BatFast on Sky News and my international TV debut
After appearing on-camera to millions across the world, the BatFast team celebrated by … creating memes and laughing. Life in a start-up, I guess.
The piece dropped, BatFast on Sky News, at 6 am. BatFast looked great and reporter Inzy, a truly lovely bloke, clearly enjoyed facing down a future cricket hall of famer.
The package repeated throughout the day. And every time it did, someone new WhatsApped me new abuse. Friends sent barbs from as far afield as Latvia, mocking my interview as the piece rolled out worldwide on social media and YouTube.
The best part, someone in the BatFast team – a busy BatFast team stretched across a full schedule – found time to create a meme of the video … and my interview.
My international TV debut came about via several accidents of timing rolled into one, as so.
Our TenPin Luton launch
BatFast launched at TenPin Luton on a Friday. To give a peek behind the curtain, setting up simulator tech to deliver balls with pinpoint accuracy can be more art than science. Especially when someone puts the bails in the wrong place and you have to start again.
It’s fair to say we were running behind.
On that same Friday, a press release went out challenging the nation’s media to face down cricket’s most legendary deliveries. Shane Warne, Curtly Ambrose and, of course, Jofra Archer’s recent World Cup super over.
Aside from the fact that Friday’s not an ideal day for a press release, I was having to fill in on media duties – something I’ve never done before – because our PR guy was unexpectedly trapped like a sardine in a tin for five hours in the vestibule of an overbooked train.
The words every start-up will hear at some point: our press release got no pick-up. A total bummer, but also a blessing. The install was going down to the wire and we were too stretched to give journalists the full show. Serendipity played a big part in BatFast’s business and here it was again.
We’d have another go next week
Next week came. Organised, prepared, ready – another press release went out and sure enough this time we got … nothing. Despite the cricket mania of the moment, we couldn’t entice the nation’s media to jump in and relive recent history – replicas of the World Cup’s winning balls.
We were deflated. Our involvement in Joe.co.uk’s Swanny’s Cricket Show had the team’s creative juices flowing. We know how versatile BatFast is – and it makes for great TV.
I’d had secret hopes that the Football Focus team would use BatFast as context for an interview. Maybe Laura Kuenssberg would shimmy over and use BatFast as a metaphor for Brexit negotiations getting knocked for six.
10/1 The One Show would send Tuffers. 20/1 the Loose Women would step up. 30/1 Dave would send the Taskmaster lot: sustain a human pyramid while the cricket balls fly … I’d watch that.
2/1, I overthought it. Business-as-usual continued as we moved from Luton to York to work on install number two. We continued to hit the Ashes hard at Lords, working alongside partners to invite the masses to the crease.
We were flat out busy across multiple sites; at the apex of another BatFast growth spurt.
Then Sky News called
Reporter Inzy Rashid, a mega cricket fan, called out the blue saying he wanted to face off against Jofra’s fastballs. It was a fortnight later than planned, but BatFast was suddenly destined for national and international rolling news, appearing all throughout the following day on Sky.
As (good?) fortune would have it, a dental appointment meant I’d been at home in Hemel Hempstead that day. I’d not long left the house to drive three hours up the M1 to join the team at Headingley. But I was the closest BatFaster to Luton and, when we got the call, well … by default, I was on.
To back up, this time six weeks ago I was a student. I’d just finished my second year at Loughborough University (International Business) and was hot off the standard exam diet of revision and coffee. At that moment, I started to miss those IP Law lectures.
The Sky News team would arrive at 3.30pm, I got the call at 2 pm and was nearly an hour’s drive away. I raced – under the speed limit of course – to TenPin Luton. I had a job on my hands.
Not only did we need the simulator to look its best, but we also had to make some swift technical adjustments too. Because TenPin Luton is an entertainment space, Jignesh – the tech genius behind BatFast – put in a speed-cap. Day-to-day, that’s a good move as it nixes players’ temptation to crank the machine up to max.
But we needed Jofra Archer speedballs here. So the machine had to be entirely recalibrated, upping the speed, changing the release point, and tweaking the projection to re-enact those Archer bullets.
Thankfully, BatFast simulators can all be changed remotely and quickly. This is blessing number two: without that capability, we might have fallen flat.
Lights, Camera, Thwack
The Sky crew arrived, reporter Inzy Rashid and two cameramen. During set-up, Inzy told me that he usually covers major crimes, so he was stoked to be covering a story close to his passion. And to all-but-relive a World Cup moment.
The guys took a few minutes to position their equipment, cameras and shots. But in next to no time we were up and filming. My job was to man the control panel, take as many pictures as possible and shadow the cameramen to capture the best angles for BatFast’s social media and marketing.
Our Inzy had some clear batting chops. We started at 50mph and he breezed through. We cranked it up – 60, 65, 70 mph and Inzy confidently put bat on ball at least one out of two.
I turned the dial. Up to 75. Then 80mph. Cue a few Inzy sighters and some lols from the cameramen. Once he found his form at 80mph, Inzy asked me to raise the stakes – and the simulator was primed for an Archer grenade.
Only at circa 95mph did Inzy’s superpowers leave the building.
The Sky News package the next day made it look like Inzy nailed Jofra ball #4 or #5. In reality, it was probably #15. Even so, he was psyched to crunch down on a World Cup calibre ball from one of the best in the business.
Inzy was smiling ear to ear. I wasn’t. What came next was an on-camera interview with, well, me. Within four seconds of Inzy, mid-narrative, exiting the simulator, he bowled me a question at a distance of three feet.
Thankfully there was no spin on it, so I met him with something that resembled an answer. And that was a wrap. Little did I know I’d have it played back to me x20 via text message, gif, photo and meme the following day.
It was time to clean down at Luton and hit the road to Headingley for what would turn into a historic game of cricket. I guess this is life in a soaring start-up – when BatFast says #YoureInNext, it could truly mean anything.
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