For this socially awkward and introverted person who had no friends, he had one constant companion. Cricket. For the billions of Indians, and for this person from Kandi, a town 200 km north of Kolkata, cricket was a great escape from the monotony of everyday life. At the beginning of the new millennium, Kandi was plagued by the normal shortages in the countryside. There was no cable TV, just a black and white TV. He and his family couldn’t afford a newspaper, so he had to go to a relative’s house to catch up on the sports news. Then, as time went on, things changed in Kandi. The advent of cable TV in 2006 made him enjoy the game even more. However, it was his father’s gift of a laptop in 2014 that sparked a unique passion. He started recording cricket games and collected them for later viewing on demand. Next came the purchase of equipment that recorded from TV to DVD / hard drives.
What started as a hobby has now become a virtual treasure trove for cricket fanatics. From 2014 to now, he has video footage of over 7000 international games from the 1950s to 2020. Apart from this, he has footage from almost every IPL game, various T20 leagues like the ICL, MSL, BPL, CPL and even footage from the T20 competitions of England and South Africa in the mid-2000s. The size of his gigantic archive is 50-70 Terabytes (TB).
This goldmine of data has gained recognition from many people such as Wasim Akram, Shaun Pollock, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Harbhajan Singh, Suresh Raina, Anil Kumble, Dinesj Karthik and many others. In a country where archiving is not taken seriously, this person has created a collection worth waiting for in gold. Many know him on Twitter as Desi RobeIndia. Now he’s @Cric_Archivist. His real name is Mainak Sinha
Sinha has 10.6 thousand followers on Twitter and 102 thousand subscribers on YouTube. It is the sheer passion and love for the game that Sinha has amassed such a valuable collection. Recently, Sinha made headlines for interacting with Shaun Pollock, as the former South African pacemaker wanted footage from his own debut Test Game. However, it was on June 18, 2020 that one video absolutely went viral. It was a collection of Rahul Dravid’s 27 spectacular catches and those footage was widely circulated around the web, with Harbhajan sharing it on his own Twitter account, followed by many other cricketers
In this exclusive conversation with DNA, Sinha talks about his routine, how he balances his passion with preparation for the civil service exam, the difficulty of obtaining ancient traces, the sad story of not taking filing in the BCCI seriously or Doordardshan and about the good friend, Rob Moody or Robelinda, considered the original archivist of cricket videos
Q.) What is your daily routine when it comes to the job of a cricket archivist?
It is sometimes difficult to get all this done as I also prepare for the civil service exams. Videos can be posted and monetized on YouTube, but Twitter cannot. So I’m posting a clip to Twitter expressing my love for the game and it’s a small attempt to share a glimpse of the past with the generation of fans who haven’t seen them live. How much time I spend on cricket varies, but on average I spend about 2-3 hours (sometimes a little more) per day on cricket. This includes searching for new images from various sources, organizing my own archive, researching the content, editing the footage, and finally posting to YouTube (I have a channel with over 100,000 subscribers) or Twitter. As a rule of thumb, I try to post a video to Twitter every day. Before I put any footage on my hard drive, every footage is well checked, edited if necessary (for example if there are any issues with aspect ratio, frame rate, etc), tagged and cataloged in a master excel sheet. Because if you have more than 7000 international games (I don’t even count the non-internationals) if you are not well organized it will be very difficult to find a particular game in the sea of data. All this takes a lot of time.
Q.) Are the broadcasting regulations in India so strict that you cannot access rare footage?
Yes, in India you cannot buy any footage from boards or broadcasters. The rules are the same in most other countries too, but there is some relaxation when it comes to old statues, but certainly not in India. As in Australia, there was a time when Channel Nine sold old cricket footage, albeit at a very high price. TVNZ and BBC did the same in New Zealand and England. I bought footage from SABC (South African Broadcasting Corporation) but they don’t ship DVDs outside of South Africa, luckily I had some friends in SA who helped.
