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Disney plays a shot, scores Cricinfo

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ESPN, Disney's sporting arm, is paying an undisclosed amount for Cricinfo the much-loved, and visited, cricket website.

A statement from Cricinfo editor Sambit Bal welcomed the takeover by an established sports broadcaster.

After being honest about the stress of doing the deal, Bal said: "Yes, a few things could change. We will have access to better technology and design facilities, our multimedia capabilities will be enhanced and, who knows, some day there might even be Cricinfo TV."

He reassured users the service would not change: "To start with, Cricinfo will not lose its name, nor its voice. And it will remain committed to covering every international cricket match live and with the same journalistic rigour and integrity that you have come to expect from us."

Cricinfo raised some heckles in March with its challenge to Sky's monopoly on broadcasting live cricket. The site got round this restriction by offering computer-animated versions of games based on commentaries.

The site has been running since the early 90s. It was set up by Brit academic Dr Simon King, who was stranded in the US without cricket coverage.

From a large team of volunteers it gradually became more commercial. Cricket websites have benefited from a fairly techy audience and the huge amount of numbers and statistics thrown up by games. The site's seven million monthly users, and "20 million regular users" have always kept it going - especially the large and enthusiastic number of Indian cricket fans. But it has always struggled to convert a big audience into cash, and in 2003 merged with Wisden.com.

Wisden Group will now focus on the cricket bible, Wisden's Almanac, and its "Hawkeye" technology - currently used in cricket and tennis to help umpires with difficult calls. ®

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