There are no statistics to tell you how many cricket fans make up the population in Pakistan, all you need is a match to sense the madness. Cricket is revered on television, played on the streets and is the foundation of many friendships across neighbourhoods. With a country so obsessed with the sport, it’s a wonder there has been little effort to document the passion or encourage competition.
Over the years Pakistan has churned out some world-class players, however, there is little opportunity for budding talent or enthusiasts on the domestic pitch. This is where web portal Khelo Kricket hopes to play a small but significant role by providing a platform to all cricket players regardless of skill level.
“I don’t think we realise how much cricket is played in the country, starting at the school level and then going on to universities, corporate firms and amateur teams. There are a few hundred teams within Karachi itself and yet there was no place where these teams could showcase their achievements,” says Hadeel Obaid, the driving force behind the project. The idea came to her by chance during visits to schools for a different project, “I realised there was no system for scorekeeping on a long-term basis. Once a match was played it was forgotten!” she recalls.
Khan had his own reasons to back the project. “What really sold the idea to me was Hadeel’s passion for the project; half an hour into the pitch I knew I would not regret investing in this venture. I did it simply because to her it was not about making money, it was about reviving cricket and letting the new generation have a taste of the passion earlier generations had for cricket.”An avid follower of the sport, Obaid was quick to conceptualise the idea and her next step was to find people willing to support the cause. She immediately found enthusiasm from family and friends and began to formalise the search process by writing emails to corporations she thought might be interested in the idea. “Azam Jalal Khan the head of Digitz Digital Media replied to me a few days later, saying that he would hear me out. It was a successful meeting and he has since been funding the project,” she shares.
Launching from Karachi, Khelo Kricket has a six-person team managing the scores of nearly 246 registered teams with new entries pouring in every day. “The team has done great in the few moths since the operation has been running, especially with the fact that they are all juggling jobs at the same time. They are taking the time out to make it a success,” says Khan. “There are ups and downs everywhere but if people are truly passionate about what they are doing, things eventually fall into place.”
How it works
The four types of teams to which the website currently caters to are school, university, corporate and amateur. The Khelo Kricket team personally visits each match being played by a registered team and keeps score.
Apart from match scores, the website also keeps individual statistics of each player on record. “It’s like Crickinfo.com but for the amateur player,” says Zohaib Jawad, a member of team Bubbers on the portal. “With individual stats being available, teams can recruit new players easily as they can see concrete evidence of their performance.”
Once the match is over, the scores and individual statistics are uploaded on the website which can then be shared across social media. The match highlights are also available in the ‘News’ tab.
The website also helps teams find opposing teams of similar skillsets. “The ‘find an opponent’ feature is amazing, as often the greatest problem with being a private team is that you don’t find another team to play against. Now that can be taken care of,” says Tayyab Balagamwala, captain of the Karachi Patriots team.
When asked about the future of the portal and what it might evolve into, Hadeel replies, “The project is still in the early stages but as it is one of a kind we have the advantage and can experiment with it. It can evolve into something a lot bigger in due time. But our first step would be to expand to other cities soon.” With no international cricket being played in the country in the past few years, stadiums have been empty and morale has been low. But with a venture like Khelo Kricket, we may soon see stadiums fill up as amateur cricket picks up its pace.
Hurmat Majid is a subeditor at The Express Tribune. She tweets @bhandprogramme
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, December 6th, 2015.
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