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CricInfo History

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Contents

Introduction

The merger of CricInfo and Wisden in February 2003 was described by Alistair Maclellan in Wisden as "a joining of the two biggest names in cricket publishing". Wisden, of course gradually established themselves as a dominant force in the cricket world over the last 140 years. CricInfo on the other hand was unknown ten years ago, and it's rise to a position where it could be mentioned in the same category as Wisden has been astonishing. Despite many attempts to develop competitive sites CricInfo still dominates the world of cricket on the internet with no serious competition. It remains perhaps the busiest site on the Internet covering a single sport, with only corporate sites such as nba.com coming close.

CricInfo's accession parallels the growth of the Internet as a means of communication, and many other global brand names such as Google or Yahoo had a similar rise from obscurity. The story of CricInfo is worth telling however because of its unique start and its unusual composition. Cricket itself is peripheral to the story of CricInfo, yet without it the story would not exist. Passion for cricket underlies every aspect of the CricInfo story, however, and the success of CricInfo was founded on cricket's unique suitability for Internet broadcast. The other thread that weaves its way throughout this history is that of the development of the Internet itself, a revolution in media and communications that was unthinkable 20 years ago. Ultimately the story of CricInfo is that of people passionate about their sport, but equally fascinated by the technology that allowed them to communicate that passion to others.

Early days

The founding of CricInfo has reached almost mythical status over the years as various reporters have seized onto the tale of the lonely English exile Simon King who invented CricInfo whilst doing graduate work in Minnesota. There is far more to the story than this, however. To understand why CricInfo was such a success, some time has to be spent explaining the environment into which it was launched.

Prior to the late 1980s the Internet as such existed through networks designed to link super computers together, for military and research needs. The existence of this network allowed development of e-mail, and other network protocols, and its use progressively increased and diversified. By the late 1980s most North American and European Universities were linked by the burgeoning network, and e-mail was in common use.

Various alternative methods of communication based on the network were developed, and the most important from the point of view of CricInfo was Internet Relay Chat (commonly known as IRC) and Usenet. Usenet pre-dates IRC by some time but both became important in net cricket about the same time.

Usenet

Usenet was the dominant means of distributing information on the Internet prior to the growth of the World Wide Web, and is still popular today. It involved a huge and complex collection of "newsgroups", each dealing with a specific subject. The user would connect to his local usenet server- usually operated by their local university. News posted to any group would be rapidly distributed via the Internet to all usenet servers subscribed to that group, and this could then be read by any user connected to that server. The Usenet system started in the early 1980s and grew rapidly. The first suggestion of the use of Usenet to distribute cricket scores was seems to have been by "adi".

"Adi" also posted brief scores and a report on the 1st England-India Test at Lord's a few days later in the group net.sport - perhaps the first distribution of cricket information via the Internet. However this promising start went nowhere -after a few posts of news, cricket disappeared from Usenet for a couple of years apart from a single report of India'sWorld Cup final win in 1983. It is not surprising that this flame smouldered and then failed- there were only 400 sites carrying Usenet groups with an average of 20 posts/ day in 1982. 6 years later there were 11,000 sites posting 1800 news articles/ day, and the growth continued.

Cricket news and scores were occasionally posted on the newsgroup net. sport, and later, rec.sport.misc. In 1985 a gentleman named James Armstrong, a keen Dr. Who fan apparently based in New Jersey, regularly posted cricket news and scores for a few months. The group net.nlang.India, later soc.culture.Indian also was receiving cricket news. The volume of information progressively increased as more individuals gained access to the Net, and Usenet.

A critical mass was required before a community could be established. The Net was growing rapidly. The number of computers connected to the net can be estimated, and grew from 1000 in 1984, to 10,000 in 1987 to 100,000 in 1989 (bty the year 2000 it had reached 100 million). Even in 1990 the majority of Internet users were in academic institutions, and mostly in the USA, Canada UK, and the more developed countries, but for cricket this provided an impetus for the development of a community.

In North America in particular, graduate students from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, England and Australia were starved for news of their favourite sport. The mainstream media provided no solace, and the Internet provided an obvious solution. The tools were in existence, there were sufficient numbers linked to the Internet to form a viable community, and the critical mass existed. After years of little activity, the next three years saw the flowering of cricket on the Net and the birth of CricInfo.

In 1990, an individual that we know only by his e-mail address requested the creation of the rec.sport.cricket newsgroup by means of a request for discussion. s293@cs.utexas.edu (Spring 90) thus might be considered the father of Internet cricket! The request was supported by Jeremy Crampton, Mike Harrison, Ashok Ingle, Simon E Spero, William David Haas, David Chalmers and VC Tirumalai . The group was created on 17 April 1990 and it fell to VC Tirumalai to make the first post.

10 days later, the first post from one of the most influential figures in the early days of intern cricket appeared, Dr KS Rao, at that time a professor of electrical engineering at North Dakota State University. KSR as he still is affectionately known, was a great fan of the game and a keen listener to short wave radio. He rapidly became a major contributor to rec.sport.cricket with news and scores from wherever he could get them.

Robert Elz

An important figure in the early days of rec.sport.cricket was Robert Elz, an Australian who set a high standard for Internet cricket reporting. For the Australia - India Test series in September 1991 he was posting score cards and detailed reports - essentially over by over descriptions to rec.sport.cricket. These reports rapidly developed into actual ball-by ball descriptions, typed out and posted to rsc; his World Cup commentaries are detailed, informative, and entertaining. Many early users of the Internet remember his descriptions. Sadiq Yusuf writes:- K Robert Elz - the nonpareil - best reports/commentary seen on the internet - better than anything even seen since, conceivably. CricInfo commentary has actually deteriorated with time. But KRE was the man - he is owed more beers than anyone in the history of the internet, probably :-)

Robert was a distinguished figure in the history of the Internet in Australia - he registered the .au domain and according to one article at least was the first person linked to the Internet in Australia, when he was established a link between the University of Melbourne and the University of Hawaii. After his phenomenal output in the 1991-92 season, he became an occasional poster to rsc, and last posted in 1995. The demand for this type of detailed coverage was being satisfied from other sources by 1992-93, with the advent of the #cricket channel on internet relay chat.

Robert himself writes:-

I think I may have been one of the first who did a (kind of) ball by ball commentary (delayed by the nature of Usenet, of course). It was just me, sitting in front of a TV (hence, games in Melbourne didn't get much coverage) making notes about each ball, what happened, what was scored, and so on (not unlike the current cricinfo coverage in many ways, though I had the luxury of time to go back and correct some obvious mistakes before anyone saw them).

Then, every half hour for tests (I think it was), or 5 overs for ODIs, I'd send a usenet message with the past period in it - then at the end of the day (perhaps sessions as well), a summary with scorecards and so on. Others had been doing something similar, reports of games at least, but perhaps not with quite as much detail, earlier - the idea for doing this kind of thing certainly wasn't mine, but I perhaps pushed things a bit closer towards what Cricinfo is now, and then got others doing similar things for games in other places.

KS Rao and rec.sport.cricket.scores

The moderated newsgroup rec.sport.cricket.scores was created on 2nd January 1992 with Prof. KS Rao as the moderator. This was in response to the greatly increased volume of material on rec.sport.cricket, and a desire to organize cricket score delivery systematically. Manas Mandal involved in internet cricket for many years, and the original registrant of the cricket.org domain writes in a Usenet Post

"If you read the charter of rscs, you will find that rscs was the first "Internet Cricket Database" of any kind, and in the charter, Prof. Rao talks about the dream of archiving the scorecard of every test match ever played, etc. I am confident that this was the very first proposalof an Internet Cricket Database of any kind, and that Prof. Rao's implementation via rscs is the first Internet Cricket Database. In fact the ideas that came about from rscs, and then the discussions on IRC #cricket were the contributing factors to the creation of CricInfo by the many founding members."

Dr Rao also provided another means of obtaining cricket scores, this time accessible to anyone on the Internet. He used the simple idea of a mailing list. Such lists are stil in common use on the Net, and have a simple concept. Fairly simple software allows the creation and maintenance of a list of members, contactable via e-mail. Any message send to the list address is re-mailed to everyone subscribed to the list. KSR set up the "cricket" list in November 1991, and a second list devoted just to cricket scores in January.

The 1992-93 cricket season marked the coming of age of Internet cricket. Cricket scores and news were available from Usenet, and via mailing lists, and many connections had been built up between cricket fans across the world. The demand now was for more information and with less delay - in fact for true near-live coverage.--DLiverman 09:32, 14 June 2007 (EDT)

Dougie

In December 1992 the following announcement was made to rec.sport.cricket:-

This was the first announcement of the scoring software that would later be adapted to form the foundation of CricInfo's live coverage. Programmed by Jaques de Villiers, a graduate student, currently a senior scientific programmer at the Oregon Graduate Institute, it was named "dougie" after Dougie Etlinger, a well known cricket statistician and historian in South Africa It was, however, much more than that simply a scoring programme when originally announced. This remarkable piece of programming allowed true live coverage well before the invention of the World Wide Web. The task of writing a good cricket scoring programme is complex indeed; to combine it with the concept of distributed networking was a touch of genius.

Screen shot of "dougie" output, on it's Internet Debut, 1995.


South Africa vs India, 5th D/N, Springbok Park, Bloemfontein, 15/12/92

             South Africa                               India

Hudson * not out 30 ( 23) Jadeja c McMilla b Donald 9 ( 25)

Wessels - not out 19 ( 39) Raman c McMilla b Matthe 16 ( 46)

Kirsten Prabhakar run out Callaghan 36 ( 57)

Rhodes Azhar not out 86 (106)

Callaghan Tendulkar b DVilliers 32 ( 52)

Cronje Shastri not out 21 ( 18)

McMillan Kapil

Richardsn Amre

Matthews Yadav

Donald Kumble

DVilliers Srinath

Extras (W: 0 N: 1 B: 3 LB: 0) 4 Extras (W: 1 N: 2 B: 0 LB: 4) 7

Total (Ov: 5.3 RR: 9.64) 53 / 0 Total (Ov: 50.0 RR: 4.14) 207 / 4

                  O  M  R  Wi Wd Nb                            O  M  R  Wi Wd Nb 

Callaghan 4 0 22 1 0 0 Prabhakar 0 0 4 0 0 1

Cronje 6 0 20 0 0 0 Kapil 4 0 20 0 0 0

McMillan 10 0 59 0 0 0 Kumble * 0 0 0 0 0 0

Matthews 10 1 37 1 0 1 Srinath - 1 0 11 0 0 0

Donald 10 2 36 1 1 1

DVilliers 10 1 29 1 0 0

                     current run rate 3.78, required 4.3


The idea behind dougie was this: someone with access to live coverage of a match and an internet connection would start up his own copy of dougie, and score the match. Scoring itself was comparatively simple, especially when compared to traditional cricket scoring. If a batsman scored a boundary, the operator simply typed "4". This would trigger the programme to

  • Add four to the batsman's score
  • Add four to the bowler's analysis
  • Add 1 to number of fours hit by the bat
  • Add one to the balls faced by the batsman
  • add one to the balls bowled by the bowler and finally
  • Add four to the total
  • In a limited overs match it would adjust the run rate of scoring and the run rate required.

If the boundary happened to be on the last ball of the over, then the programme would also switch the batsmen facing, and switch bowlers. If the runs scored were an odd number then the batsmen facing would be changed. Of course any scoring programme has to deal with the more complex aspects of cricket, new bowlers, extras, wides, al run fours, batsmen run out going for the 3rd run, and the very rare events such as handled the ball, stumped off a wide and so on. The original dougie covered most eventualities but still needed some refinement.

All this is very well but the beauty of dougie was that up to four other users running dougie could connect to the "master" dougie as slaves; and four more slaves could connect to each of these. Thus a network could be built up, and each user would see the score update immediately after the scorer scored an event. Today real-time scoreboards for all sorts of events are common on the Web, but when dougie was invented the web was still used by only a few (Time Berbers-Lee announced the WWW concept in 1991, and the first modern browser did not appear until 1993). For whatever reason, however the dougie concept did not really catch on; the software was free, but not that easy to install. The other important ingredient was a supply of dougie scorers- those who were wiling to score a match ball by bal for an internet audience, and although there were a few games covered with dougie, the advent of IRC coverage meant that dougie went into limbo for three years. Dougie re-appeared to save CricInfo during the 1996 World Cup, of which more later..

IRC #cricket

Messaging of chat software is commonplace today but Internet Relay Chat (IRC ) pre-dates most of these. It allows users to log on to a server, join a channel of their choosing, and chat in real time with any other users on the same server or channel.

Internet Relay Chat first appeared in 1989, and it was not long before groups of cricket fans started gathering to chat and exchange news on cricket. There are many essentially independent irc networks, but cricket on irc has always been more organized than most irc discussions, with a centralization of activity on a single network, that has moved through time depending on services offered by the network. The big advantage of irc was that scores could be updated in real time, with a user with access to tv or radio typing the events as they happened.

Apart from a brief mention of IRC in a post regarding the result on the 1992 World Cup final, it remained undiscovered by cricket fans until January 1993. Then George Heard, now a Professor of Biochemistry in North Carolina, but at the time a graduate student at the University of Tasmania made the following post to rsc.

George Heard (heard@franklin.cc.utas.edu.au) Subject: One Day Final on IRC Newsgroups: rec.sport.cricket Date: 1993-01-15 20:58:00 PST G'day guys, Well, thanks to the silly computers here, I'm stuck at work on Saturday while the first final is on. So I have an irc session going while I watch the game on TV. If you want to know the scores, or talk about the game, or are as bored as I am monitoring a long process then look for me, AusVWI on irc.


George's coverage met with rave reviews


From: Anthony Waller (P85014@BARILVM.BITNET) Subject: Tune into Cricket - live on IRC

Date: 1993-01-19 09:35:54 PST

I had a great surprise yesterday. I tried connecting to the

  1. cricket channel on IRC and after a few attempts there were George

and Michael giving us ball by ball commentary from the TV and the radio on the 2nd WSC final between Australia and the Windies. Great stuff - a lot of fun with regular updates from Rohan on India - England via RDickel. Great to meet some of the RSC regulars...

 Hopefully we'll be back for more next week during the Adelaide

Test Match.


Rohan as mentioned here is Rohan Chandran. At the time he was a young student at Stanford, although he grew up in Hong Kong (and reputedly represented Hong Kong in International cricket!). Rohan was much involved in many aspects of the early days of Internet cricket, and later CricInfo, along with his brother Rahul. Rdickel was Rob Dickel who was able to provide updates from India - England.

From January 1993, interest in #cricket on IRC exploded. By late January George and KSR were organizing coverage of the Australia- West Indies Test match. KSR had satellite TV coverage in North Dakota. KSR provided IRC software to anyone working on a Unix based machine. The software was free, and KSR was able to distribute it over the Net from his computer in North Dakota. KSR was soon busy recruiting commentators from South Africa, and arranging coverage of the India-England Test series.

10 years later Manas Mandal remembers the excitement of those first days.

Excellent coverage from Laurie8 and the other Aussies. But ksr was catching the live feed on his satellite dish and typed in WI WIN before Laurie8 finished typing in details of that last out. That series was so much fun. It made D Hair famous. It made Ambrose's wristbands famous. And it gave us reason to need .. to really really crave .. to desperately want live cricket information. If you crave enough, good things will happen!

George Heard

(Laurie8 was George Heard's IRC nickname).

