So, you thought Cricket was for sissies, aye?
March 20, 2008 6:22 AM   Subscribe

First, a bit of an introduction to the game of Cricket (youtube) for those of us who may not be familiar with the sport. Next, a few clips (1, 2, 3, 4) on how awesome the Gentleman's Game can be (and you thought we didn't do anything but roam around in our white pants and cotton shirts...). But, if that wasn't enough for you, then here's a taste of Twenty20 Cricket (the fast, fast paced version of the game), and the new DLF Indian (pdf) Premier League. (This is in addition to the One Day Matches, which were instituted to bring in a bit more excitement into the game during the 1970's, prior to which the match only consisted of Tests. However, some purists still maintain that the game would've been better served had it not been commercalized to the extent that it has, and still prefer the leisurely pace of the original format to its current incarnation.)

A small History of Cricket here, along with a History of the US playing the sport too: yes, you yanks were Batsmen and Bowlers once upon a time as well. Although, there is hope that you might still try and break into the sport yet. Women too have shown that they are just as good with the bat and the ball as their male counterparts, and so have the visually challenged. See, this is a game that anyone can play, even kids who can't afford the equipment, and play a rudimentary form of the sport called Gilli Danda. Oh, and not to forget, there's someone else who tried his hand at Cricket too. Any guesses?

And finally, a list of the DLF Indian Premier League Cricket Teams: The Kolkata Knight Riders | The Deccan Chargers (Hyderabad) | The Delhi Daredevils | The Rajasthan Royals | The Bangalore Royal Challengers | The Chennai Super Kings | The Mumbai Indians | And the as yet to be named Mohali Cricket Team
posted by hadjiboy (56 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
Call me a purist, but I don't think either the one-day matches or 20/20 is proper cricket
posted by MrMerlot at 6:24 AM on March 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh, is THAT what 10cc was singing about in Dreadlock Holiday!
posted by wendell at 6:29 AM on March 20, 2008

I used to coach a softball team in Georgia. An Indian man joined the team. He had never played softball before, but assured me "it was much easier than cricket." Indeed, according to some of the people who knew him, it was said that he had been a pretty good cricket player in his day. I put him at third.

First game he shows up without a glove. "You need a glove to play third base," I say.

"A cricket ball is much harder than that softball and I don't need a glove when I play cricket," he tells me.

"Well, you need a glove when you play third base. Trust me. Some of these guys... despite their looks... can hit the ball pretty hard."

"Trust me." He says. So I shake my head and walk back to the mound.

The fourth batter drilled a line drive up the third base line which my colleague deftly caught in his bare hands - to his great discomfort.

He stopped showing up for games after that.
posted by three blind mice at 6:38 AM on March 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Cricket: As explained to a foreigner...
You have two sides, one out in the field and one in. Each man that's in the side that's in goes out, and when he's out he comes in and the next man goes in until he's out. When they are all out, the side that's out comes in and the side that's been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out. Sometimes you get men still in and not out.
When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in. There are two men called umpires who stay out all the time and they decide when the men who are in are out. When both sides have been in and all the men have been out, and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game.
(via previous thread).
posted by adamvasco at 6:43 AM on March 20, 2008 [11 favorites]

Cricket needs new blood. You can't hope to successfully promote a game if the preferred format is one that takes upto 7 hours a day for 5 days running. Furthermore, in a fast-paced world, even the 8 hour long ODI format is too long to elicit interest, and has to start during work-hours . Not all ODIs in the recent Australia tri-series had a full house, and that series involved many of the best ODI teams in the world.

It's really telling that the International Cricket Council has mandated a ceiling on the number of international T20s that can be held in a season. The 3 hour long T20 format which features more change of fortunes during the course of a game, as well as a definite result, is precisely the antidote that cricket needs. I'd like to see a World Cup that isn't a competition between 1 overwhelming favorite, 2 good teams, 2 flakey teams and the remaining field of no-hopers.
posted by Gyan at 6:49 AM on March 20, 2008

I've had the same experience as 3bm. cricketers don't like the feel of wearing a glove... ;)
posted by anthill at 6:49 AM on March 20, 2008

The fourth batter drilled a line drive up the third base line which my colleague deftly caught in his bare hands - to his great discomfort.

