Bodyline: 75th anniversary

This winter marks the 75th anniversary of Bodyline and my boss, Martin Williamson, has single handedly documented the entire thing. It is a task which ought to take about a month, or more, but somehow (and at a b**** of a time for him) he has squeezed it into seven days. It’s worthy of your immediate attention and really we ought to run a press release about it, but…there you go.

So, go and delve. There’s a history, a dummy’s guide; a timeline and diary and a whole load of photos.

There’s enough there to keep you occupied for hours. It goes without saying that no site or newspaper has covered the history of Bodyline this deeply or broadly, so it should be instantly bookmarked.

Congratulations Martin.

‘Sezen is start with in some days’

We get the oddest of requests at Cricinfo…

its a [name deleted] (sunny) playing cricket for zahir shah cricket club(R).i am a fast bowler & middle order bats man.
i want to playing cricker for ur club in 2007. i know sezen is start with in some days. please if u give me chance….?its my owner.if u have no chance than u reffer me any club for good cricket this sezen. waiting to ur good responce.

I hope he found what he was looking for.

Cricket commentary on your mobile

Meant to note this down last week and forgot. We’re now doing commentary for mobile phones – and it’s really brilliant. I know it’s a bit sycophantic to praise Cricinfo’s services but, let’s face it, we do rock – and this is really very cool. If you’re away from your PC, just download this program and you can keep an eye on our accurate (yet irreverent…) commentary on your phone. It’s quick and free.

Get to it.

What a difference a year makes

Have a look at this. It’s Cricinfo from today, September 1 2007.

A screenshot of Cricinfo

Now then. When you manage a site as popular as Cricinfo, it’s especially important we keep our headlines fresh, sharp – and above all, accurate. So when I noticed a colleague had altered the clusters and changed the top headline to “Ruthless,” it struck a chord. Ruthless? This England? Really?

But, in this series at least, they are and they have been. And who’d have thought it after the utter shambles of last year? What a difference a year can make.

Sambit Bal on Test Match Special

Pretty cool moment for us today when Sambit Bal, our editor, was invited onto Test Match Special during the tea interval of the 2nd Test at Trent Bridge. Jonathan Agnew knows and likes Cricinfo, but it was nevertheless oddly exciting to hear him be so amazed at how Sambit (and us) manage to produce a site of such breadth and depth. Anyway, it might be online if you fancy a listen – check TMS’s site.

2007 Cowdrey Lecture

Have you read this year’s Cowdrey Lecture, delivered by Christopher Martin-Jenkins’? Hmm, thought as much. Well you really ought to, not least because this year marks the first time in its brief seven years that it hasn’t been delivered by a professional cricketer. And it is fascinating.

I confess not to have read it all, yet, but am working my way through it and finding myself nodding all too frequently. Pleasingly for me and my employers, he mentions Cricinfo (and, revealingly, by name and not “the cricket website Cricinfo” as we are so often called. Clearly the brand hasn’t extended that far yet…) while raising a very good point about the access to, and interest in, county cricket.

Cricinfo recorded 29 million page views from 7.5 million visits to county cricket alone in 2006 – and has already had 19 million this season so, despite the rain, they expect the figure to be exceeded. Obviously because a great many people want to find out the latest scores. Sadly, if they are on the move in their cars they can listen for them in vain; and when they are given it often seems to be as a breathless afterthought following the big story that Scunthorpe’s millionaire chairman has denied rumours that their controversial manager Bruno Boscovic is going to be sacked. Or, more to the point, some utterly mundane comment by Jose Murinho such as he thinks that Chelsea have the players to win the Premiership. What a surprise. The media has been conned to a dangerous extent – if you value the variety of life – into becoming a sort of spin machine for the all-pervading, all-powerful Premiership. Also into the belief that it can’t be of interest if it’s not on television.

Regular or past readers will know of my near-hatred of football, and it is primarily for this reason: that it consumes so much media attention, undeservingly so. But hey ho (Flint), that’s the way of the world.

The lack of fast bowlers also come under Christopher’s scrutinous gaze – and he reveals that changes are afoot to decrease the boundaries. My boss and I went to The Oval earlier in the season and I was absolutely shocked at the shortness of the boundaries. Cynics argue that they are brought “in” from their original position in order to maximise the chances of sixes, increase the number of runs scored in a day and generally get the game finished as quick as possible. The evidence is damning too.