George himself writes:-

I was a cricket-addicted grad student (now I am a cricket-deprived assistant professor) working in computational chemisty, stuck in a lab on the top floor of the University of Tasmania Chemistry building. I had a tiny portable black and white TV, and I'd set it up as close to the computers as connections would allow and watch the cricket while I was "working". I had chatted on irc, and I had been reading rec.sport.cricket on USEnet, and I loved when there were games in India that there were some diehards who would post wicket updates and updates every five overs or so to the newsgroup (which was fine when you had a regular feed, some servers weren't very diligent at updating USEnet). So I wanted to try it out, and give something better than the every couple of overs updates. I didn't intend doing a ball-by-ball coverage on IRC, but after the first 20 or so overs, with about 30 people on the channel sending me constant messages, that is what I ended up doing. I'm sure I broke most existing copyright laws by commenting direct from watching the Channel 9 telecast. Not to mention using University of Tasmania resources. Of course, Australia was beaten pretty badly twice...After that there was a lot of interest about the Tests. Day/Night games were easy for me, but I had things to do during the day (I still had my portable TV with me). I can't remember exactly how it panned, out, but I remember that fourth Test in Adelaide where West Indies won by 1 run after Tim May destroyed the West Indies, then Australia collapsed (I am cheating by using the scorecard of CricInfo to make sure I have the correct details here) and Langer (in his debut) and May were picking away at the last few runs. If I recall, the #cricket room was up over 100 people for the first time, and I had other people who were watching the game throwing in comments. I know I did ball-by-ball for the whole of the last day.

But the idea was definitely rolling. Simon King started really turning CricInfo into something, and was organising people to do commentary for the tests in England. I chipped in sometimes by really cheating and typing out what I could hear from Test Match Special (we could get that on ABC radio in Australia). The next season, there were a lot of people helping out with the commentary, and some irc scripts had been written. I still did a lot of commentary - a total case of deja vu in the Second Test when Australia were bowled out chasing 117.

By the next season, I was concentrating on writing up my thesis, and things had blown past me. CricInfo was pretty well established, I wasn't needed to do the county cards. My portable TV died as well, I did some commentary on the later in the evening tests (Hobart and Perth were on a three-hour time difference during summer, so Perth Tests didn't start until 2 in the afternoon). I went to Melbourne (I'm from Melbourne) and saw Warne's hat-trick. I never did commentary for a Melbourne Test, because I worked visits to my family around Boxing Day cricket. I think that the then powers at CricInfo were kind of sick of me not saying when I was going to be around to do commentary, so I was occasionally opped when I came on, and took over on occasion from whoever was slated to comment.

I left Australia at the start of the next season. I lived in Canada for four years (once playing for Nova Scotia at the Maritime Cricket festival) and met a few of the people who had been running the IRC channel at the Sahara Cup in Toronto (yes, the day Imzamam took the swing at a guy). I went to a one-dayer in Hobart a couple of years ago and met the CricInfo guys doing IRC commentary out of the media station, which blew me away. Now I'm in North Carolina, in a very cricket-deprived region. I follow games on CricInfo all the time and think it's terrific, love all the statistics and good things there. I'm happy to have been a part of starting a monster :-).


Ragga, CP and VAT

The demand for ball-by-ball IRC commentary was tremendous, and with the England-India Test series imminent, a source for commentary was urgently sought. IRC #cricket had already built up a keen community of keen cricket fans, amongst them Simon King (often known by his IRC nickname Coolpom/ Coldpom, later CP), Neeran Karnik, (VKFan), Manas Mandal (bakait), Mandar Mirashi (Mmmm), RustFace (Vallury Prabhakar), Vasanthan S. Dasan (vasa), George Heard (laurie8), John Watson (Goochie), Rohan Chandran (BritRoh), Sridhar, David McBean (ragga) and others. The first two matches in the one-day series went by with only sporadic commentary. The only source of information was David McBean, a West Indian doing graduate work in Oxford, and he could not commit the time to provide full coverage. Manas Mandal, in conjunction with Rustface had the ingenious idea of using some relatively new software called �VAT�. Developed on Unix machines, this was designed to allow transmission of audio over the Internet for the purpose of audio conferencing. They tested the software, and persuaded David MacBean to install it, and set it up with a microphone sitting in front of a radio tuned to BBC's Test match special. Manas Mandal remembers this as follows:-

We did not have live comms during ODI1 and ODI2, and desperately wanted something for the Tests. Rustface and I got VAT running, and then I FedExed the Sparc audio cables to Ragga. Aaah, those days. Ragga used to even play rap music for us over that connection!! Then I used to log on to Ragga's machine every night and start the VAT connection and type comms all night along with ksr, CP, Neeran, Rohan, sridhar (from ASU), and a whole lot of other good folks whose contributions were just enormous. Still the best live coverage we ever had (though Hero Cup coverage was also excellent). I kept typing comms most of that first night (night in the US, of course), and didn't even realize that a certain captain who loved Eden Gardens had scored a brilliant century that would reshape the future of Indian cricket for the next few years. Not only was CI born during this time period (*after* the series) but this series had the first real live commentary and live scorecard on the Internet.

This feed was undoubtedly illegal, but very effective, and cricket fans rapidly became addicted to the coverage. With four or five people listening to the commentary and contributing an amazing amount of detail could be transmitted.

An example:- <RustFace> B2: Kumble to Hick: forward, takes it on the pad on leg-stump, he's +given OUT!!!

<Azhar2> ct at short leg by Amre...

<RustFace> Hick c. Amre @ Short-leg, bowled Kumble.

<Azhar2> 214/8

<Azhar2> The end of Hick makes the 30 run deficit seem extremely large..

<bakait> 30 runs, 2 wickets. That's the equation.

<VKFan> England 2nd inn:

<VKFan> ---------------------------------------------------

<VKFan> Gooch b. Prabhakar 8

<VKFan> Stewart lbw b. Prabhakar 10

<VKFan> Atherton c. More b. Prabhakar 11

<VKFan> Smith b. Kumble 62

<VKFan> Gatting st. More b. Chouhan 61

<VKFan> Hick c. Amre b. Kumble 47

<VKFan> Blakey b. Kumble 0

<VKFan> Lewis c. More b. Raju 3

<VKFan> Emburey not out 0

<VKFan> Extras (4 b, 6 legb, 1 nb, 1 wide) 12

<VKFan> ---------------------------------------------------

<VKFan> Total (for 8 wkts) 214

<VKFan> ---------------------------------------------------

<Azhar2> Hicks body language suggests that it might be a dubious decision, but +his body language is not reliable..

<VKFan> FOW:- 1-17, 2-26, 3-34, 4-155, 5-181, 6-181, 7-206, 8-214

<RustFace> It took a long time for Umpire Reporter's decision to go up, and +Hick didn't seem to think he touched the ball

Sadiq Yusuf writes of that period

We had like 6 people with live audio at any one time, basically - and good audio, with TMS. So there were about 3/4 "rested" commentators at any one time in operation. One to say something like "ball 1, 2 runs". The next to say "that was clipped away to midwicket, where Gooch stupidly misfielded and allowed 2 instead of 1". And the third to say "the crowd doing a mexican wave, firecrackers going off". And the fourth to chime in "butterfly fluttering across the field between the bowler and mid-on" :-) And the fifth and sixth, of course, were saying "saala, you have commentated long enough, now let me do some!" :-)

'I don't know -maybe it was because it was some of the first coverage after so long. Maybe it was because it was 4 cricket fanatics at once, who really knew and cared about the game, and were volunteering to help their fellow fanatics out with all the details they could (they would even talk on message sometimes and reveal extra details, if you asked :-) Maybe it was something else. But by memory that was the best coverage we've had, ever, I think.

As the numbers on IRC grew, there was an increasing need to organize the channel, and those who volunteered their time on it. One easy means of assisting was the placing of IRC bots. On a basic level, a bot is just a program that simulates an IRC client. It listens for messages and chat it recognises, and it performs useful functions and sends messages to users.. These commands can be as simple as responding to the use of foul language by kicking out the user. There were constant requests from new people joining the channel for the current score, and the scorecard up to that point. The idea for a bot that would store the current scorecard came from Mmmm who soon had "Creakoot" running. Any new user to the channel could ask Creakoot for the current score and scorecard.

The Birth of CricInfo

This brings us to the establishment of CricInfo, and Simon King. Simon recognised that if a bot on irc could retrieve the scorecard of the current match, then potentially it could do much more. This led to the vision of a database of cricket information. He taught himself how to programme a bot (with assistance from Mandar Mirashi - Mmmm), and developed a basic database structure that still form the foundation of CricInfo's structure today.


the CricInfo bot

Going back to the founding of CricInfo, Simon writes of this period

I did a 2 year post-doc at the University of the Frozen Wastes (otherwise known at the University of Minnesota) from Jan 1992 - Jan 1994. In common with other ex-pats from civilised countries, I now found myself in the cricketing wilderness (unfortunately, that wasn`t the only sort of wilderness I found myself in!). I soon became an avid reader of rsc and latched onto any new innovation eagerly if it was able to provide me with free information from my favourite sport. I can remember writing shell scripts to print out jawad`s emails (via ksrao`s listserver) during pak eng 1992 as soon as they came in, and waiting by the printer for the updates every few minutes. Information was *precious*! I imagine this story is common to many r.s.c. readers. Most of us are (were) stuck in the USA (primarily) with very little information available locally, even on high-profile Test series. A lucky few have satellite dishes, whilst some may be able to afford imported newspapers or may routinely be able to consult foreign (to the USA) newspapers in libraries. However, the vast majority seem to be (have been) just like me - scrabbling for every tidbit of information we can glean without stretching already tight budgets. Like you and countless others, I wanted (and still want) scorecards and news, and I wanted them NOW! :-)

On March 15, 1993 Simon placed the CricInfo bot on the irc channel #cricket, and started soliciting contributions and assistance. There had been other attempts to consolidate cricket knowledge, but Simon later outlined the four founding principles of CricInfo that governed it's early growth.

  • Establishment of a permanent resource
  • Centralization of all cricket resources and information
  • As a complete archive of information as possible
  • Access to all with the technology at no cost.

The first two principles are related. Anyone who knows the Internet will find innumerable examples of ambitious projects that make tremendous starts, somewhat falter and are later abandoned, only to disappear completely later. Usually this is because they are the product of the work of a single individual. This was particularly true in 1993, when the majority of internet users were at universities. Students had a limited tenure at when they moved on, anything they had worked on was lost. Simon's idea, which proved immensely effective, was to make CricInfo a co-operative resource by involving as many people as possible in contributing information, and maintaining the resource. The community that already existed on #cricket and rec.sport.cricket made this initially easy. Once the CricInfo bot was running, IRC channel users started using it and Simon announced it to rec.sport.cricket as follows:-


From: ColdPom (slking@sapphire.space.umn.edu) Subject: IRC: CricInfo Date: 1993-04-08 05:31:11 PST

Hello All, just a quick post to let everyone know about a new service on #cricket called CricInfo. This IRC Bot (software robot - actually a ircII script) acts as an interactive database for cricket-related (and a little irc-related) information. It is open to all to access so please do try it out. On it's 3rd day of operation, it is already averaging over 100 requests for information a day.

After having joined IRC, just type "/msg CricInfo help". From there you may type "/msg CricInfo index", and to request a particular file type "/msg CricInfo <filename>" (without the <> of course :) ). The database is organized within a directory structure.

The second, and main purpose of this post is to elicit information for CricInfo. As with any database, CricInfo is only as useful as the files which are on it. The intention is that it should build-up into a highly useful source of large amounts of information, including old (and new of course) scorecards, as well as profiles of particularly eminent players; facts about, and locations of, each cricket-playing country's major grounds; BRIEF match reports, statistical information..etc etc.. I'm sure I don't need to spell it out in detail, and will leave it up to you to decide whether you think that a particular piece of information would be suitable for this service. Therefore, please do take a few minutes/hours to write a piece on your favourite ground, player/transcribe some averages, scorecards or whatever and send it to me in a format suitable for CricInfo. Lastly, would those of you who take the time to regularly post interesting, factual and objective articles to r.s.c., please not forget also to send me a copy, in a useable format, for the 100+ people who now regularly use #cricket. Thanks. See you on irc...... and don't forget: You saw it on CricInfo, and, in the event that you *didn't* see it on CricInfo, that's probably because *you* didn't send it in ! :)

ColdPom


So right from the start, the idea of a volunteer contributed database was front and centre, and its objectives of archiving far more than current scorecards clearly set out. The users on IRC responded immediately and the information started to stream in, slowly at first but at an ever increasing pace. Simon as well as soliciting contributors also looked to the #cricket community for people who could help coordinate the database.

Neeran Karnik

In 1993 Neeran Karnik, (now working in Delhi for IBM), was a 23 year-old graduate student in computer science at the University of Minnesota. Neeran was a fanatical cricket fan, but a strong interest in statistics and Indian cricket. He became a keen reader and respected poster on rec.sport cricket from November 1991 onwards (shortly after arriving from India), and embraced Internet Relay chat when commentary became available there. He was one of those with access to the India-England radio feed, and was an obvious person for Simon to recruit.

It perhaps says something about both Simon and Neeran that although they knew of each other on IRC and became close collaborators, they never met in person, even though they were at the same university! .A week after Simon's announcement on rec.sport.cricket, Neeran took over the role of soliciting contributions from the group.

CricInfo moves to North Dakota

CricInfo originally ran from Simon's University of Minnesota account, but rapidly outgrew it. The system administrator at the university was not co-operative and CricInfo nearly died a premature death. It's saviour was the redoubtable KSR, who provided Simon, someone he had never met or talked to other than on IRC, an account on his PC at University of North Dakota. Simon wrote of the switch

Prof KS Rao kindly offered me an account on his PC running 386BSD at North Dakota. No preconditions were set by ksrao; he was simply helping out this nutcase with a mission he had met on irc. The shift away from my UMN account was a tremendous amount of work (and taught me about writing portable programs!), but it did enable me finally to involve others in the actual running of CI. Earliest amongst these (of those who are still around) were neeran and rohan, with murari arriving soon afterwards. I recruited each of these myself and gave us the collective title of "The Management.

Thus CricInfo moved west to its new address at "Tulip". Working on a machine that allowed several people to access it remotely meant that true co-operative work could start, hence Simons recruitment drive.

CI Gopher

In the world of Netscape and Internet Explorer, few remember or even saw its direct predecessor, known affectionately as �Gopher�. Gopher was invented in 1991 by Paul Lindner and Mark P. McCahill at the University of Minnesota, and had many similarities to the web as we know it today. It was basically a simple method of navigating information stored on a host computer from a remote computer. The host computer ran software to deliver information and the use needed to run client software on theirs. Once connected navigation was by following links to information, much as on the web today. True hyper links did not exist but a well organized collection of files could easily be navigated by the user. Gopher clients were available for Unix machines but also the Mac and Windows platforms.

Irc was still restricted to comparatively few users, and the CricInfo bot was not easy to use. By 1993 there was a large connected network of gopher servers that was providing a wide range of information. Gopher was far easier to use and greatly increased the accessibility of information. Neeran Karnik therefore decided to prepare the fledging CricInfo database to gopher access. He announced it to the world in July 1993 to a very positive reaction. Manas Mandal posted to rec.sport.cricket

�I tried out the CricInfo server on tulip.ee.ndsu.nodak.edu using gopher and had a gala time. It is AWESOME!!!!!! Tonnes of information available at my fingertips, all the stats I wanted to know, etc. I LOVE IT!!!! Kudos to ColdPom (father of CricInfo), KSRao (need we say any more about him?) and VKFan for getting CricInfo available through gopher. Makes it a lot more easier to access as compared to using it from within IRC.�

Gopher greatly increased the visibility of CricInfo and accesses soared. This in turn brought problems, a recurrent theme in this history. Right from the start there was a constant battle (mostly won) to provide sufficient bandwidth, speed and hardware capability to keep users satisfied. Two weeks after Neeran�s announcement it had become clear to all involved that ksr�s 386 was not up to the task.