Yes, mice, but he caught it.

It's not uncommon for fielders in cricket to break fingers but so far as I know it's never been suggested that they should be allowed to wear gloves. A fielder at silly point or short leg (about two yards from the bat) will wear a helmet and a box (cup) but never gloves.

If your pal was a good cricketer I can understand why he didn't bother coming to any more softball games.

Great post, spread the word about the great game (not 20/20 though!)
posted by surfdad at 6:54 AM on March 20, 2008

anthill: why not? I love cricket because of its length and complexity. You're argument is like saying Opera has to modernise because of the three-minute pop song.
posted by MrMerlot at 6:55 AM on March 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Things I'll never enjoy no matter how long I live in England:
  • Cricket
  • The Archers
  • Marmite
  • Kebabs
  • Coronation Street, East Enders, et al
  • British 'customer service'
  • Black pudding
  • Chavs
  • Little Chef
  • "Having a disco"
  • Pebbledashing
posted by chuckdarwin at 6:56 AM on March 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Cricket's not my thing, but I do enjoy reading about sledging.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:00 AM on March 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

He stopped showing up for games after that.

"hey coach - i'm a footballer - no, i don't need no stinkin' equipment"

posted by pyramid termite at 7:03 AM on March 20, 2008

Cricket is fucking awesome; therefore, this post is fucking awesome.
posted by chunking express at 7:05 AM on March 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

MrMerlot: I love cricket because of its length and complexity.

Those factors are deterrents when you don't know the game to begin with, and you have competing recreational options.
posted by Gyan at 7:06 AM on March 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Nice post.

The IPL is certainly shaking up cricket a bit, with some players earning 1.5million dollars for 8 weeks work.

But I'm a purist at heart, and the intricacies of test cricket is where it's at.
posted by the_epicurean at 7:07 AM on March 20, 2008

Call the game boring if you will (I wouldn't) but given the choice between a baseball bat and a cricket bat when the zombies come, a wise fleshbag would take the cricket bat. Shaun of the Dead has taught me well.
posted by Spatch at 7:09 AM on March 20, 2008

Wow, I loved the videos - great work hadjiboy!
posted by jacalata at 7:12 AM on March 20, 2008

I have successfully converted my all-American, baseball, football and hockey loving husband into a total cricket fan. Including test cricket. Enough so that he had a meltdown during the 2003 World cup when I wanted to turn off the New Zealand-Canada game early because we were killing them.

My tactic? Test cricket = 5 sweet days of drinking beer, 7 hours a day.
posted by gaspode at 7:13 AM on March 20, 2008 [3 favorites]

Oh, and cricket commentary on the radio is the best commentary EVAR. You gotta respect people that can keep the commentary going in a game that goes so slowly.
posted by gaspode at 7:14 AM on March 20, 2008

Cricket is freaking huge in India. Cricketers are practically worshipped, and earn insane amounts of dough through advertising and stuff. Oh, and living in India and saying you aren't interested in cricket gets you lots of weird stares! The love of cricket is so widespread that all other differences dissolve in front of it.

The weird thing is that the national sport of India is hockey, but no one pays any attention to it at all.

IMO, the amount of money involved in cricket (in India) has sort of made actual performance on the field immaterial. Players just need to play well enough to stay in the national team. As long as they are in the team they can make tons of money with advertising, etc. So, everyone just does the bare minimum.
posted by ogami at 7:17 AM on March 20, 2008

I read the post but due to scrolling I couldn't see who wrote it. About halfway though, I thought "hadjiboy"! And I was right! Good post.
posted by Doohickie at 7:18 AM on March 20, 2008

The Twenty20 game is exhilarating to watch, with loads of boundaries and loads of wickets, but it's almost completely lacking in tactics--it's just about hitting out, there's no point in guarding your stumps, trying to build an innings or wearing down the bowlers if even the front-line batsmen are only expected to face twenty balls. It's a great evening's entertainment. It's not a proper sport.

