With the ICC World Cup 2011 upon us, cricket forums are buzzing around the web. With the sub-continent being home to the most fervent fans of the game, it should come as no surprise to even a casual follower of the game that Pakpassion.net, (PP), a Pakistan-based cricket forum is amongst the most popular, attracting members from the other countries of the sub-continent as well from every other cricket playing nation, including Pakistani expatriates from around the world.
Cricket is akin to a religion in the subcontinent. Everyone has an opinion on the subject and appears to know better than their country's selectors about who should be in their team and who shouldn't. So a forum on the game resembles a battlefield where insults are hurled at dissenting opinions.
PP is deserving of praise for the sheer breadth of the platform it has created for cricket fans, but not least for its unifying aspect, and its underlying “Hail fellow, well met” spirit of camaraderie.
A large number of Indians feature among the members of PP, and while the locals don't always share their opinions on the game, they treat their Indian neighbours with deference, often putting them at their ease, with reassurances such as, “we want you to feel included”.
The wide range of forums include cricket, cricket clips, sports corner, commentary archives, PP leagues (fantasy cricket),cricket equipment, and something called cornered tigers, launched in Oct 2010, offering tour packages to watch Pakistan's games around the world.
Others include Time Pass (discussing just about anything such as PP'ers, politics, learn chinese, etc), Languages, including the ones spoken in Pakistan, as well as those spoken in other countries of the subcontinent, such as Bengali and Hindi), introductions, PP shop (tshirts, tickets, etc), Suggestions and support (changing user names, pm'ing a fellow pp'er, exchanging smileys (including a Sania Mirza smiley), match referees room, Columns, (Noddys blog), TSN, Woolmer's views, etc).
It all began when PP was launched as a cricket site in 2000, by a pair of fans, going by the names of Faraz and Ali. A year later the ownership of the site changed hands and its popularity continued to grow unabated. But the forum really took off in March 2004 when BBC's TMS members decided that this was the real McCoy and jumped in to add great colour and variety to the site. At this stage, it was clear that the forum was on its way to becoming an independent network, and that it did, in January 2005, assuming the avatar of Pakpassion.net.
Thereafter, continual value additions took place, exemplified by an Urdu forum launched in December 2007, commentary archives in 2008, and live audio commentary later that year. In June 2008, the forum witnessed a jump in popularity after being mentioned on Cricinfo, recording a high of 1,551 users. The next stage in its evolution was the introduction of live text commentary in January 2009, followed by the launch of PakpassionTV; the event was marked by the live telecast of a test match between Pakistan and Sri Lanka. A month later, PP featured in a one-hour program on cricket on a UK based Asian TV channel, followed in April 2009 by a partnership with Willow TV to provide live streaming on the Web.
From starting out as a cricket fan site, PP has grown into a veritable institution, with a comprehensive coverage of Pakistan's test matches including “exclusive pre match, match action, post match and press conference pitcures/video, updates from match venues, full audio(and video) of press conferences etc.”. During the recent series in England, in August 2010, BBC Test Match Special invited PP representatives to the studio. PP has also conducted a host of interviews, with a list of cricket luminaries, including the best Pakistani players of the past and present.
Cricket forums like PP ensure that cricket means more than than just victories on the field of play; they also help mesh the spirit of the game into the fabric of life, off the field.