Fundraising for a server

Simon posted to rec.sport cricket a long missive, reproduced below:-

From the managers of CricInfo

As many of you may have noticed, the CricInfo service has become very intermittent these days. The home of CricInfo, tulip.ee.ndsu.nodak.edu, is actually a 386PC running BSD386. Apparently, this software has a number of inherent bugs, although we don't currently have the details as to what they are. However, the net result of this is that tulip simply dies when it is overloaded and, being an ordinary PC, this is quite easy to do, especially considering the thousands of connects to tulip each *day*. Whilst we are continuing to try and fix it, the only long-term solution is to use a proper Unix-box for CricInfo. Various plans which are afoot, dictate that this will soon become a matter of urgency.

With this in mind, we are starting a fund-raising appeal for a new (second-hand) computer. As many of you will have gathered, hundreds of people now access CricInfo, and we hope to be able to raise the necessary funds (we think about US$2000 will cover it) amongst ourselves, i.e., the net cricket community. This *should* be a one-off expenditure. Ksrao has kindly offered to provide Internet access for the computer, which will have a secure home in North Dakota for at least the next 10 years. This will be a dedicated net cricket computer with 100% of its CPU available for the task of receiving, sorting and disseminating cricket information. As is the nature of the net, access will be free-of-charge and open to all as currently is the case.

If you contribute $50, that works out as $5 per year, (no inflation!) in return for all the information that CI currently provides, as well as all the information that it will be able to provide in the future (which, we hope (i.e., if our plans work out -- more later), will utterly dwarf that which currently is available :).

In order to get things started, ksrao and I have each pledged $100, so we're 1/10th of the way there already :-).

At the moment, we have not yet decided what to buy, or where to buy it so please don't send any money yet. However, in common with TV telethons, we would like your pledges, so that we will have some idea of what we will have to spend and whether the current interest in CI translates into people actually willing to help finance its future! :-)

Incidentally, a dedicated Unix box will allow us .. really to become the "Home of Net Cricket".

Lastly, as I mentioned above, major plans are afoot which may enable us to provide a *hugely* expanded service in a few months (although only with a new computer. tulip could not handle it). We are not yet ready to go public with these, so please don't ask :-), but any information on the following would be appreciated:

o Making CricInfo a non-profit organisation, or preferably a charity in the USA. -- the ramifications of that (e.g., tax returns etc..)

o Making CricInfo a charity in the UK and all that may be involved with that.

Your help will be appreciated as ever :-) CP


In addition to the plea for funds to deal with immediate problems, the extent of Simon's ambition for CricInfo is clearly outlined in this post. The "secret" plans might be any number of things but it is clear that already, only a few months after the launching of CricInfo, He was already thinking of means of establishing CricInfo as a permanent body, either as a charity or non-profit group, essentially means of incorporation and a vehicle for conducting business.

The problem with the North Dakota connection, however went beyond just the capabilities of Dr Rao's 386. KSR was travelling a fair amount, and if the computer went down, it often required someone to physically get to the computer and re-boot it. If KSR was not there this could take days, or even on one occasion weeks. This when combined with the instability of the over-stressed tulip machine rapidly brought matters to a head. Thus in time the plea for funds was augmented by a search for a permanent stable home for CricInfo where it was easily accessible.

1993: CI moves to Oregon

A group of South Africans from the Oregon Graduate Institute came to the rescue, just as the situation was reaching a critical level. The system was crashing frequently and system administrators in North Dakota were getting less and less enthusiastic about re-booting "tulip". Etienne Barnard was a research professor in Oregon, having moved there in 1993. As a cricket fan he was well aware of CricInfo, and knew Jaque de Villiers (of dougie fame; soon to move to OGI for a masters and later permanent work) from his time at University of Pretoria. Etienne was short of cash but offered his used microwave oven as part of the CricInfo pledge. He was able to swap the oven for a venerable but trustworthy Sun computer (a Sun 3/50 first manufactured in 1986). More importantly, he was able to house it on the network at the Oregon Graduate Institute, with was reliable and fast. The Sun was slow, limited in its memory but ran a genuine Unix operating system- Unix has been the foundation of CricInfo's software development to the present day. Etienne, an expert in speech recognition software and now running his own company back in South Africa writes:-

As I remember it, we had been running CI on a server provided by Prof. Rao (in North Dakota), but his connectivity to the net was not great. At OGI we had much better Internet bandwidth, and CP managed to badger me into running some services on a machine there. As a newly-appointed faculty member I was a little nervous about the unofficial (ahem) nature of our offering, so when a colleague of mine got some shiny new hardware from an NSF grant, we did the horse trade [of the microwave oven for the Sun

Gopher was installed and running on the Sun in Oregon by early September with tulip back in North Dakota still providing the irc bot.

The Sun was barely adequate. Simon King wrote of this period:

The 3/50 may have been stable, but it was excruciatingly slow. I had to edit the bot, restricting it to a tiny subsection of the available files, just so that it could be run at all by this computer. Logging scripts and updating scripts took most of the week, whilst gopherd sometimes filled the process table. Compounded with this, the 3/50 only had a small disk, which we soon filled to capacity as CI continued to grow. There was a period of some weeks when large sections of the CI database were kept on Management's local accounts and unavailable to other users owing to lack of space.

Early volunteers

The group of committed volunteers was progressively increasing also. Murari Venkataraman was a graduate student at the University of Texas and became a tireless organizer, adding information, soliciting contributions and most importantly organizing the fund drive for a new computer. He was joined by Shashin Shah, yet another North American based graduate student, who for the next 4 years became a vital part of CricInfo, particularly in dealing with scorecards and articles. A huge part of the early database was put on-line by shash, who also was a major contributor himself. Sadiq Yusuf writes in rec.sport.cricket:-

I remember Shash and me getting together at his apartment and watching tapes till 3am several days. And then we would trek down in the cold to White Hen where he got his cigs. And then we would sit in front of the computer (4am), and we'd pull out my old copies of "Indian Cricket", and one would dictate and the other would type out every scorecard for "tests played during the year over the world" :-) The number of things that guy typed out was nuts, really.

Another graduate student from Canada who became involved was Srinivas Kandala, based at University of Toronto. He became an important part of the management over the next few years, even after moving to full-time employment in Montreal. The recruitment of a larger, stable and reliable management team was vital at this point, as Simon King's tenure at University of Minnesota was coming to an end.

Successful pledge drive

By December 1993 the fund drive for a new machine was complete. The Sun 3/50 was worryingly sick. It had been moved to a new location at OGI and the new address �gopher cricinfo.cse.ogi.edu 7070� was one that was to become embedded in the memories of many cricket fans over the 1995-97 period. However, the computer itself, besides being over-taxed by the load, was making aloud and worrying noises, traceable to a very noisy hard-drive.

Etieene Barnard posted to rec.sport.cricket in December under "Imminent death of cricketing celebrity predicted":-

To many of us in the US, Cricinfo is our most important link with the cricketing world. It is heavily used, widely cited, and not very healthy on the hardware side. The Sun 3/50 that was installed as a stopgap measure three months ago has been relatively stable (though S-L-O-W); however, the noise emanating from the disk unit makes me think that an unpleasant surprise may be awaiting us.'

The pledge drive had reached a level where a new machine was possible. Over $3000 had been pledged, and a new SPARC work station was likely to cost over $2200. Murari Venkataraman started calling in the pledges in November of 1993, and had cash in hand by the end of the year. By the end of 1993 starting in April, CricInfo served an amazing 126,932 files.

Murari was still receiving cheques from the pledge drive and by late January formally closed the effort. The pledge drive had realised $2698, and now the task was to purchase and install a new machine. Purchase was coordinated by Etienne in Oregon, and by late February, the new machine was installed and being configured. It formally went on line in March.

From: Etienne Barnard (barnard@gilda.cse.ogi.edu)

Subject: The new Cricinfo

This is the only article in this thread View: Original Format Newsgroups: rec.sport.cricket Date: 1994-03-08 09:34:15 PST

This is just to report to all the owners of the new Cricinfo that your system is up and running: a Sparcstation 1 (with 16 Mbytes of RAM and a 1.05 Gb disk). It has replaced the old version, so hopefully the change will be transparent once the transients die down.

A full accounting is as follows:

Total from fund drive: $2698

Cost of Cricinfo: -$2362.20 (Base system $1825; expansion box with

                                 tape drive $450; freight $87.20)

cost of backup media -$ 42.50 (QIC-150 cartridges)

                  --------------
             Balance:  $ 293.70

Thanks to everyone who (a) helped with the fund drive (especially murari, ColdPom), (b) set up the machine (especially pieter, ColdPom, Goochie, Jacques, murari, neeran, srini, shash ...), and most of all (c) contributed to making this possible (WIBot, if your cover drive matches your generosity, Brian Lara had better watch out!)


The largest single donation was by WiBot, a $500 figure that made the purchase possible. The new computer was fast, had adequate disc space, and allowed the development of several initiatives that had been planned for some time. Simon was already back on-line from his new position at University college, London, but demands of work meant that Shash and Murari were shouldering the bulk of the management load.

Unfortunately within a week, CricInfo was back on the old Sun. The new machine suffered a catastrophic hard drive failure, and was out of action until the disc could be replaced. The old Sun soldiered on, still making noises that concerned - the Sun stood in Etienne's speech lab, where lots of transcriptions were taking place, which did not help!

It took until mid-May to get the SPARC up and running, but soon new means of interrogating the database became available - the most used of which was by e-mail.

With finally a stable, relatively fast computer sitting on a fast, reliable connection, CricInfo had come of age. The 1994-95 period was one of consolidation and growth, with the volume of information archived progressively increasing, and a steady recruitment of volunteers to contribute information..

The Management, 1994

In January 1994, Simon King left Minnesota, signing off with this post:-

"From: CP (cricinfo@tulip.ee.ndsu.nodak.edu) Subject: And it's bye bye from him...

Date: 1994-01-05 02:58:21 PST

..and ttfn from me!

Please look after CI it needs daily support (bit like my back :-) and may the flame wars never singe the green, green grass of home (which I shall be seeing again shortly :-))))

The list of people who have helped with CI is extremely long (is your name on it ? :-) so I'm not even going to attempt to thank everyone for their help - all in a good cause (I hope :). A few names must be mentioned though (sorry :-): ksrao and cr1eb without whom CI would have gone into silicon-heaven 3 and 6 months ago respectively, and then there's Frank, Eug, Charl, Phil, gaurav, Laurie8, Mohan, gautham, jason, Geoff, goochie, Chris Shortland (still here?), Vicky, vasa, rohan, sadiq arrgh... too many to list (but certainly *not* TOO many ! :-) who (have) provide(d) the regular flow of hard info over the past 10 months without which CI would dry up - I think most of us appreciate the not inconsiderable and altrusitic efforts they make in keeping us all informed, at no personal gain, since the info often is freely available in their own newspapers.. *please* keep it up :-) Also, there are all those who have helped keeping CI's irc scorecard and offered commentary on #cricket, and many thanks too to those of you who have sent in a pledge cheque... you should be seeing some results from that shortly.. we're about ready to buy the new machine (and it's most urgent.. we have 1.9MB free on the current disk as I write!! :-( ). Thanks to srini, cric8, laurie8, vkfan, jacques, goochie, eug, rohan all of whom (have) help(ed) with running and/or programming for CI since it started and, lastly, *everyone* else who has helped in some way or sent something in for the rest of us to read. In total there are probably a hundred more! (actually, the list is somewhere under MISC/CRICINFO_DATA if you're interested... :-)

And lastly, my "extra special" thanks to mu and shash, without whom CI would probably now be going into premature retirement. With my leaving, they're going to need more help with running CI, so please help them out if you can - it *is* a big job running, developing, debugging, maintaining, expanding a database as large and growing as fast as this !

"By" (well, we all hate long goodbyes :-) )

CP [ over and out - back from "cricinfo@lords.com" in a few months/years...???? :-)]

p.s Arrgh.. dammit.. I'll now spend the next two hours thinking of all the names of people I overlooked in the original post ! :-0 Anyway.. If I left you off.. *sorry* ! My thanks anyway.. you know who you are :-) One person I must mention though is Mmmm ( how could I forget Mmmm ?! :-) who helped greatly with "the original" CricInfo v 0.0001 and also is mainly responsible for the irc client install (still on tulip, port 8888) back when it started as a "little" project :-0. Gee, thnx mandar :-) l8r CP


Simon thus formally handed over responsibility for CricInfo to Murari and Shash. This was a major commitment - each of them were spending 1-2 hours/ day on CricInfo, to the detriment of their graduate studies. Murari made the vital step of recruiting Badri Sheshadri, who was to become second only to Simon King in his efforts for CricInfo over the next few years. Badri was doing a PhD. At Cornell University, and rapidly took over a large measure of responsibility for maintaining the database. An immensely talented individual, Badri could re-type a scorecard to CricInfo standards in minutes, was a useful programmer, and possessed excellent organizational skills.

Simon was soon back on-line however and the management team was by mid 1994 well established. Shash after finishing his first degree moved home and was unavailable until he returned to the states later. Murari and Badri took on major responsibility for maintenance and organization of the database, whilst Simon was responsible for planning and strategy, plus development.

Live coverage

The directory structure - the basic organization of the CricInfo database remained much the same as in 1993, but progressively there was an insistence that material submitted be fitted to a standardised format. This was an important step towards later development of a more sophisticated database. If all scorecards are formatted the same then they can be later used for many purposes, including the automatic generation of statistics. There was also a progressive emphasis on accuracy of information. There was also a steady influx of news and articles as keen volunteers typed out articles of interest.

The centre of the operation was live coverage, however, and a system soon evolved for maintaining a current scorecard on CricInfo. It required effectively a partnership between a commentator on Internet Relay Chat, and a volunteer with a text editor who updated the scorecard based on the commentary. The quality of the card was highly dependent on the quality of information given by the IRC commentator, but with a strong commentator, an accurate card could be updated on CricInfo every over, to be accessed by gopher, mail or other means.

However finding someone willing to commentate was never easy. It requires considerable dedication to watch a match and type detailed commentary, and often volunteers were restricted in the time they could spend on-line.

the strangest comm episode ever

Perhaps the most amusing example of the difficulty in obtaining scores through IRC comes from April 1995. India were playing Pakistan in Sharjah - Indian - Pakistan matches have always been notable on CricInfo and #cricket for the intense interest, and heights of passion that surround them. The busiest days in any given season were usually when the two countries met, and the #cricket channel was often visited by those wishing to re-hash the history of Indian-Pakistan politics at those times. During this match a young man with the nick-name ÈPrakashÈ was providing commentary - of a sort from Hong-Kong, and was the only source of live scores from the match. Part of the dialogue on #cricket is reproduced below, and the entire episode documented in the appendix. It is also an example of the sometimes poor quality of information that CricInfo had to rely on to provide live scorecards..


<prakash> 67/1 (14o)

<prakash> pak are doing ok! India's bolwing is getting better>

<prakash> Kumble (anil)

<prakash> kumble is bolwing now!

<prakash> pak's got a 4

<prakash> out out out out!!!!!!!

<prakash> out out!!!!!!

<prakash> SA 25(40) C MA B AK

<prakash> OUT OUT OUT OUT!!!!!!!!

