Anytime anywhere in the world when fans need to know what’s going on in a cricket match of any note, they turn to ESPNcricinfo. Ball-by-ball coverage of every international match involving the Full Member nations has distinguished the site, and its ball-by-ball service is unmatched in any sport for its depth and reach.
Like many other inventions, ball-by-ball updates was the result of a crisis. I intend to give you a first-person account of what happened one fateful night, 17 years ago, when Cricinfo started covering games ball by ball.
Cricinfo started as a volunteer-run organisation in 1993. It was managed largely out of virtual offices, on IRC (internet relay chat) chatrooms called #ci and #cricket. You could think of IRC as text-only “hangouts” where like-minded people logged in and chatted using a program. I was a graduate student at the University of Massachusetts pursuing my PhD during that period, and part of the volunteer management of Cricinfo.
Fast forward to the World Cup in 1996. Through the efforts of a large number of people, Cricinfo reached an agreement with the 1996 World Cup organising committee, PILCOM, to jointly provide live coverage of the tournament.
The organising committee agreed to make available via file transfers the live scorecards they would create and update. We would take them, massage them into our format, and publish them on the site.
In 1995, along with Travis Basevi, I completed loading the entire Test and ODI archive of scorecards onto the Cricinfo database. Since I already had the scripts that created and formatted our scorecards, I said I would handle the task of porting the World Cup scorecards into our format. Easy.