I've been fortunate, lucky even, to have a good relationship with ESPNcricinfo. They never posted pictures of me gurning halfway through my action. They never posted articles that showed me in a negative light. And most of all, they always moderated the feedback comments on my blog, which they hosted, so that nothing nasty got through.
Oh wait, they did none of those things. But I still love the site.
My first appearance on the most important cricket site on the web was on the December 6, 2000; my debut first-class match, for Wellington. I took 2 for 15 in the first innings, put on 57 with Jeetan Patel, scored 18, and then took 5 for 39 in the second. It was pretty good reading. I was damn proud.
There was no picture on my profile page then, just my name, date of birth, age and team. No bio, no batting or bowling styles, just the match stats. But what was brilliant was that I had a page. I had made it in the eyes of the cricketing world. Anyone, anywhere could follow my career. Every ball I bowled, and faced, since then has been recorded on the site, for better or worse.
And that's what it is. For better or worse, ESPNcricinfo is there to tell you what's up. It's a marriage, to a website, that still continues, long after my playing career is over. Till death do us part? Like a Disney movie?
It's the first place I now go to do research on players when I've got commentary looming or an article to write. Not just for the stats, but the previews and then the reviews, and the opinion pieces. It's a reference site that is rarely wrong. An authority, if you like.
The site has also turned into a description, like "google" has into a verb. Someone can now be "a walking Cricinfo". I know a number of people of the type, like a few of the lads I now play some club cricket with. They know more player stats than the players would, or should, know themselves. They tell me stats I didn't know about myself.
One such told me I share a common number with Don Bradman. Ninety-nine. His Test average, my List A aggregate. I didn't know that. If I'm ever in a bar having a shandy with the Don in the afterlife (or not, depending on beliefs), we will share a glance, a nod, and a common understanding. I share Bradman's pain.
It's a place where the fan can go and get a glimpse, a statistical opinion, on a player's career at all stages. Do stats give you the whole picture? Of course not, but they are useful to have there in black and white.
While on a tour to Australia I met one of the guys who did a lot of the live ball-by-ball text commentary. I wasn't happy with my profile picture at the time. I asked if he could change it, or get it changed. It happened. I was happy-(er). It still wasn't the most flattering of photos, but it was better.
Rana Malook harboured dreams of appearing on ESPNcricinfo as a player. Well, those days are done for Rana: sadly a back injury curtailed his playing ambitions. But his dream has come true. Well, part of it. He's on the site, where he now writes regularly on the highs and lows of Lancashire in English county cricket, on the One Man and His Dog blog.
I'm also fortunate enough to be involved with a few of the pod- and video-casts ESPNcricinfo does. The Cricket Sadist Hour (only lasts for 30 mins, but it does feel like an hour while chatting to Jarrod Kimber, whose baby it is) and during the IPL, The Huddle. Both these shows combine views, opinions, and some statistical breakdown, in a format that's easy to digest.
First ESPNcricinfo had text ball-by-ball commentary, now live chat shows bringing together people from across the continents. It works and it's digestible. And sometimes irreverent. That's what this sport allows us to do, not take ourselves, or the game, too seriously; well, not all the time.
I said the site was rarely wrong, an authority. They are wrong sometimes. I asked them to change me from right-arm "medium fast" to right-arm "fast medium"; they obliged. I liked that more. And it was more accurate.
Iain O'Brien is a former New Zealand fast bowler who played 22 Tests
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