<prakash> AZER COUGHT IT OUT!

<prakash> GO INDIA!!!!!

<prakash> Drinks on now!!!!

<prakash> drinks!!!

<Tundukar> prakash: what is the team score now?

<prakash> I will find out now (wait)

<prakash> 77/2 (15o) <prakash> 77/2 (15o)

<prakash> new batsman al- haq

<prakash> Go India!!!!!

<prakash> Sachin Tundukar : mid on

<prakash> AZHAR : silly pt

<prakash> Go India!

<prakash> drinks over!!!!!

<prakash> I will tell you the score (wait)

<prakash> 78/2 (17)

<azzie> who are teh bowlers prakash?

<prakash> Kumble and Prasad

<prakash> I am 15 yes

<prakash> Akram go **** your self you pak ****!!!!

<VKFan> hello? what's the problem?

<Travis> Folks: Please do not disturb the commentator with your messages. Please be grateful for what he is doing

<Travis> prakash: just ignore all messages from anyone who is not an operator here

<prakash> I am going to stop!!!!!!!!!

<Tundukar> the kid threatens:-)

<prakash> I am stoping Sorry

<VKFan> Next non-op to msg the comm gets BANNED

<VKFan> And kicked too, by the way :)

<prakash> I AM STOPING !!!!

<prakash> BYE BYE

<srinivas> Praksh: please go ahead. we really apprecaite what youa redoing

<prakash> BYE

<prakash> BYE <prakash> BYE

      • Signoff by Akram detected

<VKFan> ****... idiots

<srinivas> ok.. akram banne for ever now

<Saeesh> f akram *******

<wenyen> prakash pleas come back

<VKFan> No unbanning him now

<srinivas> prakash is gone

<wenyen> prakash please come back

<gt4667c> please prakash come back

<Saeesh> poor prakash:

later...

<prakash> out out out out out!!!!!!!

<prakash> out out out out out out out out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

<prakash> out!!!!

<prakash> Asif Mujtaba 4(7) run out Uptal Chaterjee

<prakash> Hong Kong!

<prakash> It is all going Indias way now!!!!!

<prakash> India is looking v.god

<prakash> India is now on the top! but can the pak do some thing to stop that?

<prakash> BIG QUESTION CAN THEY DO IT?

<prakash> Sachin Tundukar is bowling now he has been good so-far!!!!

<prakash> Go India!!!!

<prakash> The paks hit a big 6 over the top (i think that ball is lost)

<prakash> out out out out!!!!!!!!!!

<prakash> clean bowled!!!!!

<prakash> clean Blowled!!!!!

<drinnen> double hat trick is it?

<prakash> Moin Kwan(c)2(5) b Uptal Chatarjee

<prakash> Go India!!!!!!

<prakash> Sorry I will not say "GO INDIA!!!!"

<prakash> new batsman: Wasim AKram

<prakash> thankx!

<prakash> WA hit a 6 behind 3rd man off srt

<prakash> GO ALL!!!!!!!!!

<prakash> Sachin Tundukar is still bolwing very good !

and later still...

<prakash> out out out out out out!!!!!!!!!!!

<prakash> out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

<prakash> clean bolwed!!!!!1

<prakash> Ul-haq 88(100) b Prasad

<prakash> Ul-haq got bolwed by prasad!!!!!

<prakash> I might not be here *sory*

<azzie> why prakash?

<azzie> srt's innings gotta be something to see no?

<prakash> but at the end I will come on and tell you who wins!!!!

<prakash> I have to pay for this it is not free!!!!

<prakash> I will tell you the winer at the end!!

<azzie> prakash: ok, its up to you, we are very thankful for whatever you've done so far

<prakash> but I will be here untill the end of pak inn

<prakash> I will tell you the score at the end of the match!!!

<prakash> I am not leaving now after the paks inn, then I will come back at the end of the match!!

<rahul> is prakash still on

<rahul> please prakash!!!!!!!!!! i beg you

<prakash> I have to sorry, but I will tel l_4O^>+?[

<prakash> I have too, but I will come back at the end of the match to tell you who won!!!

<azzie> prakash: its fine

<azzie> you did a good job

<prakash> I have to pay you don't!!!!

> prakash: thanks a lot!!! You did a great job!!

<prakash> WILL YOU PAY ME?

<prakash> WILL YOU PAY ME?

<prakash> i HAVE TO PAY WILL YOU PAY FOR ME??????

<azzie> prakash: we don't know how much it costs?

<prakash> SORRY I WILL NOT CHANG MY MIND UNLESS YOU PAY FOR IT!!!!!

<prakash> INDY ARE YOU GOING TO PAY?

<azzie> prakash: how much

<prakash> 15 US PER HOUR!!!

<prakash> 15 US PER HOUR!!!!!!!

<prakash> I AM SORRY I HAVE TO CHARGE YOU BUT I AM PAYING NOW FOR YOU ONLY!!!

<prakash> NOW!

<prakash> DO YOU WISH TO PAY???

<prakash> YES/NO???????????

<WeLostMon> prakash:go ahead and go...

<prakash> BECAUSE I HAVE BEEN PAYING FOR THIS (I DID NOT CHARGE AT ALL)

<pg> get lost prakash

<SUNIL1> prakash how about $10

<prakash> STOP THAT!

<luv> prakash is a true opportunist

<WeLostMon> prakash:i suggest u log off before u waste any more money...

<Gandhi> prakash pay us for bearing with oyu

<pg> we'll pay for blowing to you

<Bhairya> sheesh

<prakash> 10 IS OK THAT MEANS I ONLY PAY $5

<VKFan> Noone's paying anyone anything prakash...

<travis> yeah yeah the cheque is in the mail

<VKFan> Leave now if you're running up the bill

<prakash> ARE YOU PAYING OR NOT???????

<VKFan> stop it prakash

<azzie> prakash: its too hard to arrange

<prakash> ARE YOU PAYING?????

<prakash> ARE YOU PAYING?

<azzie> prakash: no

<azzie> this is not a pay channel

<azzie> nobody here is paid for whatever services they may offer

<azzie> its all done on a voluntary basis

<prakash> **** you!!!

      • prakash has been kicked off channel #cricket by VKFan (VKFan)

<travis> yay! 3 cheers for VKfan

<travis> <g>

<VKFan> :-)

<rogan> We do not pay for comm on #cricket

<rogan> That is all there is to it

<darkhorse> that was the strangest comm episode ever, man

IRC commentators

It was not always this difficult of course and there were some superb irc commentators around. "Rogan" in the log above was Josh Saunders, an Australian student, who willingly covered international cricket in Australia with excellent ball-by-ball commentary, supplemented by others such as Travis and Phil Shead (drinnen above). In New Zealand, long standing volunteer Geoff Bethell supplied excellent commentary.

The Web

The World Wide Web was "invented" of course by Tim Berners-Lee. In August of 1991 he posted to Usenet as follows

The WWW project merges the techniques of information retrieval and hypertext to make an easy but powerful global information system.

The project started with the philosophy that much academic information should be freely available to anyone. It aims to allow information sharing within internationally dispersed teams, and the dissemination of information by support groups.

This actually pre-dated gopher, but although the concept was embraced by some it failed to gain much ground on the internet until the first modern browser was designed - NCSA Mosaic was announced to the world in 1993 by Marc Andreessen of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. Mosaic, originally written for Unix was soon available for Mac and Windows operating systems, and eventually evolved into Netscape in late 1994. The web as we know it today was born, and growing fast. CricInfo did not embrace the technology immediately. One of the advantages of the www was that it could be used to browse gopher sites, and so CricInfo became accessible to the web almost by default. However in 1995 the management came to recognise that CricInfo should be made available directly on the web.

The brains behind the effort was Michiel Boland "mathop" to his irc friends. Michiel demonstrated just how global CricInfo's reach was - he was Dutch, based at the University of Nijmegen in the Netherlands, and a keen fan of cricket. Like North American residents, he found access to cricket information very hard to find through mainstream literature, and so turned to the Internet and thus CricInfo. A mathematician and talented programmer, he decided to write his own Unix based server software to deliver CricInfo pages. He described it as "a very small, yet very fast HTTP server for UN*X systems.Mathopd is designed specifically to handle a large number of connections with minimal fuss. It contains no unnecessary add-ons, but it does the trick for most things."

This proved ideal for the early days of the web on CricInfo, especially with the writer of the software on hand to deal with problems. Mathopd served CricInfo well until 1998?. In combination with the development of the software came the challenge of designing the web interface, and means of delivering information in a web friendly format. Up to this point CricInfo had been very much a text only interface, and all the information - scorecards, and articles - were stored as basic text files. This meant that articles in particular looked very different than they do in the modern web interface. There were no internal links, a single font choice used, no possibility of incorporating graphics, and a very simple format.

To locate articles you had to navigate a strict hierarchical data structure - a tree rather than a web. The web potentially allowed much easier navigation, and much more accessible information, as well as a more visually pleasing design.

Even the early browsers allowed the use of graphics in a simple point and click interface. Mathop produced an experimental first CricInfo home page design, using cricket balls instead of the "O" in CricInfo. Dave Liverman was tasked with designing a more refined graphical interface for the web, and used a scoreboard motif- taking the scoreboard at the Sydney Cricket Ground as a template. This really served as a visual metaphor for the existing hierarchical database, and was navigated in a very similar manner to gopher- most of the actual information was text only. The migration to the web was time consuming. It meant that every piece of information had to be uploaded twice- once in a plain text version, and once as a web-formatted version (.html files for those who understand the details of web design..).

Sydscore.jpg

The first web interface, designed by Dave Liverman- short-lived!

The process was speeded up using automatic scripts- small pieces of programming that could convert the old gopher files into html files with minimum effort, and by late 1995 the web interface was becoming very popular and CricInfo was well established as a web presence.

The ability to put graphics on pages was important - in the long run it would enable advertisements to be produced, and photographs to be integrated into the site. In the short term it released a flock of budding graphic artists on the site who had been masquerading as programmers, coordinators and other voluntary tasks. Fortunately some volunteers actually had a talent for design - although others clearly did not. Simon had a go at designing header graphics for the main section of the site - with mixed results - although these were used for a while before being replaced. The "Archive" box ended up being placed in a private area known as "The Worst of CI graphics", along with such abominations as the World Cup 1996 footer graphic.

What was to be the CricInfo logo for the next 5 years emerged from these frantic attempts at graphic design. David Dyte, at the time working as a sports statistician in Victoria Australia, and a keen supporter of the Zimbabwe cricket team, came up with two brilliant graphics. The first consisted of a simple header, with the word "CricInfo" bookended by a batsman and bowler silhouette. The batsman was based on a photo of Alan Border, and the bowler, the great Yorkshire left-hander, Wilfred Rhodes. For some reason the Border image became the logo of choice and was seen all over the web for the next few years.

CI AB.GIF

The second graphic formed the "footer" - the header appears at the top of every pages on the site, and the footer at the base, with the content sandwiched between. The footer was again a silhouette, this time based on the famous photograph taken just after Solomon had run out Meckiff to tie the 1960 Australia- West Indies test.

Foot.GIF

Registration

By early 1995 Simon King, supported by the management, started to look at expansion to secure CricInfo as a long term, permanent resource. It was recognised early on that this would mean money, to hire staff, and to maintain adequate servers and bandwidth to provide live scorecards on demand. Although CricInfo had an excellent record of the numbers of pages served, it did not well understand the demographics of its users. Thus in order to provide a convincing case to potential sources of funding it was decided to institute a registration system, so the age, nationality, and location of users could be documented. At this stage, the thinking of the management was very much to align itself with official cricket, perhaps the ICC. Simon had already opened a dialogue with the International Cricket Council, and had established a friendly relationship with its chief executive officer, David Richards. It was determined that only registered users would be able to access the WWW interface.

Registration was announced on rec.sport.cricket as follows:-

From: Cricket Info Server (cricinfo@cricinfo.cse.ogi.edu) Subject: Please Register Your Interest Newsgroups: rec.sport.cricket Date: 1995-03-28 19:25:24 PST

We (The Management) are pleased that so many people now use Cri- cInfo - now we would like to know who you are!. To this end, we have set up a voluntary scheme in order to build-up a register of email addresses and names.

The purpose of this register isn`t just curiosity, however. The register`s primary purpose is to demonstrate the need for and in- terest in CricInfo world-wide. A large register of email ad- dresses greatly strengthens our case for support from cricketing organisations, such as the national cricket boards, the ICC, counties, provinces, states etc.. With this support, we hope to be able to provide you with a greatly expanded service!

IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN HAVING CRICKET INFORMATION AVAILABLE ON THE INTERNET THEN - REGISTER


The proposal of registration was not universally popular in the Internet cricket community and there was considerable debate on rec.sport.cricket. One of the main fears is that this was a precursor to a pay access site, something that went against what many believed to be the principles of CricInfo. Ravindra Rao wrote an open letter to the management expressing his concerns.


"To The Management of CricInfo.

Gentlemen,

I write this open letter to express my concern over recent decisions taken regarding the availability and use of services offered. I do so as someone who has contributed to the establishment of CricInfo, CI henceforth.

Let me begin with the history of CI as I recall it. It started in the newsgroup `rec.sports.cricket' which was fortunate to receive up-to-the-minute updates of the World Cup held in Australia. We then witnessed discussions about how best to submit these updates. Very soon, Internet Relay Chat (IRC), was suggested as a medium for live commentary. Volunteers from various parts of the world, using locally available computing resources, provided information about on-going events.

The use of these resources soon became noticeable to local users of those systems; it became clear that cricket required computing resources independent of any institution. Donations were requested and received for the purchase of computing resources for the express purpose of providing timely information about cricket throughout the world. The remainder of this history of CI will be more familiar to the management of CI than myself.

The management is about to make the availability of some services contingent upon registration. The reasons as I understand them are that CI is so popular that there are plans to approach the ICC for funding needed for CI to grow. This approach is more likely to be successful if CI can prove that it (CI) is popular and a viable technomedium for the dissemination of news about cricket.

Has it occurred to the management that CI does not *have* to grow? CI can continue to offer services permitted by resources both computing and man power. If the ICC notices then the ICC can setup its own independent version of CI.

I am concerned that CI is deviating from its original intent. Indeed, it would be nice to have the charter and mission of CI easily available. What does that charter say? Is the management aware that if CI does get funding from the ICC, CI is likely to become part of the ICC or certainly be less independent. How can CI guarantee that users of CI will always have access to *all* information and services freely.

On the matter registration, I cannot agree. From what I have read, CI already keeps statistics about usage. Why can't these statistics, after distillation sufficient to convince, be presented to layman.

Allow me to finish on a personal note. I will continue to use CI but I will not register for any of its services."



Badri Sheshadri, representing the "official" view of CricInfo management at that time, responded at length. In this very long posting Badri outlined the history and current management of CricInfo, and noted that:-

"CI does not yet have a written charter nor a written constitution. The unwritten charter is to provide a home for anything related to cricket, free of cost, to anyone who can access CI. CI is run by volunteers, none of whom have gained anything monetarily and every one of them have put in enormous amount of time and energy."

He indicated the difficulty of obtaining scorecards and reports from domestic (non-international cricket), and the almost complete lack of information on cricket outside of the first-class game. He went to write:-

"With this in mind, we are working with many sources to find a way in which we can receive cricket news and scorecards of all ICC recognized matches in a timely fashion.

With the advancement of technology and the increase in our user base, we will have to upgrade the hardware and software. More disk space will have to be purchased in future.

