David Liverman, one of CricInfo’s pioneers in the early years of the internet, and a tireless administrator and advocate of cricket in his adopted homeland of Canada, has died in Newfoundland at the age of 66.
Liverman was known as “@WGG” to CricInfo colleagues and users on Internet Relay Chat (IRC), the system that predated the website’s mainstream existence and, until the onset of formalised instant messaging, remained the primary means of communication between its admins thereafter.
As an eminent geologist with an expertise in natural hazards such as avalanches, Liverman studied at Edinburgh University before moving to Canada in 1978, and was appointed Adjunct Professor of Geography at Memorial University in Newfoundland in 1993, the same year that CricInfo (with a capital “I” in those days) officially came into being.
From that point on, Liverman’s story mirrored that of numerous like-minded academics and programmers across the nascent world-wide web, who populated CricInfo’s vast database and ran the website until its sale to Wisden in 2002-03.
“I foolishly offered to do something, and then for the next eight years, I spent an awful lot of time doing work for CricInfo of various sorts, including formatting scorecards and news articles, graphics, pretty much everything,” Liverman added. “But it was a very interesting and worthwhile experience.”
Liverman’s academic standing quickly conferred him senior status within the organisation’s loose structures, with various colleagues recalling his calm authority and wise counsel as the CricInfo phenomenon began its exponential growth in the years leading into the dotcom bubble.
Rohan Chandran, who was a freshman at Stanford University prior to taking on a founding role in CricInfo, described Liverman as “an instrumental steadying and unifying force in the rocketship years”.
“I wouldn’t measure his contribution in lines of code written, but it’s entirely plausible that dysfunction would have won out in his absence,” Chandran added. “He did it all for the game and wanted nothing (not money, not his 15 minutes, not a trip to anywhere) out of it in return.”
Neeran Karnik, a graduate student in Minnesota, and one of the earliest pioneers of CricInfo’s ball-by-ball commentary, added: “I never met Dave personally, only the @WGG persona on IRC,” he recalled. “But he essentially provided the “adult supervision” for CricInfo’s relatively younger and hot-headed management in those early days!”
“He was the voice of sanity and reason in those wild trailblazing times when we barely knew where CricInfo was heading, except that it was,” added Rick Eyre, the Australian writer who served as one of the website’s first editors.
Perhaps Liverman’s most visual contribution was the clickable homepage menu that he designed in the style of Sydney’s iconic scoreboard. He also wrote an extensive history of CricInfo, and was credited by his colleagues for his tireless manning of the website’s feedback, with his insistence that no submission was too absurd to merit a reply.
In his spare time, Liverman was also a soccer referee and administrator, but cricket was his over-riding sporting love – so much so that he was known to pack a bat and ball on his field trips to the Canadian outback, and teach his students the basics on whichever beach, field or river they ended up setting up camp.
He served cricket in his adopted country in various roles, including as a board member and website editor for Cricket Canada and Cricket Newfoundland, and in 2002, his enthusiasm even secured him an unlikely role in a Quebecois film production. La Grande Séduction was the tale of a coastal fishing community that teaches itself cricket in a bid to trick a doctor into staying in their village, and Liverman was recruited to provide technical assistance as well as bowling for the action scenes.
Liverman’s favourite memory of his CricInfo days, however, came at the ICC Trophy in 2001, which was held in Ontario as a qualification tournament for the 2003 World Cup. With CricInfo providing the live scoring, it was a chance to meet some of his colleagues in the flesh for the first time, but also to serve the sport with the passion that set him apart.
“It was really busy, but it was so much fun,” Liverman recalled. “We were providing information, not for India and Australia fans, but for the Fiji fans, the Dutch fans.
“I still remember getting messages from Fiji, while sitting in a field in rural Toronto, listening to the Fijian team singing in four-part harmony in their little tent as their team batted. That was just a wonderful experience, and it would never have happened if I hadn’t got roped into CricInfo back in 1995.”
Liverman was diagnosed with prostate cancer last year, and died in St John’s, Newfoundland, on January 29, aged 66. He leaves a wife Sandra, daughter Beth, and siblings Diana and Michael, as well as a wide-ranging legacy in his beloved sport.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket