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Sony bowls a fast one with 'made for TV' cricket

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Ever thought of making an eminent cricketer dance with a click of a computer mouse or a phone call? Chucking them in and out of a one-day cricket match as and when one wished if he's messing up on the field. That's precisely what Sony Entertainment Television has promised to cricket buffs while announcing its entry into what CEO Kunal Dasgupta termed a new genre of television programming with cricket as its centrepiece.

Close on the heels of Zee Telefilms announcing its entry into reality television with POW, Sony is brewing its own unique version of reality television centred around cricket, whose driving force would be a great level of interactivity with the viewing public.

Something akin to the rolling substitutions in hockey, here the public would be able to decide who should be on and off the field during timeouts seems to be the general drift of what is being conceptualised.

Bidding to dispel media talk that Sony was planning a new version of masala cricket a la Kerry Packer in the early eighties, Dasgupta said the matches would be held only during the off season. There was no question of taking on any national cricket boards by putting together rebel teams, Dasgupta said. He, however evinced the hope that the endeavour will "generate unparalleled entertainment for the cricket loving public so that the cricket establishment will recognise Sony's innovation and contribution to the game.

The programme is to be aired over a 10-15 day period per season over three seasons in a year live on MAX. It is aiming for a nationwide audience and says it is hopeful people would participate in this made for television cricket game. According to Dasgupta, they were working with a group of associates to develop an innovative, transparent "made for television" cricket format using the latest available technology. Subject to their availability, Sony was planning to rope in the best national and international cricketers, Dasgupta said.

Dasgupta was unable to provide details of the format, who were the players who had signed on, or even when it would take off other than saying that it would be sometime in April or May.

A problem Sony will have to get around is the problem of uplinking. Sony has no uplinking facility in India but uplinks from Singapore. For the live feel of viewer interactivity this will have to be addressed. Anand Desai, senior vice-president corporate development, who is responsible for the show, admitted as much and said they were working on it. Desai, however, gave a categorical assurance that the programme would be real time live.

Referring to the interactive element of the game, Dasgupta said one of the top cricket portals would be hosting details on the match through which viewers could participate. Dasgupta admitted that Sony was entering uncharted territory with this effort but said it was worth a shot anyway.

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