"To most Americans, there is something inexplicably foreign about cricket"
October 11, 2012 11:49 AM   Subscribe

Wickets and Wonders: Cricket’s Rich Literary Vein - a meditation on the literary history of cricket, and a few of the more well-known books surrounding gigaioggie.
posted by Wordshore (14 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
From a link in the article: What playing cricket looks like to Americans

For a change, I really am LOL right now. Brilliant!
posted by vidur at 12:02 PM on October 11, 2012 [5 favorites]

heh I logged in just to post a link to that vid. Beat me to it!
posted by RibaldOne at 12:33 PM on October 11, 2012

I spent March of 2010 in New Zealand and Australia. The sports on the telly were limited to Cricket (Big match between N.Z. and Australia), rugby, soccer, cricket, and cricket. Soccer rules of play I already knew. Rugby rules I had down after watching just a couple of games. Cricket? Heaven help me, I TRIED, really, really TRIED to fathom what the heck was going on. The concierge at one hotel sat me down for a half hour to explain the basics. He's a huge fan of the sport as well as a player. I listened closely. I took notes. That very day I watched part of a game and, well, it might as well have been 43 Man Squamish for all the sense I could make of it. Don't get me wrong: The game is elegant and lovely to watch, but I just wish I had some idea of WTF was going on!
posted by TDavis at 12:44 PM on October 11, 2012

As the article points out, the guy in Netherland resists transforming his personal batting style, but eventually does so and "becomes naturalized".

There's also a scene in Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy Sayers in which LPW, who's disguised as some random copywriter, inadvertently outs himself by, in the heat of the game, forgetting to suppress his characteristic batting style.
posted by tangerine at 12:53 PM on October 11, 2012

My favourite piece of found verse on the subject of cricket:
Fine warm 50000 before toss wicket good larwood voce fastest making ball fly adopted leg theory attack virulent batsmen ultra cautious

bradman crudest stroke first ball bowes wild pull missed crowd bitterly disappointed england decided advantage 3/67 poor result perfect wicket fingleton 50 141 minutes grand defence riskless wearing down attack fielding admirable nothing given away

larwood resumed scoring slow hard toiling weather warming hundreds fainted in dense throng contest always interesting bowlers making batsmen earn every run none capable forcing scoring continually on defensive bowlers

one side unplaying cricket ruining game

oldfield struck head ball larwood staggered fell crowd hooting field crowded round after five minutes oldfield supported by woodfull walked off holding towel to head play resumed crowd still hooting
posted by zamboni at 1:09 PM on October 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

That's incredible, zamboni. At first I found it amazing that I understand everything happening in those cables, but then the recipients would have had to. I am especially fond of the word 'unplaying' - it reminds me of the term 'anti-football' which has a similar sense of their being a proper way to play the game, above and beyond the rules.

On the subject of the post, The Legend of Pradeep Mathew is a book I've been meaning to read for a long time, and this should be the impetus that gets me to do it. Thanks for posting!
posted by smcg at 1:16 PM on October 11, 2012

TDavis, do you understand baseball? Then you mostly understand cricket. Every point of difference has an analogue in baseball. The main points, using baseball terminology, are:

* There are only two bases, not four
* You can hit to all directions, not just "fair territory"
* If you don't like the pitch, you don't have to swing; there are no "balls". But you can't block the strike zone (i.e., "wicket") with your body ("leg before wicket"), only your bat.
* The batters work in tandem, one at each end of the "wicket", which is analogous to the stretch between the pitcher's mound and home plate.
* The batters alternate, and if one makes an out, the next man in the lineup comes up in his place, but his batting partner who is NOT out stays in. Back and forth they go, over by over. An over is six pitches by the same pitcher ("bowler") from the same direction. You can bring in relief pitchers as often as you like, and swap them back and forth as many times as you like -- but they're not substitutes; they remain in the game, playing another position, when they're not pitching. It's as if all the pitching in a baseball game was alternated back and forth between the pitcher, the left fielder, and the second baseman.
* A batter gets to keep hitting until he makes an out. He can rack up a couple of hundred runs over several days if he's good enough. English or Australian people at a baseball game think it's bizarre that a man has to go sit down in the dugout after he's homered -- "why is he out if he's not out?"
* Instead of scoring runs by going around the four bases safely, the batter only has to get to the other side. His partner simultaneously runs the other way. It's confusing at first but it's not really difficult. You're safe if you get into the wicket area on the other side.
* A home run (over the boundary in the air) is worth six. A ground-rule double (over the boundary on the bounce) is worth four. Every other hit is worth as many as you can make, running back and forth. This is cricket at its essence: man hits ball, fielders try to get to it and throw it in, batter tries to beat the incoming ball to the other side (or back again, if it's a difficult ball to field). Just like baseball, only in baseball you're just trying to get safely to a base -- one of which is special and earns you a point.
* A batting order is eleven instead of nine, and an inning(s) is ten outs, not three (because you have to have a partner, once the tenth man is out, there's no one left for the last batter to partner with, so the inning(s) is over. You only get two innings instead of nine.
* The score is presented as runs and outs -- "150 for six", for instance, means they've scored 150 runs and have made six outs, so only four more outs left in the inning. It gets a bit complicated when you start to take into account "declaration", whereby a team with a big lead says "we've got enough runs to beat you already, so we're going to stop batting now and give up the rest of our turn, declaring for 400 or whatever it is we've got, because you can't catch us". The reason you would do this is to make sure you get all the way through the other team's outs before time runs out; otherwise it's a draw even if you're ahead.

