Runs, venues, teams to join: The CricHeroes app is making wicket connections
The app with 8.5 million subscribers tracks games and stats for amateur cricketers, helps players find teams, teams find players, coaches, umpires and grounds.
Eight-and-a-half million subscribers. That should get anyone’s attention good and proper. But Meet Shah, co-founder of what can be called the Facebook of cricket and friends, are not running circles of joy around their office in a nondescript Ahmedabad building.
This is because CricHeroes, a cricket-scoring app, is neither the Facebook of the famous nor the Instagram of the Influencers. Its home page describes it as “Your cricket network” and its followers are the game’s millions of amateur players.
To date, no one has tried to count how many play in maidans, parks and gallis across South Asia. In 2018, the International Cricket Council or ICC’s global market research project estimated that the sport had more than 300 million participants, of which about 80% likely belong to the Indian subcontinent.
What’s 8.5 million in over 300 million then? That’s what keeps CricHeroes’ founders, former Gujarat U-23 batter Meet Shah, 28, former software engineer Abhishek Desai, 38, and businessman Kuntal Shah, 38, pushing ahead. In October 2016, Shah, Desai and two other friends began scoring matches on their new app across four venues at a 100-team Gujarat University tournament.
“We were focussed on building an easy, robust scoring model for amateur cricketers,” Shah says. “Cricket scoring needs specific skill sets. It means understanding rules. Much is still done manually, with room for error. We said, let’s build an easy scoring module. When we started, honestly, we didn’t think of going so far.”
Today any team taking part in any cricket game anywhere in the world can score their games on the CricHeroes app. In any kind of match — school, community, corporate, with leather, tennis or any other kind of ball, from 24 Parganas to Zurich. The basic app is free. A Pro version costs ₹99 a month and offers match stats, analysis and insight based on data generated about players, teams, grounds. The Pro Annum subscription, at ₹699 a year, offers live-streamed matches too, with more than 500 games streaming live every week currently on the platform.
The 10,000-plus Pro subscribers form one revenue stream, streaming is another. The app is also drawing advertisers to its Market and Ecosystem sections. That’s equipment, academies, grounds, umpires, organisers, trophy vendors, bat manufacturers, personal coaching etc. There’s also Looking, a listing of what cricket people seek: teams looking for players, players looking for teams, teams looking for opponents, venues. It’s where cricket’s network finds its voice and answers.
A simple scroll through CricHeroes shows the sport’s effervescent, vast scale, a slice of its 300-million-plus practitioners outside the control of its formal structures. While this is not the only cricket-scoring app available, it is the biggest and its offerings, the most varied. Over two years, the company’s staff of 10 has grown to 34. One of them has developed a “load balancer” programme that helps their server space expand and resize as needed on the Amazon web server, the difference most pronounced between weekends and weekdays.
With the pandemic considerably reducing the amount of amateur cricket played, the CricHeroes team used the time, Shah says, to clean up their platform, scrub it of superfluous data, and focus on building partnerships. They have also tied up with more than 100 cricket associations affiliated to the ICC and BCCI, to digitise scoring systems and train scorers to work on the app. Most recently, they finalised deals with the cricket boards of Bangladesh and Canada/
The CricHeroes team also offers equipment or kit sponsorship to underprivileged cricketers and seeks to work across ecosystems.
“When I played, I would have loved to have something like this,” Shah says wistfully. He filled his cricket diaries with notations of his innings and dismissals of the 1,000-odd matches played all the way to Gujarat U-23. The cricket network created by two friends in Ahmedabad works both for the amateur players’ weekend hit and the teenage aspirant’s record of his or her progress in the game. The bulk of its subscriber base is Indian, but its messaging and its methods are universal, catering to the fan. Whoever wants to play cricket, wherever and whenever they want to play it, with whatever ball — everyone can be a crichero.
(This story has been altered to reflect the name of a third co-founder.)