Cricket 96

In the 1990s, semi-regular installments of Cricket video games were being released. One of the most popular ones — and unarguably the best Cricket game of the 1990s — was Brian Lara Cricket ’99, developed by Codemasters (and known as Shane Warne Cricket ’99 in Australia). To me, this game is the best Cricket video game of all time.

Brian Lara Cricket ’99 offered realistic gameplay and real-match-like sound effects. The game was powered by play-by-play commentary, and authentic crowd noises based on the respective stadiums were among the highlights of the game. BLC ’99 was way ahead of its time and surpassed every Cricket game released previously.

Brian Lara Cricket '99

In the same era — the mid-1990s to the late-2000s — EA Sports was dabbling with Cricket games as well, with Cricket 07 being their final Cricket game (to this day).

EA Sports had the famous brand slogan, “If it’s in the game, it’s in the game.” It’s a fascinating statement and a big claim. For Cricket games, unfortunately, EA Sports could not live up to this slogan. While they tried really hard with Cricket 96, Cricket 97, and Cricket 2000, Brian Lara Cricket ’99 was the true king of the heap. The good thing, though, was that this drove competition between the two studios (something that we could really use today).

In 2003, EA followed the footsteps of Brian Lara Cricket ’99 in terms of gameplay and released the really solid Cricket 2004. Cricket 2004 was the most realistic Cricket game ever developed by EA Sports. The game had many similarities with BLC ’99, particularly in terms of the batting gameplay, and that means EA’s Cricket series was finally fun to play.

However, just when EA started moving in the right direction, they changed gears and published Cricket 2005 (which used the same engine as the contemporary Rugby and FIFA releases). Cricket 2005 had better character models and improved visuals overall, but the realistic gameplay and animations were wiped out.

Cricket 2005

EA Sports then published Cricket 07 in 2006, but it didn’t address the main problems of Cricket 2005. Yes, it looked better, but the gameplay lacked the realism of BLC ’99 and Cricket 2004. Cricket 07 also had generic player names for various teams, as EA lost the licensing rights for many teams.

Post-2007, there were rumors that EA had been eyeing out a new cricket game with a focus on the South Asian market. It was also being said that EA has been struggling with Indian players’ licenses and eventually the deal with the BCCI did not materialize. EA Sports Vice-President Andrew Wilson finally put speculations to rest, stating that Cricket is no longer in their plans as of now. He emphasized the importance of the South Asian market to make Cricket games a lucrative venture, but also expressed desire for the economies and market have to be more receptive against piracy controls. EA finally shelved the plans for Cricket for an indefinite period.

Now let’s flash back to 1999. Codemasters did not continue the heroics of Brian Lara ’99, despite it being the best Cricket game ever. As a matter of fact, From 1999 to 2005, It was EA Sports that dominated the Cricket video-game market. Codemasters took a six-year break, and finally they restarted making the Brian Lara Cricket series from scratch for PS2 and Xbox.

To everyone’s surprise, Brian Lara International Cricket 2005 didn’t live up to the expectations set by BLC ’99. (The game was known as Ricky Ponting International Cricket 2005 in the Australian market — Ricky Ponting was one of the Australian batting greats who retired in the year 2012.)

Brian Lara International Cricket 2005

Unfortunately, Brian Lara International Cricket 2005 felt like a beginner-level Cricket game comparable to the simple games we used to have back in the 1980s. BLIC 2005 had an arcade feel to it rather than continuing the realistic sim format of its predecessor.

Codemasters later released Brian Lara International Cricket 2007 (Ricky Ponting International Cricket 2007 in Australia). This game felt like merely an enhanced version of its predecessor, and it did not do any good for the fans who wanted a cutting-edge Cricket game.

Codemasters persisted in making Cricket games until 2010. however, the Brian Lara title series was discontinued after BLIC 2007. It was the right call by Codemasters, as Brian Charles Lara, one of the legendary batting greats, announced his retirement on April 19, 2007.

So the year 2007 was the end of the golden age of two of the finest Cricket video games series (Brian Lara Cricket and EA Sports Cricket series). Both series had their share of problems due to the less global reach of the sport, Subcontinent market economies, and licensing hurdles.

In a nutshell, both Codemasters and EA Sports had done great work for the Cricket video-game market. Despite the hurdles and lower profit margins of Cricket (as compared to other sports like Baseball and Football), these two studios continued to entertain fans for more than a decade.

And who knows? Maybe someday EA Sports and Codemasters will re-launch their respective Cricket games, and the competition between Cricket gaming giants will continue? In fact, I would take remastered versions of Brian Lara Cricket ’99 and Cricket 2004.

Ah! Let me enjoy this beautiful dream!

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