The rest is mostly just terminology -- "silly mid on" vs. "shortstop", "pace bowler" vs. "fastball pitcher", etc. Plus tea and melon slices.
posted by Fnarf at 1:44 PM on October 11, 2012 [6 favorites]

Fnarf, I just printed out your post and I'll give it another try! As I mentioned, I really liked the flow of the game and the enthusiasm of the fans. I just wished I could have joined in the cheering (and boos) with some level of understanding. Any idea where on U.S. television I could find a match?
posted by TDavis at 2:23 PM on October 11, 2012

You left out:

* Then the twig-runners dash back and forth until the pinecone burns out and the umpire calls hotbox.
posted by Wolfdog at 2:38 PM on October 11, 2012

If you don't like the pitch, you don't have to swing; there are no "balls".

I think you meant "strikes", fnarf. A "ball" is functionally equivalent to the wide.
posted by zamboni at 4:20 PM on October 11, 2012

Not sure if Fnarf covered this, but in addition to 'you don't have to swing even if you're pitched a fair ball' there's also 'you don't have to run even if you hit a fair ball'. (Disclaimer: terms undoubtedly incorrect for both games, sorry.) Just score runs while not getting out. Sometimes the 'score runs' part is much less important than not getting out and you just stand there defending your wicket. If you can listen to radio commentary while watching, it helps a lot. From the US it is sometimes possible to listen to Test Match Special online for games the BBC has the international rights to. Well worth five days of your life. It's an amazingly delicious game.

Also maybe try reading Wodehouse's Mike - available at Gutenberg.
posted by magdalenstreetladies at 1:03 AM on October 12, 2012

(Sorry, that was more or less aimed at TDavis.)
posted by magdalenstreetladies at 1:04 AM on October 12, 2012

TDavis: Any idea where on U.S. television I could find a match?

The current 'main event' in cricket is the Champions League T20, which is nowhere near as prestigious as the soccer Champions League* but still a reasonable thing to watch. It's being held in South Africa, with times geared towards the main audience on the Indian subcontinent.

In the US, I believe it's on ESPN3. The official website also has highlights available to watch online, at least from my IP.

Coming up, there are a couple of big series: England in India and South Africa in Australia, with the first two on the way down from the top and the latter two very much on the way up. Starting with Test cricket - the form of the game which lasts five days - might be a bit overwhelming, though.

* Honestly, it's a bit farcical, but the reasons why are too involved to explain here.
posted by smcg at 1:58 AM on October 12, 2012

TDavis, if it is any consolation I grew up watching the game and playing backyard cricket, and test cricket didn't really click for me until the 2005 Ashes. Anyway my tip would be that for test cricket, it is mostly about the bowling. Limited overs, whether 20/20 or one day matches were pretty much invented for big hitting crowd pleasing, but test cricket is about the bowler trying to get and keep the batter on the back foot and keeping them there, whether by sheer pace and aggression, guile, or in some cases trying to bore the batsmen to the point that the make a stupid shot selection out of frustration.

Watch closely what the bowler is doing, and the field he's bowling to. Glenn McGrath was really useful for understanding this, as he could land a ball just short of a length (translation: uncomfortably between a front foot shot and a back foot shot) angling in or abouts top of the off stump (translation: the stump most to the right, for right handed batters) all day. The question was always when in the over he was going to bowl the attacking delivery, and what kind of delivery it'd be: 1) cutter (ball lands on stitching seem so direction deviates slightly) 2) short ball/bouncer aka beautiful chin music (pitched short so reaches batsman at chest to head level) 3) slow ball. The slow ball is beautiful as it uses the batsman's own rhythm against him.

Of course that's just for fast-medium bowlers. There's also swing bowling (ball moves laterally in the air, an absolute nightmare to face as a batsmen until you get yourself 'set), genuine fast bowling (140-150 kmh, often two to three short pitched deliveries an over), and the dark arts of spin bowling. You'll know you get cricket when you appreciate, and understand how, a skilled spin bowler just made a world class batsmen look like a complete muppet.

Getting back to the field setting, this will tell you what the captain is asking his bowler to try and do. Rule of thumb: more than two slips - going for a catch off the edge of the bat. Only one slip - trying to prevent runs from being scored. In that case field placement, particularly the balance between on and off side ('off' being to the right of a right handed batter, 'on' being the same as 'leg' side') will give you an idea of what the bowler is trying to do. Unless of course it is a bluff to fool the batsman. E.g. if the captain has set up a fine leg and a deep square leg fielder (to use fighter pilot speak about 7 o'clock and between 8 and 9 o'clock for the batter) there's a reasonable chance the bowler will pitch a short delivery across the the batsman's body in the hope that they'll take the bait and loft a catch to one of those fieldsmen. Or again it could be a ruse and the next ball is coming straight at middle and off stump.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 6:32 AM on October 12, 2012

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