Ravindra Rao wanted to know whether we had given a thought as to whether CI has to grow at all. We have given plenty of thought and discussed this over many weeks and have decided that CI has to grow. CI has to grow and CI will grow. If at all there is any- thing to be discussed, it is about the modality and the plans for growth. "

After explaining that volunteer effort was unlikely to be able to cover all cricket to the standard CricInfo was aiming for, he outlined how CricInfo aimed to align itself with official cricket.

"We are proposing to set up computers in every ICC member country, each to be maintained by a national representative, each overseeing the cricket information in that country." In another post, this vision was articulated more clearly

"To put it plainly,

Do we want CI to be the way it is now? That is, a collection of loosely organized volunteers who can put in a little bit of their time but will pull out whenever they can't put in that much time? Many of the outsiders (namely those not in the management) hardly know the kind of work that the management staff puts in -- all for no money, mind you. If 3 or 4 of us doing the day to day stuff, leave in a month's time, Cricinfo will go crazy. For a week, CI had to be pulled off the network due to security reasons. Luckily, we didn't have any test match going on at that very moment. It needed all of Pieter's free time to bring it up back again.

And then there is the question of availability of scorecards. People's expectations vary. You may be quite happy with just the scorecards of current test matches manually entered by few thousand volunteers. I may not be. I would like to see the entire first class matches that was ever played, that is being played, that will be played. I suspect I am not alone in this. I would like to see that without paying a huge amount of money, going around collecting various year books from various countries. Would you like CI to be a FREE archive of all the above and more? I do. So how is that possible? That is possible if I can convince various cricket boards to help us in digitising their archives and make it available FREE throughcricinfo. Does this make sense?

Some of us feel that CI's future and its expansion will depend a lot upon support from various cricket boards and ICC. Thus, it is imperative that we convince the above organizations that CI is being used by a considerable number of people and it is worth their (the organizations) while to provide us some help. To convince these organizations, we need to show them numbers."

A yet later post by Badri put forward his views on the ownership of CricInfo.

"I will be the first person to oppose CI if it decides to charge money. I would like CI to be free as it is currently. CI folks never even hinted that they will charge money for the services. If a few paranoid people think that sky is going to fall on their heads, I can not help them. At the time of creation of CI, it remained as one man's property. Later, because public money was involved in buying the equipment for CI, and because the data available in that machine was contributed by the public, it has become a public property. When money was collected to buy CI, there never was a management. There were, instead, a handful of infinitely good people (I was NOT one of them) with extreme enthusiasm to do something to the cricket community. No one questioned them anything. No one asked them whether they had a charter. No one was even concerned about what the charter of the organization was going to be. I do not think the nature of the cricinfo administration has changed very much. think that the time has come to formalise everything. We need to formalise the charter, define the goals clearly, distribute the power carefully and streamline the functioning of the organization.

I neither have the time nor the energy to get into protracted net discussions at this time. As such, I am wasting quite a bit of my time on composing replies on these threads, and I am supposed to graduate by August! "

Completion of Test archive

A landmark attained in 1995 was the completion of the Test match archive. Various groups and individuals had contributed many cards to CricInfo over the previous two years but it was realised that a complete archive was important, and relatively achievable. The source of the scorecards was an existing commercial electronic database, but considerable work was required to convert these to CricInfo format, and check them .The task went to Travis Basevi and Vishal Misra - Travis based in Sydney and Vishal in Massachusetts. Both were keen cricket fans and excellent programmers, and between them they were able to produce the first publicly accessible complete archive of Test scorecards on the Internet. Nearly every pre-1995 Test scorecard on CricInfo had the simple acknowledgement "Thanks::travis, vishal" on the bottom, but this was the product of several months of hard work.

It was announced in October 1995 as follows:-

From: Badrinarayanan Seshadri (badri@sofia.mae.cornell.edu) Subject: [Announcement] Completion of Test Archive in CricInfo Date: 1995/10/24

The CricInfo Management announces the completion of our Test match archive, comprising every Test match ever played from the first Test in Melbourne to 1877 up to and including the first Test between India and New Zealand in Bangalore last week. This archive is constantly updated to include every Test mach played anywhere in the world.

Many members of the CricInfo Management team have contributed to the completion of this archive, but special thanks are due to travis and vishal, as well as members of the acs mailing list at CricInfo.


A complete archive in a consistent standardised format was the first requirement for a true database of scorecards. The Unix experts on CricInfo were immediately using Unix search and data sorting methods to generate records, and before long Travis was automatically generating standard pages for cricket records. This led eventually to Statsguru, the revolutionary statistics database, of which more later.

1996 World Cup

The 1996 World Cup was a turning point for CricInfo and marked its introduction to official cricket. The first preparations took place in 1995, when Manas Mandal registered the domain name "cricket.org" on behalf of CricInfo. Although in recent years the conditions attached to the use of .org domains have become much more lax, the original intent was that such domains be reserved for non-commercial use by organizations. For CricInfo to choose .org rather than .com says much about the philosophy that was dominant within the organization at that time. The vision was clearly to provide CricInfo as some sort of not-for-profit organization- a trust, a charity, or some other form of organization that would exist primarily to serve cricket fans. The reservation of cricket.org however also would provide a powerful incentive for official cricket to come under the CricInfo umbrella.

With cricket.org in hand, a move was made to secure status as the official site for the 1996 World Cup, to be held in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India. KS Rao spearheaded the effort through his excellent connections with official cricket in India. Manas Mandal was also much involved in the negotiations but by late 1995 CricInfo were able to formally announce the following.


PRESS RELEASE CRICINFO, WORLD'S LARGEST CRICKET DATABASE, ANNOUNCES LIVE COVERAGE ON THE INTERNET OF THE WILLS WORLD CUP CRICKET 1996. CRICINFO OFFICIAL WEB SITE OF THE 1996 WILLS WORLD CUP.

CricInfo, the world's first and the largest cricket-information database on the Internet, in collaboration with PILCOM (Pakistan, India, Lanka Committee), announces live ball-by-ball coverage of the Wills World Cup Cricket 1996 on the Internet. CricInfo, designated the official Web site of the tournament by PILCOM, will be connected via a dedicated link provided by Rediff-on- the-Net directly to the Punjab Communications satellite network linking all World Cup venues. PILCOM is the organising committee running the World Cup on behalf of the International Cricket Council (ICC).

This will be the first live coverage ever seen on the global In- ternet of a major tournament staged simultaneously in more than one country. It will also be the first live sports coverage of any kind on the Internet from Pakistan or Sri Lanka. Live scorecards will be made available from our primary server in Oregon, USA, within seconds of the cards being updated at the stadia. An official scorecard will be available on CricInfo at the end of each match. In addition to this, player profiles, ground information, complete scorecards of all previous world cups, ICC trophy tournaments and complete statistics and trivia related to the World Cup competitions will be available at CricInfo during the tournament. Also available at this site, the largest on the global Internet for any sport, are complete and accurate Test Match scorecards and much more information concerning the game of cricket. No charge of any kind is made for access to CricInfo


This release made a lot of promises that proved hard to fulfill. The complete Test archive was already on site - but the complete scorecards for the ICC Trophy came later. Rick Eyre took charge of the player data, and produced a near complete set of World Cup player pages before the tournament.

The real problems came with the most important component of the coverage - the live cards. The inside story was undoubtedly complex, but the upshot was that the promised direct feed from the tournament central computer system never materialised. Fortunately the World Cup was well covered on TV across the world, and many CricInfo volunteers had access- including those in North America, on pay-for view. Live scorecards on CricInfo up to this point had been maintained using the effective, but tedious means of following the match on IRC (or sometimes directly from TV), and at the end of the over editing a text file containing the scorecard. It meant that the volunteer tasked with this had to manually keep track of what had taken place in the over, update both bats scores, the bowling figures, extras and the total. They then had to send the card to CricInfo, and then constantly cross check against TV or other sources for accuracy.

As the tournament got under way, it was clear that the promised ball by ball feed was not going to happen, at least not right away. A squad of volunteers were pressed into service, as IRC commentators, and scorecard maintainers. Using these methods, CricInfo survived the first few days of the tournament with live or near live coverage of every match. Duane Pettet made a reputation for himself by simultaneously maintaining two scorecards as well as commentating on IRC. When coverage was lost, Srini Kandala phoned his wife back in their apartment in Montreal and she relayed ball-by ball commentary until the IRC commentator was re-connected.

Meanwhile, Vishal Misra, in one evening's inspired work, aided and assisted on IRC by several others, devised the means of linking the long forgotten dougie software with the CricInfo web interface to bring true ball by ball coverage to the site. We were extremely fortunate that dougie existed and was basically well tested. Writing scoring software from scratch in such conditions would have been impossible. Vishal was able to adapt dougie so that it's output could be adapted and sent to the web server - literally the scorecard was updated after every ball. This innovation remained the foundation of CricInfo's live coverage for the next 10 years, and the ball-by-ball output provides a degree of detail that other live scoring sites only recently have matched. Vishal later suggested that essentially CricInfo with this innovation invented the live blog.

By the end of the first week, dougie scoring was in operation for some matches, and it became in common use as the tournament moved towards the final conclusion. In some cases dougie scorers were able to operate directly from TV or radio, with IRC commentary only as a back up. It was a hectic month, but a resounding success. Fans all over the world turned to CricInfo as their source of live scores, and pages accesses went through the roof. The appetite for live scores increased after the World Cup, as with interest in cricket at a high after Sri Lanka's surprise win, and mainstream media coverage back to normal (i.e virtually nothing in North America), CricInfo was often the only source for many. In 1995 CricInfo served 3,520,629 pages; in 1996 that figure went to an astounding 25,596,849. The Internet, and CricInfo had truly arrived - although actual numbers of users were hard to estimate, CI was reaching a far greater audience than any other cricket only conventional publication, with only direct TV broadcasts commanding larger audiences.

1996- CricInfo crosses the Atlantic

The startling growth in access brought back a familiar problem - bandwidth and servers. During peak periods - especially when India was playing - CricInfo's main server in Oregon was struggling under the load. More to the point, the vast numbers of attempts to access it was slowing the entire network at OGI to a crawl. The administrators at OGI were understanding and supportive, but finally firm- CricInfo had to find a new home. Simon King had already set up a temporary 'mirror' site at University College London. The mirror site concept was simple but effective, and in the future would enable CricInfo to serve vast numbers of pages using mirrors set up all over the world. In essence a "mirror" server contained a complete copy of the CricInfo database, with frequent updates. Live scorecards were sent from the central server to the mirror every few seconds. Other current parts of the database- end of day scorecards, match reports etc. were sent every hour or so, and intermittently the whole database was checked for changes and mirrored. Users would access the mirror sites, not the main database, and thus the load could be distributed between many computers.

The management scrambled to find Internet providers who would be willing to host a mirror. The sales pitch was simple- each page served from a mirror hosted by that provider would carry an advert for their service at the bottom of the page.

The hardware required was comparatively simple - a high end Intel based computer that used the Linux operating system. This allowed CricInfo to be simply transferred from its Sun based home with minimal alteration. By June 1996 the UK mirror had been joined by a South African and Australian mirror site. In time the mirrors would profilerate across the globe. Many major corporations or other busy sites had to resort to extremely expensive high powered servers, or paid for service provided by a third party to keep up with busy traffic. CricInfo-s network of comparatively cheap servers, mirrored according to need, enabled it to almost (but often not quite) keep up with demand from the users. The system was in use up to the creation of Wisden-CricInfo, and for some time after that. It was fine tuned and improved greatly over the years, notably by Jeff Green, a CricInfo stalwart since 1998 who took over major responsibility for system administration.

In September, CricInfo finally left Oregon, and travelled east, to the UK.

David Liverman Subject: CricInfo up and running in new home Date: 1996/09/16

Just a short note to let rsc readers know that CricInfo has survived its trans-atlantic trip, and is now up and running in the UK. The URL remains http://www.cricket.org/ and gopher cricinfo.cricket.org 7070

The line to the UK may not be as fast for North American users, and you are reminded of our other mirrors www-uk.cricket.org www-aus.cricket.org www-rsa.cricket.org

we are hoping that a new North American mirror will be up and running soon, and we are hoping to see an Indian based mirror site in the next few months.


It had not been easy finding a new home for the central server. Mike Whittaker was at the time working for the major UK based internet service provider Demon UK, and through his connections managed to find space for it attached to a fast line in the front room of one of his colleague's house in London.

All in a day's work, 1996

The mood amongst volunteers and management was buoyant at this time. CricInfo was growing and developing at an astonishing pace, and the sense of co-operation between volunteers from all over the world was addictive to those of us involved. This atmosphere was captured beautifully by Mike Whittaker in his article "All in a day's work", reproduced below.

All in a day's work

Friday, October 4th 1996, 07:00 GMT. Ros Brodie, in Johannesburg, is sat with one eye on the television, and the other on the screen of her computer. The PC she's sitting at is connected to the Internet, as she begins a ball by ball typed commentary of the Kenya Centenary Tournament game between Pakistan and Sri Lanka in Nairobi, for the benefit of 'listening' fans on the Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channel #cricket. Ravi Sista, at Lousiana Tech in the United States, is watching Ros' commentary on another computer, and using a scoring program known as 'dougie' to maintain a full scorecard of the game on CricInfo's main Internet server, located in a living room in Finchley, London.

Ten overs into the game in Nairobi, Pakistan's 16-year-old legspinner, Shahid Afridi, comes to the wicket, and proceeds to take the Sri Lankan attack apart, scoring a century in a record 37 balls before he is out. CricInfo's computer is updating his progress on a page on the World Wide Web, and as his innings ends, Dave Liverman in Newfoundland adds a note at the bottom of the scorecard detailing his record, and a link to Sri Lankan prodigy Jayasuriya's previous record. Mike Whitaker, CricInfo's system administrator in London, extracts from the log of Ravi's scoring program a ball-by-ball analysis of Afridi's phenomenal innings, and links it in to the scorecard as well.

On the chatter channel, #crickettalk, on IRC, someone mentions a list of the other fastest centuries in one day cricket, and Mike uses CricInfo's search page (written by CricInfo programmer Vishal Misra at the University of Massachusetts) to find the scorecards for the games in question: those too are linked into the World Wide Web page that carries the scorecard. Alex Balfour, some twenty miles away from him in southwest London, suggests that the papers might be interested in the breakdown of Afridi's innings, extracts it from the Web page and drafts a press release, which is faxed to a list of press contacts maintained on CricInfo's server.

Back in Kenya, Saeed Anwar has reached his ninth one-day century, equalling the most by any active player, and this feat is added to the notes on the card. Latecomers on IRC are asking about the game, and it is decided to add a Headlines section to CricInfo's home page. Mike drafts a few words; and a plea on CricInfo's own channel on IRC for a logo sets David Dyte in Australia, one of CricInfo's graphics team, to work. Inside half an hour, the changes have been made, revised, and critiqued by CricInfo staff across the world, and Pakistan have just about finished their innings, on 371/9, the second highest total ever in a one-day international.

In the interval, discussion on the CricInfo channel turns to a recent proposal for a new CricInfo Interactive "Player of the Month" award. Afridi seems to be staking an early claim for October, but Interactive Editor Rick Eyre, in Australia, wants a September award. Consensus is rapidly reached, and Phil Simmons of Leicestershire is the recipient of CricInfo's first Player of the Month award. As Sri Lanka start their run chase, Rick sets to work on the Web page to announce this fact, and Duane Pettet in New Zealand finds a calculator to work out exactly what Sri Lanka need to reach the final on run-rate - 290 - this too is added to the scorecard page.