If the money-men were in any way concerned for the future of the sport they'd see Twenty20 as a fantastic entry-point to get people interested in the game, and then draw them into the longer, more tactical, more psychological and ultimately much more exciting play of the ODIs and Test matches.

And Three Blind Mice, your comment clearly proves the title of the post. Bowlers and pitchers are equivalent in terms of speed (the best in the world can just top 100mph), a cricket ball is harder and heavier than a baseball, but baseball players at all levels wear gloves while cricket players at all levels don't. Your colleague probably didn't come back because--well, see my first paragraph above.
posted by Hogshead at 7:21 AM on March 20, 2008

Yea, I love cricket commentary. Massive respect to a guy who can think 'hey, I'm pretty sure that somebody else once bowled that exact combination of sixes and dot balls, ah yes, old Whatsit in the second innings of the '67 Test between X and Y'! I managed to convert my housemate to cricket over the summer, with a combination of carefully applied "sitting on the couch drinking beer" and intelligent commentary. Started slow and ended up watching most of the Adelaide test.
posted by jacalata at 7:22 AM on March 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

ogamiThe weird thing is that the national sport of India is hockey, but no one pays any attention to it at all.

Interesting. In Canada the official sport is lacrosse, or field hockey, but the de facto national sport is ice hockey. Funny how legislating national pastimes doesn't always work out, eh?
posted by spoobnooble at 7:30 AM on March 20, 2008

Looks almost as boring as baseball.
posted by zekinskia at 7:36 AM on March 20, 2008

George Orwell reviews Blunden's "Cricket Country" in a beautiful essay.
posted by jet_silver at 8:30 AM on March 20, 2008

I've always found that unless I care who wins a game of baseball (which is pretty rare), there's absolutely no excitement in watching a batter hit home runs or watching a pitcher pitch strike outs. After watching one of these videos (and reading a bit to understand the terminology; please correct me if I'm wrong), I can now say that fours and sixes are just as boring as home runs and that watching someone get bowled out is very slightly less dull than watching someone get struck out (mostly because the wicket flies to pieces). However, really impressive fielding plays are still awesome in both sports.
posted by ErWenn at 8:38 AM on March 20, 2008

My partner is from Trinidad and I have a closetful of souvenir jerseys from the last world cup, which he attended at its final 8 matches in Barbados. We got Bell ExpressVu (Canadian satellite provider) specifically because it offers ATN and CBN live cricket broadcasts. So after 13 years together it was inevitable that I've started to follow it too.

A couple things: First, like any sport, one has to understand if to enjoy it as a spectator (and a player of course); this was why I never got swept up in hockey until I'd lived in Canada for five years. I never understood it; it seemed like chaos and fighting to me. Cricket isn't any more difficult to understand than any other sport, really, but "learning" a sport is like learning a language. One needs motivation. Mine was to understand what was compelling my hubby to stay up, night after night, all hours, or to set his alarm clock for 3am to watch a match in South Africa live.

Second, all respect to gaspode, but the action is cricket is actually non-stop aside from "tea" breaks. The bowler never stops bowling. It's not like baseball where breaks between innings are interminable. I don't get now anybody who understands the game can call it "slow." It's one of the only games that comprises almost NOTHING but action.

Thirdly, three blind mice, let's see your softball players endure cricket WITHOUT gloves. Your Indian player walked away after fielding a softball bare-handed. Your softball players would not dare to touch a hard-hit cricket ball. Softball is ridiculously less demanding.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 8:38 AM on March 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

spoobnooble, lacrosse and field hockey are two completely different sports. And Canada has TWO official sports: Summer sport is lacrosse; winter sport is (ice) hockey.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 8:41 AM on March 20, 2008

I once had a slow night in a hostel in Hobart, Tasmania and ended up sitting in front of a television with a woman and her maybe 10 year old son. We had a great evening of just drinking tea and her and her son trying to explain cricket to the ignorant Yank. I still dont get it. Then again, I dont understand the allure of televised sports anyway. In any case, it was a wonderful evening, and the post reminded me of that, so thank you.
posted by elendil71 at 8:43 AM on March 20, 2008