Another problem is that BCCI is very bad in terms of archiving and it reflects on their social media game. When Cricket Australia can show footage of even domestic games from the 80s and 90s (forget internationals) BCCI fails to pull back footage from the early 2000s, save for a few of the same old marquee like the 2001 Kolkata Test, Dhoni’s 183 game in Jaipur. and so on.
The story is the same with Doordarshan. They’ve taped most things to tape and like most other government organizations they are very unprofessional. Unfortunately, nobody seems to care about preserving history in BCCI / Doordarshan. Like Cricket Australia, ECB constantly pulls out nostalgic clips and we can only complain thinking about whether BCCI / DD kept stuff properly.
Q. What has been the hardest part of your life as a cricket archivist?
There are two ways to look at it. Finding old footage is very difficult in the first place, especially I have found that games played in New Zealand / Sri Lanka are very hard to find. I haven’t found many people from those places who have the same interest, unlike Australia, England, and even Pakistan. My statement will be proven if you try to look for 80’s and 90’s games played in NZ and SL. There are plenty of series that you won’t find out.
Other than that, the red eye of copyright is the hardest thing I’ve dealt with. So more on YouTube, much less on Twitter. On YouTube, most Australian / UK-hosted games, ICC events, IPL games and post-2000 Indian games are likely to be removed by the respective authorities. I created a channel in YT in 2012 that ended in 2015. Then I created my 2nd channel which is alive to date. It is very difficult to survive without the proper knowledge of what can be broken down. Of course, that knowledge comes with experience. I’ve seen so many good channels come and go. I’ve had a few strikes here and there but managed to survive somehow so far.
Q.) RobeLinda (Rob Moody) has a huge collection of videos? Is he your inspiration?
I would say I don’t adore him, but I really respect him for his job and his YouTube channel gave me an idea to make mine. He was recording things at a time when technology was not as good as it is now, and he has done a fantastic job in this area. We got in touch a few years ago and we’ve been buddies ever since. We also exchanged a lot of footage with each other.
But one more thing I would say here. Rob is particularly interested in Australian cricket and most of his uploads are focused on Australia. He undoubtedly has the largest archive in the world when you consider the amount of data, but when you consider the number of international games / series I have a lot more than him. For me it’s always more about the quality than the quantity. Our interests are different as if he doesn’t care about obscure Bangladesh / Zimbabwe related games and I don’t get much interest in ball-by-ball data or domestic games. There is of course no rivalry at all. We are good friends, but our content style is different. I try to be multidimensional by uploading footage from the 60s-70s to the modern era and from games played in all corners of the world.
Q.) What are the most important things it takes to be a cricket archivist?
The few basic things you need are passion, time and determination. This hobby requires relentless follow-ups, barter, negotiation, and the ability not to accept a NO for an answer. Identifying a source first and then chasing it for weeks, months, and sometimes years is the hardest part. Especially if sources are based on a separate time zone.
I remember staying up at odd hours to have a chat because that might speed up the process. Yes, there will be many roadblocks. Plus those who turn their backs on the person after getting some of their archives, without returning the promised content. One has to rely on his instincts to make better decisions.
Video archiving is a very important aspect of our game. For photos, we have organizations like Getty where you can see and buy photos from almost all sporting events. But when it comes to footage, there’s no option. We should always be grateful for the few known and many unfamiliar faces who have recorded games in the past (when it was more difficult with VHS / DVDs) and those who dared to share their content in the public domain despite copyright threats.
Q.) Are you planning to even get IPL videos? Or is copyright too strict?
I already have almost all of the IPL, CLT20 games in my archive, as I said before, but the reason why I am not posting them is that they are very sensitive to copyright. I had gotten a claim from BCCI earlier this year for posting a 10 second clip of Kohli hitting a four by Warne. Every once in a while I post a few, but I delete them in a few hours and ask viewers to download it if they want.
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