COVER STORY


BITS and cricket: a perennial camaraderie


By Venu Palaparthi (’87 Eco & CS) and Satish Polisetti (’02 Mech & EEE)

From the common room to Centurion Park, the BITSian breathes cricket.  India’s favourite sport, cricket and India’s premier student community… when two favourites align, the creative spark that results is pure magic! Or should we say, a match well played!

Prologue:

Ram Bhawan, March 3, 2003.

I was trying hard to visualize orthographic and isometric Views for my Engineering Graphics exam scheduled the next day when fresh breeze carried frenzied exclamations from the common room to my GHOT pad: Anyone still having dinner might as well throw their plates and get back into their seats, its happening at Centurion, and Sachin is doing it.

BITS Alumni Murari Venkataraman was the co-founder of CricInfo, giant in Cricketing Web World today.

India vs. Pakistan. ICC Cricket World Cup 2003.

I did throw my books away for the nail biting encounter. I am able to vividly remember how we screamed, cheered and hopped on top of chairs to rejoice India’s victory. Engineering Graphics went into the Centurion kitchen sink but it did not matter. You could feel the adrenaline flowing. It was cricket at its best. I could not have asked for more.

Every one of us has one anecdote or another that he/she can relate to when we talk of BITS and Cricket together. Most of us wistfully reminisce about cricket at BITS played either in the QT, GymG, C lawns, or the EA Sports stadiums! BITSAA recently saw the connect between BITSians and cricket assume larger than life proportions with the BITS fan base cheerleading Rajasthan Royals all the way.  When we at Sandpaper 2.0 investigated to see this intimate connection between BITSians and cricket, some fascinating stories saw the light of day.

Story 1:

DreamCricket: BITSians transform a Fantasy Cricket website into a bigger Venture

In New Jersey, the only cricket radio show has been co-hosted for close to 5 years by Aravind Ramachandran (Class of 1991).

DreamCricket started off as a Fantasy Cricket website idea of Ara Pararajasingham and Mahender Bohra friends and colleagues of Venu, at Reuters.  Mahender designed key portions of the original DreamCricket fantasy cricket website, which happens to be the first of its kind. For what started as a limited advising in marketing strategy, the BITSian connection strengthened in 2005 when BITSians helped the site to shore up the finances and set up e-commerce operations. Two other BITSians Shiv Kumar (NTS at BITS) and Jyothi Myneni extended their interest by investing into the firm. Currently, the website has expanded into content, gaming and community tools such as cricket league management software.  The team has engaged with BITS Alumni by organizing events such as BITSAA “wing cricket” events in USA and India in 2004. They were instrumental in the BITSAA affiliation with Rajasthan Royals.

A rare collectible: Jawaharlal Nehru meeting BITSian Cricket Team in 1954. When was I born?
A rare collectible: Jawaharlal Nehru meeting BITSian Cricket Team in 1954. When was I born?

 For what started as a Fantasy Cricket website, DreamCricket has made tremendous progress. DreamCricket Academy is DreamCricket’s latest expansion this year after the inauguration of their first indoor nets and Pro Shop in NJ by Chetan Chauhan. The team is all excited to be part of the cricket revolution in America.

DreamCricket supports a professional team in USA.  Further, DreamCricket Fooglies was a semi-finalist at Los Angeles Open Twenty20.   The team had many former Ranji and U19 players from India.   Plans of having two graduates of the DreamCricket Academy as overseas players in England are being sorted.

DreamCricket has some rare memorabilia including a bat used by Gary Sobers and some signed by Don Bradman.   They also have the most extensive collection of match footage anywhere in the world.

Recently, they bought a huge book collection from the Ridley College in Ontario which had a marvellous collection of old cricket books.    Their book collection includes Maharaja Ranji's Jubilee Book of Cricket and the extremely rare Felix on the Bat.

 The ICC has promised a lot of neutral venue cricket but the walk has not matched the talk. India has already declared she won't play in Sharjah or Canada or USA for a variety of reasons – no grounds, match fixing, etc.   So we said, how about the Moon? Where else can fielders dive without worrying about getting injured!

DreamCricket is USA's leading cricket related content and community website. Moreover they are the leading supplier of cricket equipment online and offline. Their current focus is on providing a stronger Web 2.0 platform for effective communication of cricketers worldwide.

DreamCricket Academy is their latest expansion this year after the inauguration of their first indoor nets and Pro Shop in NJ by Chetan Chauhan. The team is all excited to be part of the cricket revolution in America.

It is little wonder that they are eyeing expansion into the Indian market, which is the centre of gravity and primary hub for cricket.

The passion and innovation at DreamCricket is threatening to break all shackles and become a top e-commerce venture into cricket.

“Have you ever wondered of buying a ticket and going to the Moon to see a cricket match?”

This is what the team at Dream Cricket has to say about what they call a “Lunar Cricket Field”:

Venu Palaparthi, Founder, DreamCricket

“We did it as a joke; the DreamCricket Lunar Cricket Field is the first property on the moon exclusively for playing cricket. 

The ICC has promised a lot of neutral venue cricket but the walk has not matched the talk. India has already declared she won't play in Sharjah or Canada or USA for a variety of reasons – no grounds, match fixing, etc.   So we said, how about the Moon?  We actually quite like the idea; where else can fielders dive without worrying about getting injured! Our Lunar cricket field was featured in 2008 edition of Wisden”.

Match: Girls vs. Female Faculty

Date: 26th January, 2008-08-13
Venue: C-Lawns, Pilani, India
Match Referee: M.M.S Anand

Toss: Sangeeta Sharma, Captain, Female Faculty won the toss and elected to bat first

Match Bulletin:

The good old adage ‘there is no substitute for experience’ took a backseat during the maiden cricket match between a team of girls students and one of female faculty and wives of staff held on the occasion of Republic Day. On a cloudy afternoon, the spirit of the two teams was worth appreciating right from the beginning. Teams showed their commitment to a rather serious affair by warming up with a lap around the ground before the start of the contest. Contrary to the organizers’ fears, both sides were full strength, with some deserving ones having to miss their chance. Sangeeta perhaps could not foresee the pitch and the prevailing conditions. The amount of swing the Girls team bowlers were getting with the new ball was proving to be more than a handful for the Faculty batswomen! Poonam Goyal, Usha Manjunath and Sangeeta Sharma, the captain, put up some resistance by holding fort for a while. When, at one point, talks of a one-sided encounter was beginning to do the rounds, in came Pushp Lata and bailed the Faculty out with her flawless and unshackled batting. She remained unbeaten on 33 with 2 sixes and 4 fours. Pushp Lata not only scored some important runs for her team, but also helped in increasing the run rate. At the other end, she received able support from Poonam Vyas, Amrita Pancholi and Ruchika Sharma in the last few overs. In the end, Faculty had done quite well to finish at 76 / 8 from 10 overs, and had moved ahead as the favourites.

Not many would have imagined the aplomb with which the Girls took the challenge. By the fifth over the fate of the match had been sealed, and by the sixth over the Girls had wrapped up the match! Blistering knocks ensured that the Girls sealed a well deserved victory and sent out a resounding statement: the future of the country lies safely in the hands of today's women not only in areas of technology and education, but in cricket as well!

Prof. Raghurama handed a Virtual Trophy to the winning captain in a presentation ceremony held later. Pushp Lata was declared the Batswoman of the Match and she attributed her splendid batting performance to the immense support of her team members. Nikita from the Girls team was unanimously declared the Player of the Match and also the Catcher of the Match. Nikita thanked her friends for helping her discover her cricketing skills.

Result: Girls team won by 9 wickets with 3.2 overs to go

Lead batswoman of Female Faculty, Pushp Lata poised to face a delivery against the Girls
Lead batswoman of Female Faculty,Pushp Lata poised to face a delivery against the Girls

Story 2:

Cricket Stock Exchange: another start-up driving 5 lakh hits in 2 weeks 

Karthik Laxman (IIM - 2005) and Kaushik Muthuravichandran of BITS 2004, both sidies for 4 years, teamed up with a couple of friends to start CricStock.com, a virtual stock exchange for cricketers.   The website was launched for World Cup 2007 and became an instant hit among India's cricket fans.  Over the next month, their website captured the imagination of the media.  They were featured in Financial Express, The Telegraph, Rediff and Daily Times of Pakistan!

Traffic soared and the media speculated whether shares of Sachin Tendulkar would yield returns comparable to Infosys.   “Move over Dalal Street, here comes the 'Cricket Stock Exchange’,” wrote Rediff.  “Watch out FTSE and NASDAQ,” advised CricInfo.  They even got their own Wikipedia entry!

But just as a falling stock market scares away investors from trading stocks, the downturn of Indian team's fortunes in that completely forgettable World Cup caused folks to drift away from the cricket exchange. Traffic dipped and what started off as a fun way to learn about the stock markets ended up as a lesson in the ebbs and flows of capital markets.

The BITS cricket team frequently gets players who have represented their states in different age categories. Not always is BITSian cricket restricted to the QT!

Of course, there is a silver lining to this cloud.   The company has since found a buyer for their invention and they can still claim to have spawned several new cricket games with dubiously similar names - but none with the same success as CricStock.com.

The founders have now started a PR company called Pi Communications in Ahmedabad.   Sandpaper caught up with Karthik Laxman and Kaushik Muthuravichandran about their cricket adventure and their newest venture. 

“The thought of having a Cricket Stock Exchange was a throw up idea during informal post cricket match discussions in IIM-A,” says Karthik. Later, he took it more seriously along with his classmate. Karthik admits to have taken an ideal pool of electives to leave him with sufficient time to think about the venture and work to take it forward.  He slowly pulled in Kaushik, who was working as a programmer in an MNC during that period.

Karthik Laxman, Founder, Cricket Stock Exchange
Karthik Laxman, Founder,
Cricket Stock Exchange

Kaushik himself was inclined into diverting his full attention to CricStock and developed interest when he started helping Karthik informally with some web related problems.

“No one expects to start a website and get 5 lakh hits within a couple of weeks. There was an adrenaline rush nearly every day in the first couple of weeks and we thoroughly enjoyed it,” admit K & K.

The main success for revenue generation for CSE was they were spot on with their timing and offered a great product. The team tied up with a media partner, a national news channel, to make a half hour show on CricStock hosted by some former cricketers. One aspect they did not focus was innovation after India’s debacle in 2007 World Cup. It put CSE in a weak position unable to tap the revenue during the 20-20 World Cup in South Africa even though India emerged winners.

Other improvements the team is looking at is making the site global and more aggressive tournament launches.

Currently the team has dispersed and is involved in different ventures. They got together for one last time to host the site for IPL and CricStock did well during IPL by bringing back significant traffic. They have identified an equally motivated and excited team and working CricStock reach higher potentials under them.

Karthik is now associated with Pi Communications which comprises IIM-A, BITS & IIT graduates and people with extensive media and Public Relations experience. 

Does anything ever change at BITS?

 

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