I am not going to pretend that the lead-up to this has not been fraught. Change, however inevitable or even desirable, is rarely easy on the nerves; for those of us burdened with the knowledge of the imminent, there has been more than the odd anxious moment. A takeover represents more than mere change to those being taken over. At the least there's the uncertainty over work culture; beyond that there's the fear of loss of identity, autonomy, and yes, jobs.
I should know a bit about what a takeover can mean. Cricinfo was acquired by Wisden four years ago, and I was then on the other side of the fence. Cricinfo was easily the number one cricket website then, yet we made plenty of changes. We added staff, streamlined editorial processes, brought in new servers, changed the design and, in fact, four years later, we are still changing. The internet is a restless and hungry medium: to stay contemporary and relevant, it needs fresh ideas and, let's not be coy about it, fresh investments.
|Cricinfo will not lose its name, nor its voice. And it will remain committed to covering every international cricket match live and with the same journalistic rigour and integrity that you have come to expect from us|
To all of us who love cricket, Cricinfo is a phenomenon, a cult, a faith. It is one of the true wonders of the internet. It owes its inception to passion, ingenuity and innovation and its survival and growth is a triumph of the entrepreneurial spirit that infected everyone who came in touch with it.
I remember Mark Mascarenhas - better known as the man who showed Sachin Tendulkar the money but whose real achievement was raising the standard of live cricket broadcast in India - telling me after he had offered to me the job of building total-cricket.com, "Welcome, let's beat the shit out of Cricinfo." Mark had the money and the heart to spend it, and he had on his roster the who's who of cricket. But total-cricket.com lasted about a year.
I was also involved in the setting up of www.wisden.com, which carried the most powerful brand name in cricket media. It had an editor who knew his job and a bunch of talented professional journalists as opposed to Cricinfo's merry band of enthusiastic amateurs. Our objective was clear: we were not there to compete with Cricinfo but to create a parallel, value-added, boutique site for the discerning cricket reader. We also expected him to pay for the privilege. The editorial mission was reasonably successful but nobody paid up.
It was then that Mark Getty, decided to acquire Cricinfo. It turned out to be the perfect match. Cricinfo brought in the breadth, Wisden the depth. Cricinfo had the users, Wisden the professional nous. The new site operated as wisdencricinfo.com for a while and those of us involved in wisden.com felt a sense of loss when the site became cricinfo.com again but, with hindsight, it was the right decision. Cricinfo deserved to stand alone.
Cricinfo is now part of the world's leading sports media business. It is owned by Disney, one of the world's largest media and entertainment companies with business interests as diverse as movies and theme parks. Will Cricinfo be able to retain its identity, its spirit and its independence?
Yes, a few things could change. We will have access to better technology and design facilities, our multimedia capabilities will be enhanced and, who knows, some day there might even be Cricinfo TV. On the internet, you are limited only by your imagination. We will continue dreaming.
But I can tell you with a degree of assurance what will not change. To start with, Cricinfo will not lose its name, nor its voice. And it will remain committed to covering every international cricket match live and with the same journalistic rigour and integrity that you have come to expect from us. Whatever matters to cricket, we will cover it; and whatever threatens cricket, we will raise our voice against it.
And we have been acquired not by venture capitalists but by a company with a proud record in sports broadcasting and with a huge presence in online publishing. And we have been acquired because we have been successful. It gives us comfort and confidence.
And, come to think of it, need we ever worry about who owns Cricinfo? Ultimately it belongs to cricket, and to you. And that's an unshakeable bond.
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Sambit Bal is the editor of Cricinfo and Cricinfo Magazine