Cricinfo is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary.
It is truly remarkable, considering the state of the Internet in 1993 compared to the state of the Internet in 2013, that the site has not only endured, but thrived.
Sambit Bal wrote a lovely tribute to the site that I cannot recommend enough. He says it better than I can:
In the sands of human history two decades are no more than a speck, but it is the sum of life for the World Wide Web. The internet has been around in some form or the other since the early 1980s, but websites as we know them didn’t come around till about 1993, by when, incredibly, Cricinfo existed. Before Twitter, before Facebook, before Google, before Hotmail and Yahoo, before iPhones and BlackBerries, and even before proper web browsers, there was Cricinfo.
Familiarity dulls our sense of wonder and we are prone to take for granted things that become part of our daily routine. But consider this. Before Cricinfo, the only way to find out what was happening in the game from a non-cricket part of the world was to put in an expensive international call. I have a friend who had his mother in Delhi post to the US newspaper clippings of each day’s report after every Test. She once forgot to include the last day’s report, which left him tormented for days.
As Simon King, who led a bunch of cricket samaritans in shaping and nurturing Cricinfo through the early years said: before Cricinfo, it was the dark ages.
The site is entirely integral to the sport. And while there are both positive and negative things one could say about its stranglehold on Internet based cricket reporting, I honestly believe that Cricinfo saved cricket.
Not Sky Sports, not Sachin Tendulkar, not the Twenty20.
It was Cricinfo, all along, that kept the game alive through some of the darkest decades the sport had ever experienced, and now that the sport is entering a new golden age (my opinion) it has Cricinfo, and ESPN by extension, to thank.
And speaking on a personal level: I am not a cricket fan today if Cricinfo does not exist.
And I would bet that many of my fellow American born cricket supporters, and continental European cricket supporters, and other cricket fans from the sport’s backwaters are also not fans if Cricinfo does not exist.
Furthermore, the Asian Indian ex-pat community, as Sambit states above, relies entirely on Cricinfo to stay in touch with the sport they left behind. There are 2.8 million Asian Indians in the USA right now – would they still be cricket fans without Cricinfo? Or would they have moved on to baseball, or soccer. Tough to tell, of course, but you have to at least give Cricinfo some credit for keeping them hooked.
(And that is a bit of a chicken or the egg situation: Are Asian Indians ex-pats the world world over still cricket fans because of Cricinfo? Or is Cricinfo’s status in the sport due to the fact that there are tens of millions of Asian Indian ex-pats? Probably a bit of both).
And so, like I said, I really do not have a lot to add here. I do urge everyone to check out Cricinfo’s anniversary coverage. It really is fascinating. There is a great story on what it was like to do ball-by-ball commentary during the 1996 World Cup.
And while some have issues with the site, and while some might think that its status constitutes a monopoly and is bad for the game, I think the site is just brilliant, from top to bottom. Not infallible, of course, but I love that our game has one space for us all to conger, unlike football or basketball. I think we fans are extremely lucky to have Cricinfo – shoot, I think cricket overall is extremely lucky to have Cricinfo.
I also believe that this thriving and wonderful blogging community that we all enjoy is also extremely lucky to have Cricinfo: not just for the story ideas and the match reports and Statsguru: but I think its monopoly in a lot of ways created our underground cricket writing community. And I think we can all agree that that is something to be thankful for.
And so, thank you Cricfino writers, editors, and code jockeys. Thank you Walt Disney and Wisden and ESPN. Thanks to the poor souls that have to sell their advertising space. Thanks to accountants and office managers and assistants. Thanks to everyone involved.
Happy birthday and here’s to another 20 years! Mazel tov!