Dave Liverman takes over scoring duties from Ravi, recording Waqar Younis' assault on Sri Lankan early order from Ros' continuing commentary, to be seamlessly replaced as scorer by Vishal Misra after fifteen overs or so. Meantime, Badri Seshadri at Cornell University has turned up in CricInfo's virtual office, and he likes the new-look home page, enough that he sets to work cleaning up another underused headlines page to be linked to it.

The Phil Simmons page is up for approval, as, in Kenya, Aravinda de Silva stages a fine recovery for Sri Lanka. David Dyte is cleaning up a Zimbabwe logo for another CricInfo page, and Bruce Gruenbaum and Sarah Chesterfield, both in South Africa, are setting up 'dougie' scoring for an Eastern Province vs Transvaal game, with assistance from Dave Liverman (who, along with Arup Das in Calgary, Canada, is also answering mail to CricInfo's help mailbox). Everyone is glued to Ros's commentary as Sri Lanka lose wickets, danger man de Silva out, scoring the third century of the game.

Offspinner Saqlain Mushtaq, cool under pressure, bowls a double-wicket maiden to set things up for a cliff-hanger finish. Dave and Duane check their maths, worriedly, since upwards of a hundred people on #cricket's hopes and fears are based on that 290. Last over, last pair at the wicket, eleven runs short of a place in the final. Vaas hits Waqar Younis' first delivery for six, and the Sri Lankan fans on #crickettalk go mad. The next two balls are dots, and the fourth, Ros relates, he makes contact with...

Even in text-based communication, it's possible to generate tension, and Ros' pause before her 'it's a four...' evokes nervous laughter from the watching fans. One more run, two balls. But Waqar has other ideas, and from round the wicket, the fifth ball of the over yorks Vaas, and Pakistan make the final. Bedlam on IRC, through which Ros and Vishal double-check CricInfo's card against the match scorecard.

Consensus is that the true winner today is the game of cricket, a sentiment echoed in Kenya by man of the match adjudicator Ravi Shastri. Afridi, to few people's surprise, wins the award, and that too is noted on the card by Vishal, while Mike updates the CricInfo headlines to reflect the result - Pakistan and South Africa will contest the final on Sunday...

...and CricInfo will be there."

Perhaps that was a particularly good day, but Mike's piece emphasises the spirit of innovation, and the culture that made it possible. Most of the people centrally involved in CricInfo were present on IRC, and for a new idea there was no time-consuming proposal review implementation process. In addition there were no job descriptions for volunteers, and so there was a willingness to pitch in and do what was required, even if it might not strictly be within defined or understood areas of responsibility. Of course such an ad-hoc method does have drawbacks, and mistakes were certainly made. Particularly on the editorial side, standards perhaps did not measure up to mainstream media sources- but that was not what kept the fans coming- it was scores, statistics and live coverage.

ZCU - the first official site

A major step in obtaining official recognition for CricInfo came with the signing of an agreement to host the Zimbabwe Cricket Union's official web site on CricInfo. At the time the newest of Test playing nations, Zimbabwe cricket had few resources, little money, and was striving to achieve the recognition that perhaps its cricket deserved.

Press release, December 1996

Zimbabwe Cricket Union on the Internet

The Zimbabwe Cricket Union presents Official Live Coverage of England's Winter Tour to Zimbabwe on the Global Internet.

Enthusiasts of Zimbabwean cricket, particularly in the light of the forthcoming test series against England, will welcome the introduction of the sport on the Internet through the world's largest Internet sport resource, CricInfo.

In a recent joint venture, the Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU), Samara Services, one of Zimbabwe's leading Internet companies, and CricInfo, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to promoting the game of cricket, have agreed to installing a comprehensive data base on the information super highway. This will enable followers of Zimbabwean cricket from all the over the world to keep up to date with live coverage of the forthcoming series, day to day articles and reviews, as well as be able to access interviews and information concerning the different players.

The first game to be broadcast on the Internet will be the President's XI versus England on Sunday. It will be the first international cricket match to be broadcast live direct from any ground world-wide with commentary on the IRC (International Relay Chat; a past equivalent of this was the CB channels)


The Chief Executive of the International Cricket Council (ICC), Mr. David Richards, said "The ICC and CricInfo have been working closely together in recent months. This initiative will not only boost cricket in Zimbabwe, but as a further service to cricket world-wide".

Dr. Simon King, CricInfo's global coordinator based in the UK, explained the nature of CricInfo, a volunteer-run, not-for-profit organisation: "At CricInfo, we aim to provide a global framework and focus whereby individuals can establish direct electronic contact with each other and the ZCU to benefit and assist Zimbabwean cricket and its development. With this initiative, the ZCU is reaching out to fans, both in Zimbabwe and world-wide, eager for information on Zimbabwean cricket. It is also particularly pleasing that the first live coverage of any nature on the Internet from Zimbabwe should be of a cricket match", he said.

Simon King presents CI's Z$5 million donation to Zimbabwe cricket

1997 ICC Trophy

The ICC Trophy was first played for in 1979. This competition was designed for countries that were members of the International Cricket Council, but did not qualify for full international status. Although an important competition- it acted as a qualifying tournament for the World Cup � it rarely received much attention by mainstream media. In addition, cricket was a minor sport in most of the countries taking part, and it was nearly impossible for cricket fans in participating countries to get much information about these tournaments.

The nature of the ICC Trophy made it ideal for Internet coverage, and thus CricInfo. The burgeoning relationship between the ICC and CricInfo led to a proposal from Simon King to cover the 1997 ICC Trophy to be held in Malaysia. The concept was ambitious � live coverage of most of the matches using local scorers quickly trained in the use of dougie. Given that we had little or no idea of the infrastructure at the grounds in Malaysia, and such coverage had never being attempted before, this was a brave proposal indeed. The ICC, however, agreed that they would cover the expenses of coverage, and Simon flew off to Kuala Lumpur, to be joined by Travis Basevi. Travis took on the main role in training scorers, setting up computers, ensuring telephone lines were in place and much else. Simon used the opportunity to cement his relationships with the ICC, meeting many administrators of the Associate members as well as ICC staff. The first days of the tournament were chaotic � the schedule was such that eight matches were being played simultaneously on geographically separate grounds. When combined with inexperienced scorers, unreliable phone lines, rain on unprotected computers and other logistical complexity, it was amazing that any coverage was obtained at all. But amazingly Travis managed to get ball-by-ball scoring of most games, and by the final rounds of the tournament full live coverage was running superbly.

Travis, perhaps due to his youth and appearance had not inspired much faith in the ICC officials. However by the end of the tournament he had become the main source for statistics, accurate scorecards, advice on rain-rules and much more, and had built a great reputation for CricInfo with official cricket. The coverage was very popular, and fans from all over the world wrote in thanking CricInfo for the ability to follow the exploits of their team.

Scoring software and commentary development

The development of dougie scoring software was completed when a suggestion by myself on #Ci was implemented almost immediately by the programming wizardry of Travis Basevi and Vishal Misra. This allowed the scorer to add brief description to every ball scored. Prior to that innovation scoring output was rather staid and left much to the imagination. Here's the end of Australia- West Indies, 1st Test, November 1996 as an example.

106.1 McGrath to Benjamin, (noball) no run

106.1 McGrath to Benjamin, no run

106.2 McGrath to Benjamin, no run

106.3 McGrath to Benjamin, no run

106.4 McGrath to Benjamin, no run

106.5 McGrath to Benjamin, no run

Match over

KCG Benjamin

 KCG Benjamin  lbw McGrath          1 (  8)     
  
  • McGrath Ov:29.5 M:12 R:60 Wi:4 Wd:0 Nb:4

In contrast, the opening of the 1997 Ashes series was described thus:

22.1 Gillespie to Crawley, no run, quick one outside off-stump

22.2 Gillespie to Crawley, three runs, played firmly thru the covers, Steve Waugh chases it down

22.3 Gillespie to Thorpe, three runs, played to a similar spot for similar runs

22.4 Gillespie to Crawley, OUT: just nicked one down the legside, excellent catch

England 99/4, Partnership of 21

 JP Crawley    c Healy b Gillesp   33 ( 41)   4 x 4

Gillespie 3.4-0-36-2 (3nb)

Australia were very confident, umpire Shep took his time and Crawley wasn't happy with the decision

22.5 Gillespie to AJ Hollioake, no run, strange way of not offering a shot, defended miles away from

the ball

22.6 Gillespie to AJ Hollioake, two runs, played back down the ground

End of over 23 (8 runs) England 101/4

Gillespie 4-0-38-2 (3nb)

This essentially was a new form of description of the game of cricket, and grew naturally out of the text commentary that was first seen on irc #cricket before CricInfo. To type adequate description as well as maintaining accurate scoring requires unique skills, not the least of which is the ability to type accurately and fast (especially with a couple of spin bowlers operating). The task is made even more difficult when scoring from television, with frequent advertising breaks, and the difficulty of seeing umpire's signals; or from the ground, where difficulties may include maintaining a stable telephone connection, and the vagaries of the weather. The comparatively leisurely pace of cricket, combined with it's linear unrolling of the sequence of events that make up a match lends itself to such an approach however. To try to describe many other sporting events in such a manner would be ultimately futile- attempts to provide a text commentary of a football match are painfully inadequate. Golf has a slow pace, but because of action taking place simultaneously all over the course, it is not well suited to text commentary. Baseball perhaps is one of the few sorts to which it could be applied.

The development of text commentary, broadcast on a ball-by-ball basis gave CricInfo a unique service. Competitors almost invariably tried to produce a regularly updated scorecard, perhaps accompanied by a match report, but these failed to provide the excitement and atmosphere of true ball by ball coverage. Amazingly, few have successfully copied the CricInfo style of coverage to this day, perhaps because of the difficulty of finding scorers capable of both scoring and commentating.

Text commentary was difficult enough in itself, but it rapidly became clear that several CricInfo volunteers had exceptional talents in this direction. Some became too involved in other areas of the organization and were unable to be spared for commentary, but others were allowed to blossom. Two stand out, Travis Basevi, and Duane Pettet. Travis's main work with CricInfo was in development of the database, a task that ultimately led to the innovative "StatsGuru" application. He however was a keen scorer, and when asked to add commentary was able to combine accurate scoring, comprehensive description with his own unique irreverent wit laced with sarcasm. His humour was not appreciated by all, and at times led CricInfo into difficulties with the ACB, but he had a loyal following. For the 1999 World Cup it was decided to give Travis the lead commentary role and he revelled in it. The response was mixed, perhaps mostly positive, although the odd dissenting voice was heard. A rec.sport.cricket poster described the commentator as follows:- "To call him distasteful, unprofessional and utterly and totally obnoxious would be to do him a huge favour, as far as I am concerned."

If nothing else Travis' commentary provoked reactions, and for many it was disappointing when he was removed from live scoring responsibility. The ACB complained bitterly after Travis referred to Steve Waugh as "Big Nose" in a Test against Sri Lanka (Waugh had broken his nose badly in a dreadful collision with Jason Gillespie in the previous match), and it was considered wise to bow to pressure and find others to score Australian matches.

Duane Pettett had different skills in text commentary - he was able to type very fast and kept up a flow of detailed commentary that was hard to match, and was also able to communicate great enthusiasm for the game (especially if New Zealand were winning!) Duane's commentary of the CricInfo Women's World Cup final runs to nearly 25,000 words (although a number of these are generated by dougie). For comparison, Travis's 1999 World Cup semi-final commentary is 15,000 words, a more typical length. A Duane Pettet Test match commentary can be 75,000 to 100,000 words or more long. For comparison, a typical novel is 70,000 to 100,000 words long, and Shakespeare's complete plays are less than 900,000 words in all.

Investors

The success of CricInfo with the fans, and the growth and complexity of its operations meant that it was essential to develop a secure base, with future growth dependent on a move to paid staff. Money was becoming a major requirement and as the Internet became of mainstream interest, and the dot.com boom started, there were interested investors.

In late 1998 a relatively small amount of money was put in place to fund the writing of a business plan, the money put up by Pangolin, a company that was later to transform into Sportal. The money was enough however to convince Simon that he had to go full-time with CricInfo, taking the risky and dangerous step of leaving University College London, and working out of home. He also wished to move out of London and his small house in Greenford for a more pleasant environment for his family. He settled on the market town of Chippenham, on the edge of the Cotswolds, and a good hour from London along the M4.

Simon was to concentrate on writing the business plan, and two further hires were made- Mike Whittaker to develop programming, and in particular methods of serving and logging advertisements on CricInfo, and Ros Brodie in South Africa, to coordinate information and maintenance of the United Cricket Board of South Africa web-site.

The Stow meeting

In March of 1999 the "core" management of CricInfo met to decide its future direction, to examine how our astounding success could be consolidated, how the company should be structured, who actually owned CricInfo, and how we could provide full time employment for people whose unpaid work was putting far too much stress on them.

CricInfo at this time was still technically owned in its entirety by Simon King. Although he had acknowledged his role as caretaker of the company for the volunteers who had helped build it, he had not formally distributed shares or decided on how this might be done. In 1999, the Internet boom had hit the stock market, and CricInfo was in many ways a hot property. If Simon had chosen to sell it on the open market, it is hard to know how much it might have realised. What is certain is that it would have been worth at least a million pounds, and probably much more, even structured as it was with no firm business plan. However even before the meeting Simon wrote

"I don't want money for CI. I do however want a stable and secure future both for CI and my family and do not expect to have to start yet again in a new career at this stage or worry about what happens to them if I were to die suddenly."

Simon was under considerable stress, having given up a stable secure job, and moved out of London to Chippenham. Although the seed funding from Pangolin did allow payment of a modest salary, with a young family, and mounting bills, life was very far from easy. The risk he was taking was great, and the potential rewards uncertain. The temptation to sell the company or part of it for personal gain must have been great at times, but Simon to his great credit never considered it.

Various models of ownership for CricInfo were floated before the meeting. One that was considered seriously was setting up CricInfo as a trust, that owned a commercial entity CricInfo Ltd. Profit raised from the activities of CricInfo would be funneled into cricket development and to charitable entities. In the short term, some equity in CI Ltd would be sold to investors to provide operating funds. In the long term a public share offering might be contemplated. This would have led to Simon giving up ownership in CricInfo totally - essentially a donation of CricInfo to the trust.

Simon still had hopes that CricInfo would align with official cricket. He had an excellent relationship with David Richards, CEO of the ICC, and Simon thought that CricInfo could essentially be given to the ICC, with enough operating funds for it to accomplish all it wished.

Simon set out the main issue in a mail the month before

As regards the agenda for the core conference, in my humble opinion we have one central item: "Where do we want to take CricInfo" This is a key question which we must answer before all others, since the answer will dictate all subsequent policy. Once it's addressed we can look at what we need to do to get there. Issues such as divisional structuring, internal communications, ownership all follow from it and the subsequent business plan.

This group consisted of Simon King, Alex Balfour, Peter Griffiths, Badri Seshadri, and Dave Liverman; and met in a small hotel in Stow on the Wold for four days of intensive meetings. For some of us, this was the first face-to face meeting after working together for years.

The immediate problem of securing investment was approached by lining up a series of meetings with potential investors. A major problem was the lack of a business plan. Simon, tasked with writing the plan, just could not produce it. The reasons for this were not clear; there was perhaps there was a lack of experience in the components of a plan that would be attractive to investors, but also he had a much greater interest in the direct management of CricInfo. Understandably perhaps, Simon was reluctant to stand back from the day to day operations of CricInfo. His belief I think was that without his intervention critical work just would not get done.

