My first project – Cricket Tournament Automation

I started my career when I was accepted as a contract programmer by a team from C-DOT (Center for Development of Telematics) to develop a system for the automation of the management of the Jawahar Lal Nehru Centenary Cricket Tournament (also known as MRF Cup as the sponsor of the tournament was MRF Tyres Ltd.) in 1989. The cricket tournament was played between 6 nations in 17 centres across India with the finals played at Eden Gardens in Calcutta (now Kolkata). The tournament was hosted and organised by Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI) and thus the customer for this project was the BCCI. The control centre for the project was set up in Calcutta and so the responsibility fell on CAB (Cricket Association of Bengal) whose then President was Mr. Jagmohan Dalmiya. The project was conceived by our then Prime Minister Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, who was supposedly highly influenced by the management of the Seoul Olympics in 1988. Mr. Rajiv Gandhi is supposed to have given the charter for the project to Mr. Sam Pitroda, the then CEO of C-DOT. Mr. Sam Pitroda got together a team under the leadership of Mr. Srivastava from the New Delhi office of C-DOT and sent them to Calcutta to develop the systems. The team members from C-DOT carried their desktop computers (there were no laptops in India in those days) along with them in their flight to Calcutta. The Cricket Association of Bengal arranged the site for the project development in the library in the Pavilion of the Eden Garden. The remaining hardware required for the project was supplied by Zenith Computers and was flown to Calcutta from Bombay (now Mumbai). These machines arrived along with the Hardware Engineers and Networking Specialists led by Mr. Panchal. The C-DOT team contacted our Institute to supply some programmers whom they could screen and absorb into the project. From among 80 programmer from 3 institutes in Calcutta who were interviewed, 4 of us were selected to work on the project. Our terms were employment was that we would have to work on all days of week and we would be paid at the rate of Rs. 275 per day and an Ambassador car would be provided to each of us for use throughout the day for any transportation requirement during the duration of the project. We were to develop the system using Clipper Summer 87 on 80286 based machines, the database being dBase III Plus and the network was set up using Novell Netware 3.0.

My daily routine during the project was as follows:

  • 6:00 AM – Wake up (I stayed with my Grandmother in those days and she would wake me up)
  • 6:30 AM – Sit in the car and start for Eden Gardens
  • 7:30 AM – Reach Eden Garden
  • 8:00 AM – Start work and program till around 1:00 AM next morning with breaks for food
  • 1:00 AM – Sit in the car and start for home
  • 2:00 AM – Reach home and sleep

I just loved the work and as days went by I started to love what we were developing more and more. We developed the 5 core modules which included Airlines & Travel Management, Official & Dignitaries Management, Weather Reporting & Analysis, Press Management and Match Reporting. Then I was assigned to develop some stories using a software called IBM Story Teller about all the past and present cricketers. They gave me piles of books from the library and told me to extract important information from them and create stories which could be played continuously throughout the day on days when a match was scheduled at Calcutta.

We completed the system development 2 days before the start of the tournament. Once the tournament started, we continued to help the data entry operators who were connected across the 17 centres through hotlines. Also, we fixed bugs as and when they surfaced.

On the days when there would be match played in Eden Garden (2 matches besides the final were scheduled at Calcutta), we would take turns to go into the stadium and watch the match from the pavilion, while the others stayed in the development centre. Of course, we got see all the players of the playing nations when they would practice before the matches and we collected autographs from them. On the match days, we would get to see the dignitaries, old cricketers and other important people and collect their autographs. Mr. Dalmia would get the dignitaries and ex-cricketer to our development centre and showed them around explaining that the complete tournament was being managed using computers. Some dignitaries, like Mr. Tony Grieg, showed a lot of enthusiasm and some would be disinterested. One such disinterested dignitary was Mr. Ajit Wadekar (ex-Indian cricket captain) who was covering the match for some newspaper. He was generally going around when suddenly he saw his name flashed on the computer screen with details of his achievement. He exclaimed with surprise and then wanted all about what we had created.

On the day of the final, before the start of the match, Mr. Sam Pitroda visited our development centre and shook hands with each one of us and congratulated us. After the final, which Pakistan won beating West Indies in the last over, we were invited to the post-match party at Calcutta Cricket & Football Club in Ballygaunge along with all the cricketers and other dignitaries. The day after the finals, Mr. Dalmia invited us to his office and thanked us and gave a certificate of appreciation to each of us besides our pay packets. The first thing I did with the money was to buy a watch for my mother.

My career had started like a dream. Two things were established from this project:

  1. I wanted a career as a programmer and wanted to program throughout my career. After more than 24 years of my career, I still find assignments to program even though my role has been that of a Project Manager or a Program Manager or a Delivery Manager or a Technical Support Manager or a Business Manager for more than 16 years. The only difference is that I have to create the programming assignments myself from among the my work items and then execute them.
  2. I was convinced that the Almighty had given me the gift of stamina and I could endure very long hours of work without needing a break. It has also been my good fortune that I have generally got engaged in projects which have required working 12-18 hours per day without any break for periods of 1 or 2 or more years.
%d bloggers like this: