it has concluded. But the ICC.TV service didn’t offer this pretty basic functionality. This isn’t just something that fans missed out on – players and coaches would no doubt appreciate being able to watch footage of upcoming opponents. Game times were sometimes wrong. There were no features such as league tables for ongoing tournaments. I could go on.

Don’t get me wrong, this is definitely an improvement on what we had before where almost nothing was live streamed. And when the streams worked and were coupled with knowledgeable commentators, it was great to watch. But it’s far from a finished product. We’re still four months in and I really hope improvements are planned.

It seems at the moment that this service will be used for the two upcoming global qualifiers for the next T20 World Cup. Improvements certainly need to happen before those events given that the last two global qualifiers received the full ICC global tournament broadcast treatment.

Commonwealth Games qualifying

Details have started to leak out about the qualifier for the women’s T20 tournament at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham next summer. Though not from the ICC who are silent on the qualifier that apparently is taking place in Malaysia next month.

What we do know is that Scotland will be taking part, as will Malaysia as hosts. We also know that there will be no team representing Northern Ireland as they do not meet the criteria. Beyond that we know nothing about the participating nations. That is probably because it appears that, whilst all Commonwealth nations on the ICC women’s T20I rankings and not already in the tournament have been invited, they are expected to pay their own hotel and travel costs. Given the current Covid situation these costs could rapidly spiral if quarantine is needed either coming into Malaysia or returning back home.

The ICC have spoken about wanting things like the Commonwealth Games and Olympics to “turbocharge” global development. But it seems that they want to do that on the cheap without doing basic things like covering costs.