It was hoped initially that Pangolin might be interested in major investment but it soon became obvious that they did not have the money or interest to follow through. Another potential investor was CBS-Sportsline who were hosting the US servers at this time.

Mick Jagger and CricInfo

One of CricInfo's earliest experiments with multimedia came from the most unlikely of sources. Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones came from a strong cricketing background- his father was a housemaster at Lancing, but also had played forty-four first-class matches for Cambridge University, Worcestershire and Sussex. Samuel Jagger died in 1964, when Mick was in his early twenties but instilled in his son a life-long love of cricket. Mick himself played as a boy, and continued to follow the game, being a regular vistor to Lord's He unwittingly perhaps had a major influence of CricInfo's future by introducing John Paul Getty to the game in the 1970's- Getty became a tremendous supporter of the game later buying Wisden, the company that eventually bought CricInfo. Mick became aware of CricInfo as he sought ways to follow the game when on tour. Like many others he turned to the Internet when main-stream media did not provide coverage.

In 1997 he set up Jagged Interworks and in partnership with CricInfo acquired Internet broadcast rights to a number of cricket matches. At that point coverage had been almost exclusively text based only- with the notable exception of audio broadcasts of the Hong Kong Sixes. The publicity hand-out from Jagged quoted Mick as saying "Jagged Internetworks is a company founded to produce and promote sports and entertainment events on the Internet. The first sport we selected was cricket, because of my passion for the game. CricInfo, run by cricket fans dedicated to promoting and benefiting the game, and often the busiest sport site on the entire world-wide web, was the logical partner." Jagger himself actually had little to do with the details of the deal other than coming up with the idea, and funding it.

In acquiring the rights for the Champions Trophy series in Sharjah in 1997, Jagged and CricInfo set a new phase of internet cricket coverage rolling. At this stage Internet rights were not in high demand, but the details of acquisition, combined with arranging a partnership with the main media broadcasting agency were complicated. The system worked however and the Champion's trophy was successfully web-cast, using an audio feed from the TV broadcast - less than ideal, but for cricket-starved fans, better than nothing. Through time the system evolved, with the audio feed being combined with a series of still pictures, a still frame grab every five seconds. This was by no means an ideal way of covering cricket- if nothing else it showed how much of cricket is played in the fraction of a second when ball meets bat, but for those of us with no other coverage it was thrilling to see the players and ground as the game was happening. Over the next 12 months many tours and tournaments were covered, including the thrilling India Pakistan match at Dhaka, England's tour of the West Indies with the bizarre Sabina Park abandoned Test, and live coverage of the Pakistan tour of Zimbabwe.

Although the partnership ended around the 1999 World Cup, it was a major publicity coup for CricInfo. For many Mick Jagger and CricInfo became linked and there was a commonly held (but erroneous) belief that Jagger was a part-owner of CricInfo. It was also an important step however in leaning how to build partnerships, and gaining a foothold in the world of mainstream broadcasting. The buzzword in the Internet community at the time was "convergence", the concept that the separation between mainstream media, particularly TV, and Internet media would through time decline to the extent it became insignificant. Simon in particulalr saw this as the future for CricInfo, and realised that to become a major player in the world of sporting broadcast rights was going to be difficult, and would require partners or investors with deep pockets.

Michael Watt invests

When investment did come, it was from a somewhat unexpected source. Simon's excellent contacts at the ICC led to an introduction to representatives of Michael Watt, later to be described as "the man who sold cricket". Watt is not well known at all in cricket circles, but perhaps should be. A New Zealander who recognised the potential of rights aquisition and re-sale in the cricket world, he had founded Octagon-CSI, a company that represented the ICC and five national cricket boards in the sale of media rights to cricket. He had recognised back in the 1970s that English cricket was not getting value for its TV rights, and worked with the TCCB (now ECB) to break the BBC stranglehold on TV broadcast of English cricket. His success there led to widespread use of his company's services by official cricket, and enormous financial success. Never seeking publicity he was also a philanthropist of note, donating large sums towards New Zealand cricket, cricket development in South Africa, and other non-cricketing causes. He saw the potential of CricInfo in the booming internet market, and directed his agents to look at making a deal.

The details of this deal were worked out by Simon King; the concept behind the deal was that a large injection of funds in CricInfo (3 million pounds) be made in return for 25% of the shares- still all owned by Simon at that point. The funds would allow CricInfo to consolidate, expand and plan, whilst Watt through his company Indigo would act as agents in seeking major investment. When the 25% was sold, Watt would recover the first 7 million pounds of the sale proceeds, plus a percentage of anything above that sum. In addition he had the option to re-invest at favourable terms. The investment from Pangolin was re-paid as part of this deal.

The terms of the deal were very favourable to Indigo; however CricInfo needed cash, and fast, in order to accomplish its aims, particularly in the short term. With 3 million in the bank, and a notional valuation of 12 million, CricInfo could start hiring.

Expansion and Hartham House

The first hires were made almost immediately as well as the establishment of the CricInfo offices in Hartham House, near Corsham, a short distance outside of Chippenham, and an hour west of London. Hartham House was a lovely location in many ways, a Georgian mansion house set in a large park. The house had been built in the 18th Century, designed by well-known architect James Wyatt. It had fallen into disrepair before being purchased and re-furbished as offices and meeting rooms in the late 1990s. CricInfo initially moved into two rooms in the stables area but over the next two years continuously expanded, taking up one wing of the stable block, and part of the main house.

Hartham was an impressive location, particularly for those from overseas, with its setting fulfilling expectations of rural England. The choice of office location was governed solely by Simon's preferred location, however, and proved to be less than ideal over the following years. This was compounded by Simon's wish to centralise staff into one location, a move that was unpopular throughout the company. Of central management Badri spent a few months in the UK but never had any interest in staying in the long-term. Alex remained in London, traveling to Hartham when required, and Peter Griffiths commuted during the week, returning home to Lincolnshire on weekends.

Wiltshire had some advantages over London in that office space was somewhat cheaper, and housing costs also slightly lower. It was not a popular location however for younger staff who had little interest in the rural life and would prefer to be in London. Theoretically Hartham was well located for travellers, being west of London and not that far from Heathrow.

Initial hires were from the volunteer pool but it was recognised that the company needed expertise that was not present in the volunteers, or volunteers were unwilling to give up existing employment and move to Chippenham. Soon after the Watt investment, CricInfo staff expanded to around 50 world-wide, including a marketing manager, a CTO, and a manager of sales, all from outside of the volunteer community. Simon was CEO, Peter Griffiths CFO, Badri ran Indian operations, and Alex Balfour was in charge of business development. Thsse four, along with Dave Liverman as non-executive, formed the core of the board of directors, supplemented by representatives from Indigo.

CricInfo staff at Hartham (publicity shot)- Simon King front and centre with Badri at his left hand. Other notables include Pete Griffiths - back centre with grey beard, and Travis, back row to Pete's right

1999 World Cup

CricInfo failed in its attempt to be the official site for the 1999 World Cup, held in the UK, and there were numerous competitors as a number of newspapers and other cricket sites also provided live coverage via the Press Association feed, and other means. However, CricInfo's dominant position in the Internet cricket media was emphasised as it proved hugely popular, outdrawing all other sites combined. Scoring from the ground was not allowed, due to the exclusive contract held by the Press Association but all games were televised in India, and CricInfo sent Travis Basevi to Chennai to coordinate scoring and live coverage. Travis did the bulk of the important games himself, and developed a cult following from those who enjoyed his sense of humour. The live coverage was backed up by the most extensive match reporting yet attempted by CricInfo. John Polack from Australia, Trevor Chesterfield (South Africa), John Ward (Zimbabwe), Colin Croft (West Indies) were backed up by freelancers to give match reports from the ground for every match. Keith Lane and William Turrell coordinated scoring and editorial coverage from the London office. Site production was headed by Duane Pettet from New Zealand, with support from many, and overall the coverage set a new standard for CricInfo, and live internet coverage in general.

The tournament was also a commercial success in that for the first time there was extensive sales of advertising on the site - not enough to cover costs, but still demonstrating CricInfo's ability to serve advertisements to a large audience. There were still problems at times, when the enormous load on the servers became too much, and fans had problems accessing a scorecard on demand during live coverage. At such times adverts had to be removed.

2001 ICC Trophy

The 2001 ICC Trophy took place in Toronto, Canada in June and July 2001. Dave Liverman was the web master for the Canadian Cricket Association, and well before the tournament he talked to Travis Basevi about how we might cover it. The 1997 ICC Trophy in Malaysia was a personal triumph for Travis, coordinating live coverage under very difficult circumstances, and making a great impression with the ICC. Right from the start they encountered resistance to the idea of live coverage from Toronto. Various other plans were put forward by CricInfo management - daily audio reports, acting as the ICC Press Office for the event, sending a single reporter to obtain end-of-day cards and so on. The "new guard" of CricInfo had little interest in the event, but Travis and Dave pushed as hard as we were able to put on the sort of coverage we thought would work. The ICC Trophy is an unusual event- it involves huge numbers of cricketers, few of them professionals and many from countries where cricket is anything but mainstream. We knew that there would be little media coverage anywhere in the world, and the dedicated cricket fans from Holland, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Germany, and Israel would be totally dependent on CricInfo for coverage. What there people wanted was live scores, and from as many games as possible.

Travis and Dave were passionate about cricket, and cricket development. To them the best way to promote cricket development world-wide was to use the vehicle tthat they helped create, CricInfo, to give the tournament as much exposure as possible. The tournament itself was by no means unimportant - the top three teams qualified for the World Cup in South Africa where they could test their skills against the best in the world.

Initial plans and budgeting by the production group came up with some absurd figures, but after Travis and Dave produced a realistic budget they finally got approval thanks to the interest of Peter Griffiths, the MD, who also was a keen follower and supporter of the ICC Trophy, having produced several books for the ACS on earlier competitions.

Dave writes:-

The logistics of coverage were anything but simple. Most modern first-class grounds are well set-up for the press, with power, and telephone lines. The Toronto grounds were spread over a huge area of the city, and most of them were in public parks, with no phone lines or sources of power. We were lucky to engage the help of Jon Harris, a keen supporter of Canadian cricket based in the Toronto area who assisted us in liaison with the organizing committee, and ensured that we had the facilities we needed. Travis was able to engage the ICC Development group, who provided us with space in the tournament operations room, transport to the grounds on team buses, and considerable support throughout.

Travis mustered together a strong team of experienced scorers, from all parts of the globe. John Polack, one of CricInfo's best writers flew in from Tasmania - John was also well able to score if needed but mostly wrote match reports and features. Duane Pettet, the king of text commentary, came in from New Zealand, Keith Lane, CricInfo's South African co-ordinator arrived from Johannesburg. Keith brought with him two experienced scorers with lots of experience in coverage of South African domestic cricket, Keith Hadden and Adrian Lamprecht, an young man who combined efficient scoring with extensive exploration of Toronto's night life.

David Walsh, who had covered nearly every Australian international domestic match after Travis' retirement also flew in once his exams had finished. The final scorer and senior member of the party was Warwick Torrens, a man who knows more about cricket in Queensland than anyone else in the world. I joined the team for the first week of competition and we also had support from David Dyte, the former Zimbabwe CU webmaster who came up from New York for a weekend.

It was a varied group to say the least with a mix of nationalities, ages, and interests. However we all knew why we were there, knew the way CricInfo worked, and did our best to put forward a professional image for the company (most of the time). Travis and myself were determined we'd provide as good a coverage as we'd promised, and we had tremendous support from this committed group. Some of us met for the first time after years of close collaboration - it was a particular pleasure for me to meet Keith, Duane, David and John after years of IRC conversations,

Amazingly we managed to provide live coverage from six of the seven venues, and regular updates from the seventh. The nearest ground to the hotel was Malton (perhaps the least favoured to score from, with a generator buzzing away providing electricity, a poor view of the play, and many mosquitoes). The Ajax ground was an hour bus ride away - on a good day. The plum scoring spot however was from the terrace of the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club, where a comfortable scoring position combined with the excellent facilities of the Club and a lovely ground.

The excitement of live cricket, the challenge of scoring under difficult circumstances, the great spirit shown by all at the tournament, the feeling of being part of a team, the delivery of top-notch coverage made this a great experience. The hours were long- scorers would sit down after a full day of commentary and two hours of bus travel and write match reports. We were very much integrated into the ICC operations team, providing statistics every evening, checking scorecards, and even acting as extra office staff - answering phones and photocopying, providing information. Players would ask to borrow our computers to e-mail, and the Scottish captain booked a spot every evening to compose a column for a newspaper at home. We were often the first people in the ops room in the morning and the last to leave.

The younger members of the team also seemed to find the time and stamina to visit various parts of Toronto at night- my room-mate Warwick went out with them once and arrive back in the early hours of the morning, collapsing on the bed with a groan "never again". Travis and others showed an amazing ability to function on few hours of sleep.

In terms of cricket coverage, perhaps the most enjoyable day was at Ajax where the Netherlands played Fiji. I worked as a team with David Dyte, and we put our e-mail addresses in the text commentary in the hopes of getting feedback - which we did almost immediately. Poor weather prevented a prompt start but then ourselves, local club members and both teams combined to remove the huge tarpaulin in order to get play under way. When the Fijians batted the rest of the team sat in their tent / dressing room and sang wonderful three part harmony- the only team to pack a guitar with their cricket bags..

On my last day in Toronto myself and Warwick scored a one-sided Scotland - Papua New Guinea match and I rushed back to the Skating Club ground to watch and finally score the thrilling conclusion of the Canada - UAE match. Canada won in bizarre fashion in the last over with an all run four after which I had to head for the airport, leaving the rest to bring the tournament to its exciting conclusion. Canada scraped home in 3rd place for a trip to the World Cup, leading to their historic victory over Bangladesh, and a place in the record books for Australian-Canadian John Davison who made the fastest century in World Cup history against the West Indies.

The tournament coverage recorded over 4 million page views, and we had many e-mails of thanks from fans in across the globe. Keith wrote to the management

"Hi All,

Now that I am back at home I would firstly like to thank CI for giving me the opportunity to go to Canada and secondly for being part of a excellent team. Apart from a hiccup or two a most professional and ambassadorial job done on behalf of CI.

The feedback that I received form people in Canada as well as the various team members, that I came into contact with, is that CricInfo is for them the only means of following cricket world wide and rely on our professional service to continue. The author of the Ice Hockey "Wisdens" even went as far as to say that CricInfo must by far be the best sport web site on the internet. Many more agreed with his sentiments. Feedback from officials, umpires and ICC delegates positively support the encouraging professionalism of the team.

In one instance the Argentinean coach's wife was able to phone him minutes after the completion of their last match and congratulate him on the win. When asked how she knew the result so soon she replied saying that a lot of them had been sitting at home watching the match on the net.

It might also be of encouragement that in some cases the CI live scorers card had to be used to bring the "official" scorers book up-to-date. The CI scorers were also responsible for all D/L (Duckworth Lewis rain rule) calculations and came through that with flying colours.

The team over in Toronto have also converted many, spreading the CI gospel to many lovers of the game and it would be interesting to see what increase we see in traffic from the Americas as well as from the countries of the participating teams.

Time will tell what will happen during the WC2003 but after seeing what can be done under difficult and sometimes trying circumstances then we can, with the current CI team, only be successful.

Travis, John, Duane, Haz, Adrian, David, Dave and Warwick, take a bow.

Regards Keith Lane Manager Cricinfo RSA"


The ICC Tourney in typical old CricInfo style had been a logistical and popular success- but a commercial failure. This was of course understood when the coverage was planned- selling sponsorship for this event was considered less important than trying to sell adverts for the English season and the CricInfo county championship, and the potentially lucrative Ashes tour.