But there is a tremendous amount to be thankful for in the contemporary game – in many respects the standards are higher than ever. There are some magnificent batsmen in world cricket and some magical spinners too. The fielding is sensationally good. It is the fast bowlers who are in short supply in the current phase of a game that has always evolved. In the eternal struggle to find that essential balance between bat and ball what we need is a determined effort to lengthen boundaries – happily both the MCC World Cricket Committee and the new ICC Cricket committee are agreed on that but there is no evidence yet of boundaries being stretched to the furthest practical limits on all grounds as they should be.

Do give it a read, and offer your thoughts of the points he raises.

Cricinfo acquired by ESPN

In case you didn’t know…

“Growing our business in the online world is vital for us to serve sports fans,” said Russell Wolff, managing director of ESPN International. “Cricinfo is a tremendous property with a great fan base and it will be a strong addition to ESPN.”

Explaining the decision, Mark Getty, director of the Wisden Group, said: “Cricinfo has developed into a significant cricket brand in its own right, combining huge global popularity with strong commercial success. ESPN is a major sports broadcaster and international rights holder and will provide the perfect environment for Cricinfo to further realise its enormous potential.”

More here and here.

Cricinfo launch match search facility

I don’t care how biased I sound, because I know that Cricinfo’s Statsguru is used by everyone. Players, journalists, fans…it is an engine of stats, built by one person: Travis Basevi. In fact, Travis almost single handedly built the backend to the entire site.

And he’s come up with a new toy: a match search facility. So you can just stick in “Edgbaston 2005″ or “headingley 1981″ to find the Test or one-dayer you’re after. Fairly cool. Try it out.

The new Statsguru is astounding, too. Due soon, we think…

Goodbye ODI (for now); welcome back Test

If an ODI was a person, I’d punch him right now. Regular readers and gluttons of this blog will know of my dislike for the shorter format of the game and, after a bloated and absurdly organised World Cup, I’d rather eat my feet than sit through another series. I can stomach a semi-final and a final, though.

If a Test was a person, I certainly wouldn’t punch him and might even offer him a drink. The real cricket of the summer gets underway in (amazingly) just 24 days’ time with West Indies taking on England at Lord’s. Ah, Test cricket: three slips and a gully; a respectable three-and-a-half runs per over; maidens and normal field placings. That’s what we want. One-day cricket, the new kid on cricket’s block, has already reached its shelf life. The five-day game still reigns supreme.

But will West Indies ever get here? Their coach resigned early this morning, their captain a few days earlier and there are no dead-set certain replacements for either position. All this on top of another seemingly endless contract crisis. Fingers crossed they do manage to brush the latest mess under the carpet once more, because the two countries have a rich and fascinating history.

Talking of which…we’ve been beavering away today writing brief series histories all the way back from 1928; 1960 to 1980; 1980-1995 and 1995-2004. I’m clearly biased, but nevertheless feel this is one area Cricinfo really shines as we can link to the Almanack report and our own series page – not to mention every scorecard from every match played between the two countries. That’s pretty damn useful for the fan, I reckon. Have a read and leave your thoughts if you have any.

What are you most looking forward to this summer (anyone who mentions one-dayers will be publicly humiliated)?

Bermuda gain a billion fans

Poor India. Poor, poor old India. As me Martin and Jenny covered West Indies’ comprehensive thrashing of Ireland, we had one eye (sometimes both) on India’s key encounter with Sri Lanka.

Now then. However much we try to remain unbiased, neutral and balanced cricket journalists, everyone has a favourite team or enjoys seeing one side struggle. India is one such team. Maybe it’s an unspoken competitiveness we have at Cricinfo between the London office and our guys in Bangalore, but there was no shortage of whooping when India were, well, whooped. Commiserations to Vasu, Sriram, George, Rajesh and co. out there, whose livers will be receiving a severe workout right now.

All is not lost, however. India simply need Bermuda to thrash Bangladesh. Unfortunately, that’s about as likely as Ricky Ponting never again uttering “aw, look” at a press conference. The best line came from Ryan at CaribbeanCricket who, moments after Sri Lanka won, said “Bermuda gain a billion fans”.