Gaurav Dhiman, with two Under-19 World Cups for India at the top of his otherwise bleak resume, was playing an unofficial match at a nondescript ground in Sarjapur (Bengaluru), slaying bowlers and breaking fielders’ fingers not long ago.
He’s one among many yesteryear hopefuls and future prospects plying wares at any of the hundreds of grounds that have cropped up in the vicinity over the last decade.
Only a few years ago, this knowledge of Dhiman and his likes participating in such obscure leagues would have been brushed aside as a rumour unless you were part of the game.
Thirty-three geeks nestled in an inconspicuous building in Ahmedabad ensure that isn’t so anymore by offering an experience, unlike anything the cricket fraternity has seen before.
Founder Abhishek Desai’s neatly-segregated team is plugged in today just as it has been for the last six years. They’re all working on simplifying an already simple interface for one mobile application called Cricheroes. It’s a free-for-all scoring application which 7.5 million people in the business of playing, hosting or simply scoring.
It sounds head-tilting strange that there’s a need for such an application, but once you register your mobile number and punch in a few more details, it’s easy to see why the founders are targeting 80 million users in the next five years. These are absurd numbers for a start-up that began as a solution to a common problem among cricket-playing friends.
“This started as a solution to our own problem as weekend cricketers,” says Abhishek, while Kuntal Shah, the second of three founding members, sits in on the interaction. “After games, there’s always a discussion on who played how, if the player is in form, how many catches he has taken, if his bowling is bad etc. There was no data on these matches because there was no one to score, and even if, they were paper scoresheets which are really hard to understand and maintain. Harder still to get meaningful data out of.”
Abhishek, a computer engineer by profession, knew he was onto something. This was early 2016 and by October the registered company scored its first game. “Now, we score close to ten thousand games every Sunday and about the same on Saturday,” beams Kuntal.
The journey begins with the square leg umpire, in most cases, with a smart mobile device in hand. After accounting for 22 registered players, the toss is tagged and the game begins. Each ball is accounted for and entered into the app by the umpire.
It’s about as easy as ordering food on one of the many applications available these days. It doesn’t distract the umpire from his main job either because he has plenty of time between deliveries to click the inputs. Much like any International game, these scores available live to any user on the application.
“That’s all it was when we started, but since then we have evolved significantly,” says Abhishek.
The app gathers all the data - there’s plenty of that run through Amazon servers - and offers basic statistics such as matches, runs, wickets, average, strike-rate and so on by the game, to the tournament and for a career. For those willing to pay a nominal sum for their premium version, it also offers advanced analysis called Cricinsights. There’s also the Ecosystem where stakeholders of the game can connect, market products, find coaches, teams to play with.
“Now the focus is on live streaming these matches,” says Abhishek. “We are doing very well in this vertical. There’s a huge market for it. It also makes every cricket feel important and that is our USP.”
That’s another reason why the application, more so as a pure scoring and statistics provider in this instance, is used in over 70 countries, including 20 associations affiliated to the International Cricket Council and 20 State associations in India. “We’re scoring games for Cricket Romania and Cricket Argentina these days,” chips in Kuntal.
While they have built enough credibility to push for a larger slice of the international pie, Abhishek insists that the focus is on grassroots cricket. “There are plenty of players offering similar services to international cricketers but there was nothing for you and me until now. That’s the market we want to stay in and grow,” he says.
But the Board of Control for Cricket in India, for obvious reasons, can’t be ignored. They have plans in place to pitch for that but they’re waiting for ‘right channels’ and also the ideal idea. This could explain their digital ads at the Narendra Modi stadium in Motera during the third and four India-England Tests.
Sources in domestic associations said they are aware of the application’s efficacy and have at times used these stats available to pick junior cricketers. It won’t be long before more selectors join the bandwagon.
“Even if we get the BCCI deal, we don’t want to veer away from our target which is the weekend cricketer,” says Abhishek.
“We are fully capable of handling international games. In fact, we did the recent World Cup on our platform, but that’s not a priority. Our objective is to empower a local cricketer,” he remarks.
In keeping with the common man, they have addressed some of the major concerns such as lack of internet because some of these games are played in venues with no network. “Off-line scoring is also available. You only need internet to start the match and then the scores will sync once internet is available again,” says Kuntal.
At HQ, though, there’s no dearth of connectivity and millions of cricketers are grateful for it.