CI People

Simon King

Cplords.jpg Who was (and is) Simon King? Simon, a Londoner was educated at Westminster and did an undergraduate degree in engineering at Liverpool University. A Ph.D at Oxford followed, and then a two year post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Minnesota.

Although he had followed in his father's footsteps to become an MCC member, he was not perhaps as interested in cricket itself as many involved in CricInfo. It became somewhat of an insider's joke amongst CricInfo staff and volunteers that Simon was much more interested in CricInfo than cricket, and any comments from Simon on cricket itself were often greeted with amazement. In some ways, this became an advantage in building CricInfo up. Many volunteers drifted off when easy access to live cricket via television was available - Simon rarely allowed cricket to distract him. He had many strengths- the main one perhaps being the gift of persuasion.

He had a remarkable ability to convince others to put in many hours for CricInfo under essentially his management and direction. He was also good when selling CricInfo to an outside agency - his enthusiasm, confidence in CricInfo, and willingness to offer services for free made CricInfo extremely attractive to official cricket boards.

What allowed Simon to create and drive CricInfo forward however, was an understanding of the importance of organization and structure, a vision of the future importance of the Internet in the media, and an understanding of the power and reach of a cricket Internet based database. This, when combined with Simon's own driving ambition, took CricInfo far beyond where even Simon thought it might go.

Simon has now returned to the USA (Texas) and is once again an avid user of the internet for information on cricket.

Badri Seshadri

Joined in late 1994 and rapidly became central database coordinator. A vital part of CricInfo management for years. Returned to India to set up Indian office. Acted as chief operations officer. A director until the sale to Wisden, and remained with the company briefly after the sale.

Dave Liverman

Dave was involved from 1995 until the sale to Wisden. He writes

"My introduction to cricket had come as a child- my father loved the game and some of my earliest memories are of beach cricket on holidays. At the age of 8 I was taken to Lord's to watch England play Australia -Freddy Trueman took five wickets, England bowled out Australia for under 200, and I was hooked for life. I read all I could- and my father has a wonderful collection of cricket literature. I enjoyed playing, firstly for my school, then local club cricket, later in Scotland and in the Edmonton league in Canada. When I moved to Newfoundland in 1988, however, there was no cricket played, and few sources of information. I first became aware of the Internet in 1994 when my workplace set up most of the employees with e-mail. A bit of exploring led me to KS Rao's e-mail list, and later thanks to a friend who had an account with Usenet access, I started reading rec.sport.cricket. I got brief glimpses of internet relay chat through public access sites, and that was enough to find a away to set up my own Unix client. After I had set myself up with a University account, and was posting regularly Neeran Karnik mailed me asking if I was interested in helping out with CricInfo. I had some computer experience but knew nothing about Unix, and even less about html. I was asked to look at two tasks initially, designing a graphic interface for the fledgling WWW site, and putting together brief summaries for tours and tournaments, linking them to scorecards. I had no home access so found the time to work on CricInfo stuff at lunchtimes, after work and weekends. The process of working co-operatively with cricket fans all over the world was fascinating. I still remember using a combination of irc and the web to design CricInfo pages in real time with people from the US, Holland and Australia.

I was shortly after asked to join "management", the loosely structured group that ran CricInfo, and that led to years of involvement in different capacities. Amongst other jobs I ran CricInfo's help mail, archived news articles, formatted scorecards for West Indies domestic cricket, was the webmaster for the Zimbabwe cricket Union, dealt with copyright issues, looked after personnel, and finally became a director of the company. In between I did a bit of nearly everything, apart from programming."

Robin Abrahams

Recruited as database maintainer, scorecard formatter. Left his job as security guard at Selfridges to become full-time employee. Still employed by ESPNCricinfo as of 2009

Richard Aleong

Supplied West Indies first-class cards for several years.

Suhael Ahmed

Ran Pakistan operations for some time as a volunteer before transforming into CEO CricInfo Pakistan.

Alex Balfour

Became involved as a volunteer scorer, and press relations officer; later director of business development, board member and chair of the board.

Etienne Barnard

Part of the team of cricket fans at the Oregon Graduate Institute that helped find a home for CI as it grew. Swapped his used microwave oven for an ancient Sun 3/50.

Travis Basevi

Responsible for much of the live scoring interface, the creation of the Test and one-day archive. Responsible for much of the statistics programming and database development on CI. Coordinated ICCT coverage in Malaysia in 1997, CricInfo's main scorer for the 1999 world Cup. Currently employed by CricInfo in the UK.

Rikki Bellamy

Helped set up Hampshire and ACS sites on CricInfo


Geoff Bethell

Coordinator of CricInfo's New Zealand efforts in the early days.

Aditya Bhuwania

Scoring, commentary and India-related material in the early days

Michiel Boland

Developer of CricInfo's first web interface, including writing of mathopd web server software.

Ros Brodie

CricInfo's second employee, as web master for South Africa. Previously had contributed many scorecards as a volunteer. Currently working in cricket TV production and scoring.

Fiona Butchart

Zimbabwe scorer (for CricInfo and official) - many scorecards sent over the years. Later employed by ZCU.

Steven Cashmore

Ran Cricket Memorabilia Society web pages on CricInfo


Tobian Clayton

Formatted all English first-class scorecards for three seasons after foolishly volunteering to help. Much involved in all Australian activity, still employed by CricInfo.

Rohan Chandran

There from the start. He and Manas Mandal created the permanent version of the irc channel #cricket in 1992. Headed landmark audio and video coverage of Hong Kong 6s. Provided first "live" coverage by manually editing a full card after every ball.

Rahul Chandran

Brother of Rohan, involved for years in various capacities.

Trevor Chesterfield

South African reporter who provided articles for the site for several years

Arup Das

Long time assistant on irc channel #cricket, helped with list maintenance and scoring.

Deb K Das

USA web master, still providing material on US cricket to CricInfo

Vasanthan S. Dasan

Staff Engineer at Sun Microsystems, US, Colorado based score reporter via news feeds to CricInfo in 92-96

Jacques de Villers

Original programmer of "dougie" the now much modified scoring software used by CricInfo.

Bob Dubery

Contributor of South African domestic scorecards

David Dyte

Original Zimbabwe web master, and contributor of many CI graphics, including the CricInfo logo. Worked with Phil Shead to create the Sim1 cricket simulator.

Eitan Prince

Contributor of South African domestic scorecards

Rick Eyre

Rick was recruited after his "Today in Cricket History" page was noticed. Became the first CricInfo editor, responsible for development of the interactive magazine, and the late, lamented player of the month section. Assisted David Morgan-Mar in bringing New South Wales to CricInfo as an official site in 1997. Became full time employee chiefly responsible for producing daily email newsletter, later sacked as part of wide ranging cuts in 2001. Later dabbled in blogging and podcasting during the 2005 Ashes.

N.Gautham

General assistance with programming

Chris Godfred-Spenning

Archive summaries and database work

Jeff Green

Jgg.jpg

Volunteer scorer and commentator, rapidly transformed into system administrator/ computer builder/ hardware expert. Remained employed by Wisden-CricInfo before his job was out-sourced to India.

Peter Griffiths

Involved from 1996 onwards, originally through the Association of Cricket Statisticians and historians. Much involved in creation of player and scorecard archives. Publisher of numerous books. Became CricInfo's managing director, now co-owner of CricketArchive.

Bruce Gruenbaum

South African based volunteer- scoring and scorecards. Worked on programming windows interface to scoring software, scoreboard feeds; helped greatly in securing first UCBSA rights

Tony Hassett

Contributor of many South African scorecards, acted as South Africa coordinator and liaison for several years.


Joe Ruzvidzo

Zimbabwe webmaster, scorer and occasional match reporter, was a full-time employee from 2000 until 2002. Returned briefly to provide coverage of the 2003 World Cup in Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Justin Hess

Zimbabwe scorer, graphics, some web design

Andrew Hignell

Glamorgan official site web master

Stuart Hughes

Fanatic Otago fan who contributed scorecards, and looked after linking to CricInfo amongst many other things.

Gary Hunt

Graphics support and advice

Richard Isaacs

Southern Cricket League webmaster

Vic Issacs

Hampshire site, and statistics; Association of County Cricket Scorers,

Srinvas Kandala

Much involved in database work for several years, and in coordinating contributors. Currently working in Washington State.

Amol Karnik

Indian web master for a period before Indian office took over responsibility

Neeran Karnik

Involved from 1993 onwards until his return to India. Instrumental in adding CricInfo's gopher interface. Took on many and varied tasks. Currently working in Mumbai area.

Chico Khan

Former USA web master and contributor.

Chico was the first USA Webmaster/Coordinator for CricInfo, but later, citing a conflict of interest, resigned his position (and recommended Deb Das for the job) when he was elected to the Board of Directors of the United States of America Cricket Association.

He was also the first person to bring live IRC interviews and commentary on the #cricket channel from a Test venue while the match was in progress. At the time he was an Editor of the North American edition of the Cricketer International magazine. The first interview, with Australia's Dean Jones, took place during the 4th Australia vs West Indies Test at Sabina Park, Kingston, Jamaica in April/May 1995. It was conducted by Steve Devaux with extra questions coming from the those online on #cricket.

Keith Lane

Major contributor in South Africa from late 1995 and scorer of internationals as a volunteer until becoming full-time in May 1999 (just before the World Cup in the UK) as CricInfo's South African manager. One of only a few who has stayed with Cricinfo through the early days, through the Wisden era and still active now with ESPN Cricinfo. Cricinfo, through the determination of Keith, now holds the live internet scoring rights for matches under the auspices of Cricket South Africa. This allows Cricinfo to cover all Franchise and Provincial matches live from the various stadiums around the country. The supply of a live score-datafeed to CSA today sees Cricinfo as an official CSA Supplier. Keith also freelances with SuperSport (TV company in RSA) as a cricket statistician.

David Legge

Originally recruited to do graphics work and work on a Tasmania site. Later became overall www/html coordinator, responsible for site standards and link checking. C

David Morgan-Mar

An early CricInfo web-master, responsible for the design and lay-out of early versions of CricInfo's web interface. Instrumental in bringing official NSW site to CricInfo. Management of web development and work..

Manas Mandal

Initially registered the domain �cricket.org� and ran the nameservers off ohio-state

Mandar Mirashi

Assisted with CricInfo's first interface - the irc bot - along with much encouragement for Simon King in getting CricInfo started in the first place.

David McBean

West Indies coordinator for a period.


John MacDonald

Contributor of many archive cards, particularly from the West Indies, and a source of information on statistics and much more. Passed away in 1998.

Steve Marsh

Scotland web-master

Vishal Misra

Much involved in the early days, with his creative programming forming a critical part of CricInfo's live scoring set-up. His efforts in developing a web interface to a forgotten unix scoring programme saved CricInfo's coverage of the 1996 World Cup. Together with Travis was responsible for completing the CricInfo scorecard archive and the development of dougie, the CricInfo scoring program. Also wrote the early search interface, the early stats scripts (that evolved into StatsGuru) and the original mirroring system. Now a Professor of Computer Science at Columbia University, New York.

A Morgan

Contributor of numerous statistics on captaincy records

Murari Venkataraman

Central database coordinator in 1993-94, was involved from the early days. Moved back to India from the US in 1995. Returned to working on CricInfo in 1997. Director in the India office from 1999-2001.

Minakshi Pai

Worked on interactive magazine, photo database.

Simon Peters

Took over coordination of New Zealand activities from Geoff Bethell. A brief but important period of involvement helped us secure official status with NZC.

Duane Pettet

CricInfo's premier contributor from New Zealand as a volunteer and later as an employee. Heroically scored three 1996 World Cup matches simultaneously. Became NZ webmaster.

John Polack

Contributed Australian player profiles, the quality of which led to his recruitment as CI's senior Australian reporter. Let go when CricInfo cut back Australian operations in 2001.


Mark Prescott

Zimbabwe web-master for a brief period before his death in a tragic car accident

K.Sankara Rao

KSR ran a mailing list for cricket information that pre-dates CricInfo. Provided a home for early incarnations of CI on his PC in North Dakota. Instrumental in allowing CricInfo to provide real-time live coverage of the whole of the 1996 World Cup.

Sarah Chesterfield

Contributed as scorer, ball-by-ball commentator, interviewer and supplier or articles and scorecards. Assisted in maintenance of the site in early days, and set up a web interface, piping the ball-by-ball scorecard and commentary to a website allowing devotees who were denied IRC access (mostly while at work) to still keep an eye on the game.

David Ridland

New Zealand web master before his premature death in a car accident

Chris Pope

Recruited as Essex web master, then England web master. Much involved in graphics, web design, programming of web interfaces for database work, and more.

Shashin Shah

A vital part of the team in 1993 and 1994, and again in 1996-97, taking major responsibility for archiving of news articles and other aspects of maintaining the database.

Phil Shead

Recruited from rec.sport.cricket usenet group in the earliest days of CricInfo. Worked with David Dyte to create the Sim1 cricket simulator. Major contributor, was employed as programmer, scorer and database maintainer, Australia.

Sidi

Early formatter of many scorecards.

Aslam Siddiqui

Master of statistics trivia; a doctor in the USA he still posts statistical information on rec.sport.cricket.

Malcolm Singh

Acted as West Indies coordinator

Shehzaad Nakhoda

First Pakistan coordinator- helped forge important links in Pakistan

Ravi Sista

Much involved whilst at grad school. Did much live scoring, worked as news archiver for periods.

Frank Sokolic

Contributor of many RSA domestic cards

Roger Stringer

Managed our Zimbabwe offices and operations as a volunteer before full time management was employed. Scored first live coverage from Zimbabwe, vital work as liaison between CricInfo and Zimbabwe Cricket Union. Worked very closely with Simon King in getting CricInfo's first official site - the ZCU.

William Turrell

Recruited to run Kent CC site. Later England producer/ webmaster before leaving the company.

Jeff Urs

Tireless formatter of English Sunday league scorecards for several seasons.

Louis van Dompselaar

Voluntary work in system administration and programming, active in maintaining CricInfo's link directory and providing information on Netherlands cricket.

Dianne van Dulken

Women's cricket web site and coordinator for several years. Foundeed cricketwoman.net, working as web programmer.

Pieter Vermeulen

Another long standing volunteer as the Oregon Graduate institute. Helped by physically re-booting the server, moving, transferring. Upgrading and calming down campus admins when our traffic brought the campus network to a standstill. Pieter sourced the Sparc 2 used by CricInfo during the 1996 World Cup to replace the Sparc 1 purchased in 1994.

Vicky Vigneswaran

Acted as Sri Lanka coordinator, contributed news and cards for many years. Retyped hundreds of articles for rec.sport.cricket.info most of which found their way onto CricInfo.

David Walsh

Volunteer australian formatter and scorer, now part time scorer.

John Watson

Helped source England cards and gave general programming assistance.

Binoy George

Joined Wisden Data Services, India in 2001, then after the merger with Cricinfo, since 2003, and currently working for ESPN Cricinfo, since 2007 and continuing with ESPN....(A cricket scorer, online commentator, etc.;) Follow me on twitter....(https://twitter.com/#!/gbinoy)

Kalyan Kommineni

CricInfo's greatest fan. Period.

Swapnil Warkar

Can't live without Cricinfo. http://swapnilwarkar.wordpress.com/

Vinayak Alhad Nayak

eat, sleep, drink Cricinfo!!

Rutesh Raikar

Not a single day passes by without www.cricinfo.com :)


Mihir Peres

Cricinfo is Oxygen for me

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