Friday, 5 March 2010

Cricket explained

   A while back Leslie expressed her love for baseball while claiming it might be of little interest in this sphere. Being someone for whom the sport means only Peanuts cartoons my curiosity was piqued, so I challenged her to give us the essence of baseball in a post guaranteed to send us scurrying for our nearest diamond. Whatever that is.
If she failed to come up with the goods, I warned, I'd explain cricket to her. And so far, no ball. So here it is. A post about cricket.

   Cricket is a game played by a bunch of blokes who wear white clothing and stand around in a big field1. The object of the game is for each side to take it in turns to nominate a set of blokes armed with wooden clubs (the "batsmen") to defend a set of wooden sticks stuck in the ground (the "stumps") against an onslaught from a bloke from the other side (the "bowler") throwing a ball while the bowlers mates (the "fielders") try to catch the ball after the batsmen have hit it. There are all sorts of rules and positions on the field with funny names like "Deep backward square leg" and "Silly mid off", but that's not important. If you really want to know, look here.

   The only thing you need to know about cricket is that it is the most civilised sport on the planet. It is never played in bad weather, it stops neither for commercials or for cheerleaders but only for tea, in its purest form a match lasts for five days and even the most fraught of matches have completely mixed and friendly crowds. The slow pace means of course that if you are hoping for quick-fire action you are going to be disappointed, however it offers something you'll get from no other sport of which I am aware. If you enjoy nothing better than sitting out in the sun with your mates drinking weak beer and talking rubbish then being a cricket fan gives you the perfect excuse to do it for five days in a row. There is even the occasional thing to cheer on the field, and if you haven't got a clue what it was don't worry, neither have half the rest of the crowd. They've been asleep.

   Talking rubbish while ostensibly watching cricket has even been turned into a cult art form by some of our broadcasters.

1Your scribe was made to do rather too much of this when a lot younger. Beautiful place to do it in, deathly boring thing to do. If you want to foster enthusiasm for something in Da Yoof, that's not the way to do it. Sitting in the sun with your mates is fun but playing it? You have to be joking!


  1. Love it. I also like the fact that anything near the batsman is prefixed with 'Silly'. A friend of mine, who likes cricket explained this as 'Why such a stupid prefix as Silly? Because standing that close to the batsman is just a silly thing to do'.


  2. Go on, now explain rounders. You know, that game girls play. That should do for the essence of baseball :)

  3. @Stace: That's about the measure of the fielder's lot. Of course, fielders standing that close to me when in bat had few such worries.

    @Cathy: Now it's your turn to make someone laugh out loud in the office!

  4. I don't want to have cricket explained to me. There's something soothing about a thing so sublimely incomprehensible. It's like bird song; if we could hear it as it is intended, i.e. OI YOU SOD OFF OR I'LL PECK YOU I'VE GOT THE BRIGHTEST PLUMAGE IN THE WOOD etc, it wouldn't be half as nice.

  5. I played silly mid-on at school. Being quite short-sighted, it was the only place I had any hope of actually seeing the ball! (Didn't work out, as a rule. It went sailing on by, anyway.)

    Here's baseball: the strategies and intricacies of chess, mixed with sudden bursts of brilliance and idiocy in unequal measure. It's a mind game, basically.

    Games typically last 3 hours, although they can go longer. There are no draws in baseball; you play until one team wins.

    I'm a Yankees fan. :-)

    (Actually, I still think, fondly, of the first game of baseball I saw. It was the NY Mets, and I forget who they were playing. A star player, Darryl Strawberry (he later went way off the rails), came out, hit a run and I was hooked.)

    Once or twice, I've watched cricket games in New York. I missed seeing Imran Kahn's last game, on City Island in NYC. That was a disappointment; missing it, I mean.

    Before baseball, cricket was the summer game. I believe there was a national league right up to the 1930's. Cricket is refined, but baseball is pure Americana. :-)

  6. @Dru: Don't worry, I'm hardly in a position to explain cricket properly. When made to play it I was a bored and confused teenager whose mind was most definitely elsewhere and in watching it there's been far more emphasis on hanging out and drinking weak beer than appreciating cricketing endeavour.

    Your birdsong analogy raises the intriguing concept of a translation engine to render the human equivalent into birdsong. Saturday nights in town would be so much nicer if the chavs expressed themselves in that way.

  7. @Carolyn: I would have probably got a lot more out of the game if I'd been blessed with more than limited 3D vision. As it is, catching balls aint my thing. Home for me is within walking distance of one of the few places in the world where you can see first class cricket for free so I've seen most famous teams and players over the years. However from several hundred yards away even Brian Lara was still just a bloke in white clothing, it's really so I can say I've seen them.

    My experience of sport North American style comes from the northern segment of the continent so naturally I'm a hockey fan. I've never caught a ball game, I guess because the locals up there don't rave about it so much and anyway I'm off in the mountains if I'm there in summer. I must rectify this omission next time I have the opportunity.

  8. Well, I suppose I owe your readers an apology for causing you to go on about this. I thought you were bluffing! I'll never doubt a threat from you again--you follow through!

    Now, really, don't you think the most civilzed sport is croquet?

    I still understand next to nothing about cricket, but I would've done worse explaining baseball. My treatise would've been full of passion, signifying nothing.

  9. I'm not so sure, those croquet mallets are serious weapons! Have to admit, never played that particular game, too busy with my punt when it comes to such caricatured English summer pursuits.

  10. No hot dogs to go with that weak beer?

  11. There should be, shouldn't there. My favoured snack while watching North American sport is nachos and salsa, but sadly none here. Where I mostly wind up watching cricket is a large park owned by the University, and in the finest tradition of such places over here the refreshment of choice would seem to be a picnic on the grass. Not being refined enough for cucumber sandwiches this normally means whatever stuff we can grab from the supermarket on our way. Pork pie anyone?