March 1, 2013

Presenting The Cordon

Announcing a new section on the site: voices from outside the press box

© ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Allow me to introduce you to The Cordon, your destination for some of the most interesting cricket writing outside of the mainstream cricket media.

At ESPNcricinfo we take pride in the professionalism of our journalism, and we go to great lengths to keep our objectivity and integrity uncompromised, but we also have the humility and the good sense to recognise professional journalists and writers don't have a monopoly on ideas and original thought.

Readers trust journalists because it is their job to know. And because they are trained to combine their storytelling instincts with the requirement of rigour and honesty. They derive credibility as much from the weight of their personal work as from the reputations of the organisations they work for. Their environment guarantees checks and balances, and the proximity and access they gain to their subjects affords them a broader and deeper understanding of the nuances. Everybody can look, but a journalist is paid to see.

But sometimes the proximity, the structure and the discipline stand in the way of lateral thought. The compulsion of the immediate and the tyranny of the deadline can often stop the lens from wandering. Some manage to break free, but most have no choice but to submit to the routine of the daily flow, or as in the case of a website like this one, the call of the moment.

The democratisation of the process by which opinion and ideas are shared is one of the many gifts of the internet. The worry that this blurs the line between professional journalism and the unregulated flow of information and opinion is highly exaggerated. The garbage - and the web is full of it - mostly goes unnoticed. It is the gems that shine through. Media organisations are learning how to not merely coexist with the purveyors of this fine content; the smart ones have a found ways to embrace them.

For us, however, it was never a question of a leap of faith. After all, ESPNcricinfo was born of the amateur spirit, and even though our commitment to the best journalistic practices is absolute, we have always found room for voices from outside.

The idea behind The Cordon is not new. In spirit, it is an extension of our Different Strokes group blog. The Cordon brings over a couple of voices from Different Strokes - Samir Chopra and Michael Jeh - and there some familiar names for ESPNcricinfo readers in the form of Kamran Abbasi, one of our earliest bloggers; Anantha Narayanan; and, of course, the prolific Jarrod Kimber, who has been responsible for identifying and recruiting the rest of the Cordon crew.

Not that they needed much persuading. It is an easy match. ESPNcricinfo serves the largest online cricket audience in the world, it is unashamedly global in its outlook, and it is home to the most varied cricket writing in the world.

The Cordon brings together as varied a group of contributors as you could expect to find. Jonathan Wilson and Jon Hotten are writers, but they don't make their living from cricket writing (Wilson, in fact, edits a football quarterly). Matt Cleary has written about beer, travel and swimming with stingrays, apart from sport, but counts his ball-by-ball stints at ESPNcricinfo among his most satisfying work. Abbasi studied to be a doctor but has made a career out of editing medical journals. Chopra teaches philosophy in Brooklyn. Stuart Wark is a research fellow at the School of Rural Medicine in New England. And Raf Nicholson is a PhD student and a proud feminist.

Jack Shantry plays for Worcestershire CCC; Michel van Oorschot has played club cricket in Oman, Holland and Scotland; Michael Jeh still plays grade cricket in Brisbane (when he is not running a wildlife safari in South Africa); and Mahesh Sethuraman, who works in a bank, rues what he might have been. Narayanan spent over two decades in the corporate world before realising that playing with cricket stats was far more fun; Paul Ford is the founder of Beige Brigade, which he describes as "the patriotic and long suffering Kiwi supporters' cult"; and Dave Hawksworth is proud that through his 30-year relationship with cricket, he has never sat in a press box.

This, of course, is not a complete list. The Cordon will continue to grow, bringing in voices from all parts of the world. What they say might not sometimes be consistent with ESPNcricinfo's editorial position, but we will let them be themselves.

In that sense The Cordon represents the best of both worlds. It has been curated with professional care, but it will exemplify the free sprit and free thinking that the web engenders.

On a somewhat related note, all of ESPNcricinfo's blogs have now moved platforms, to the one the rest of our content is hosted on. What this means for you as a reader is, you will now be able to Facebook "like", and tweet, our blog posts more easily. You will also be able to navigate to related stories, team and player pages and other content on ESPNcricinfo from the Related Links units embedded in each post. And the commenting process has been tweaked: where previously you could post a comment straightaway, you will now need to log in to do so - like on the rest of the site.

Happy reading, and let us know what you think.

Sambit Bal is the editor of ESPNcricinfo