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ESPNcricinfo at 30

We've lived cricket for three decades, alongside you

For 30 years, ESPNcricinfo has been the world's companion for the game

Sambit Bal
Sambit Bal
20-Mar-2023
There's cricket you can watch. For what you can't, there's ESPNcricinfo  •  Burhaan Kinu/Hindustan Times/Getty Images

There's cricket you can watch. For what you can't, there's ESPNcricinfo  •  Burhaan Kinu/Hindustan Times/Getty Images

Rarely have I willed so desperately for a delayed pushback for my flight as I did when New Zealand and England took their Test in Wellington to the wire. As the strength of the mobile-data signal fluctuated in the plane's cabin, my eyes were fixed on the mobile screen that brought the game alive, ball by heart-stopping ball, in words that painted vivid images.
New Zealand achieved the rarest of wins by the barest of margins in that game. Only three previous times in nearly 2500 Tests has a team won after following on, and only once before this game had a Test been won by a solitary run. It was a fraction that clinched it: had that last ball from Neil Wagner, whose bowling is more heart and muscle than music, been another seam's width inside the line it eventually took, there would have been enough bat on ball to carry it to fine leg to win the Test for England - or at least tie it. A seam's width the other way and it might have missed the edge of James Anderson's bat. It was a tickle that carried the ball into the gloves of Tom Blundell, diving to his right. On cue, my plane started stirring. It felt providential.
I watched those final moments in a highlights package later, but it was just as well that I experienced it live on ESPNcricinfo, in the words of Andrew Miller, one of our OGs, who started out at the site as an intern, rose to become UK editor, and retains all of his passion for ball-by-ball commentary. He would have been chugging away through the dead of a cold night in his study in East London, perhaps with his cat and dog for company, working his fingers with relish. Finding love in work is a blessing; being able to experience moments like these as part of work is divine.
That has been the sum of ESPNcricinfo's life for 30 years, during which we have lived and cherished just about every moment of cricket. In bringing you the story of every ball and every match, every turn and twist, we have been with you for the whole ride, in moments of glory and those of despair, sharing your joy and your pain. While striving to be cricket's most faithful chronicler, we have always tried to be your essential match companion.
The story of ESPNcricinfo's trailblazing past is well documented. The invention of the live scorecard, and subsequently ball-by-ball text commentary, was nothing short of a miracle in the pre-internet age, and despite the advent of livestreaming and on-demand video, live scoring and ball-by-ball commentary are gifts that continue to give. Cricket produces a story every ball, and every story is a link in the grand narrative of the game.
A live scorecard ticks on unobtrusively to keep you updated with a match, and the text commentary from our very best not only brings these moments alive but helps piece together and make sense of stories you haven't been able to watch unfold. There is a lot of cricket these days (ask us) and the more there is, the less you can watch - even the most-followed events are watched for no more than a third of their duration on average. For the rest - if we may be facetious - you have ESPNcricinfo.
There have been a thousand imitators, but we have stayed true to our pioneering past. Since our last major anniversary, we have added a number of firsts to our portfolio. Smart Stats was conceived to provide a more relevant metric for T20 cricket than the traditional ones - averages, strike rates and economy rates - that don't quite manage to provide a true assessment of performance. For all T20 matches for which there is adequate past contextual data, we now provide alternative metrics to measure performances and their impact within the match. This can be cumulatively calculated to assess the value of players who get to bat only a few balls or who bowl the toughest overs.
Our live game predictor provides projected scores and the probability of a win for either team over by over, over the course of a match. And our live graphs allow you to map the ebb and flow of the game and plot its major turning points.
The number of small enhancements we make day to day are many, and there is always a bunch of them in the works. For example, our new DRS tracker now gives you instant answers to the burning questions of which team fluffed the most reviews, or which one got the most decisions overturned. Or click on the Overs tab on a scorecard; that lets you quickly access all the little things that made a difference in the match: dropped catches, run-out chances, and the overs that turned a game.
Along the way, we have also built a Hindi edition; introduced Shorts, which serves up the day's events and major stories in a snackable card format on the mobile; and built Cricinfoverse, where you can experience our gaming and interactive sections immersively.
But what we consider our seminal breakthrough in this period is Ask Cricinfo, our AI-powered free text- and voice-enabled query tool that mines our ball-by-ball database and answers complex statistical questions with breathtaking simplicity. That project reunited the site with one of its founding members. Vishal Misra, who rewrote the code base for ESPNcricinfo's scorecards over a fateful night during the 1996 World Cup, led the Ask Cricinfo project, which was one of the early adopters of GPT long before ChatGPT became part of the zeitgeist.
Our commitment to quality remains steadfast as we continue to explore newer content formats; our journalism is delivered across multiple mediums; and you can engage with our content on multiple platforms. The rollout for our updated Android app, which is nimbler, smoother, and features an enhanced video experience, is ongoing, and the updated iOS app will follow.
There is no time to pause on the digital high lane. Cricket and ESPNcricinfo have been inseparable ever since this journey began in 1993. At 30, with a fresh guard, we are ready for new adventures.

Sambit Bal is editor-in-chief of ESPNcricinfo @sambitbal