Live cricket continues on a small Pacific island

Vanuatu is helping to fill the sporting void

For anyone who may not be aware, the Republic of Vanuatu is an island country in the South Pacific Ocean around 1,090 miles east of northern Australia, with a population of less than 300,000.

Like the rest of the world they have been taking precautions there recently, but with their borders closed and no recorded cases of coronavirus, life is beginning to return to something resembling normal – and that includes playing cricket.

Reporting in The Cricketer, Nick Friend has revealed that Vanuatu is doing its bit to help fill the current global gap in the market for live televised sport.

Chief executive of the Vanuatu Cricket Association, Shane Deitz, told Friend that although cricket had never been broadcast on the island before, someone had pointed out that it could be the only sporting event in the world currently happening.

And thus the idea of televising matches live was born.

Thousands tuned in

On Saturday, April 25 a 10-over men’s exhibition match took place, as well as the final of the women’s T20 competition, and despite national broadcaster VBTC having never before streamed cricket for the public to watch, thousands of people worldwide tuned in to either watch the games live or over the following few days.

Deitz, who assisted with commentary for the online stream that ran from Vanuatu Cricket’s Facebook page, reportedly admitted that the first broadcast had been stressful, but they had learned a lot about how it worked.

“We’d never had live-scoring,” he told Friend. “When there was an ICC tournament here, everything was provided for us then. We hadn’t done anything like it before and we put it together in a couple of days.

“I didn’t understand that it would be big in India and, I presume, lots of gambling on it. I didn’t understand that part as much.”

He added that the cameraman had never seen cricket before and there were issues with the internet, while the earlier lockdown plus a lot of rain meant the ground had to be fixed up and cleaned.

“I called the ICC and they were great in helping us out a lot,” said Deitz. “Everyone locally was up for the idea. By Friday we were nearly set to go – it was a pretty quick turnaround.”

The plan now is to continue with the streaming for the next five weeks, covering a three-team men’s super league and leading up to a final.

Cyclone Harold

An additional motivation for Deitz and the national governing body is the devastation caused by Cyclone Harold, which struck the region in early April leaving many in the worst affected province homeless.

Vanuatu’s economy is heavily reliant on the tourism industry, and the hope is that raising the nation’s profile internationally will bring more cricket tourists to the island, helping to fund relief efforts following the storm.

“We need to bring teams to us,” Deitz told Friend. “We’ve got great tourism and a great country, so it was a no-brainer to try and get that going.

“That was the main reason for wanting to do this – we wanted to get some footage of our players and our ground to Australia and New Zealand, so people look at it as a good tour option.”

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