I'm well aware that the action is ongoing, ethnometholologist, having spent the formative years of my childhood playing and watching cricket all summer. But while the action of cricket is ongoing, the pace is not. Beyond the tea breaks, there are always pauses while the bowler, if a fast bowler, is walking back to his mark, or stopping to confer with his captain. It's those dead spaces that radio commentators have to fill, and which make them awesome.
posted by gaspode at 8:54 AM on March 20, 2008

Softballs may be softer than cricket balls, but the fact that a batter in baseball and softball gets a good solid wind-up every hit means that the average hit ball is traveling a lot faster (on average; it looks like occasionally you can get a good solid swing at a cricket ball). I've seen people break fingers catching softballs while wearing a glove even when the balls were hit by overweight accountants at company picnics. The softball players probably would have a hard time getting over their fear of bare-handing even a soft-hit cricket ball simply because they're still in the softball/baseball mindset. If they played long enough, they'd probably overcome this hesitancy, just like Three Blind Mice's friend from India would have eventually learned how to painlessly catch a line drive if he'd started wearing a glove as his coach suggested.

The other thing that gloves do to the game is increase the likelihood that a diving catch is going to succeed. On the one hand, this increases the number of really exciting defensive plays, but on the other, it decreases the impressiveness of each catch. Also, when a baseball player does barehand a line-drive, it's a pretty exciting thing because of its rarity.

I imagine the same sort of thing would happen if a rugby player tried to play on an American football team (not just a backyard game) where even someone who never touches the ball gets slammed into on just about every play. After about thirty minutes of this, they might want to rethink wearing pads. And similarly in the opposite direction, an American footballer would likely be unnecessarily timid playing rugby at first before getting used to the different type of physicality involved.

Not trying to start a debate about which of these sports is better, by the way. I don't particularly like watching any of them. (Playing is a different matter, of course.) I've just gotten annoyed at the bickering that usually accompanies discussions between the differences in sports (especially similar sports from different cultures), and I was thinking Metafilter might be a nice place to discuss such things without people being as stupid.
posted by ErWenn at 8:59 AM on March 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Nice post hadjiboy. Great videos, especially the catches.. Thanks.
posted by adamvasco at 9:17 AM on March 20, 2008

This post has not enlightened me the slightest bit. The clips appear to contain shot after shot of men getting entirely too excited about someone throwing a ball. I witnessed similarly ridiculous levels of excitement while watching a game of darts I caught on TV yesterday. A stadium full of men were cheering -- which is to say, singing and dancing -- at a game of darts.

I don't mean to suggest that North American sports are somehow more exciting, but the fans, no matter how brightly coloured the paint on their chests, no matter how drunk they are off their asses, never approach anything close to the insanity British fans can display toward the most banal of activities.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:27 AM on March 20, 2008

Cricket is just nice background noise. No-one really watches every minute of play in a 5-day test. It's just something you can pop on the radio on the weekend when you're driving to the shops. Something on the telly between mowing the lawn and cleaning out the gutters. People don't go to cricket matches to watch a game of sport, as to have a picnic in the sun.

And one thing it does share with baseball is the endless statistics. Something about sports consisting of individual plays, individual pitches or bowls, is very conducive to recording the numbers and averages. I mean, televised cricket now features moving-average graphs of run rates, modeled predictions of final scores, 3D analysis of the path of each ball down the pitch to determine whether it would have hit the stumps or not, maps of the distribution of each ball hit around the field, microphones that record sound to be played back in slow motion to detect the snick of bat hitting ball. Brilliant stuff.
posted by Jimbob at 9:32 AM on March 20, 2008

^You can't hope to successfully promote a game if the preferred format is one that takes upto 7 hours a day for 5 days running...

True, that's long, but it leaves much time for commercials, which drive revenue, which allow something like this to be broadcast. You can't promote a game in the USA if it doesn't allow for very frequent commercial breaks (soccer is short, relatively, but constant) So why hasn't cricket caught on in the US? Probably because it's like alien baseball to 'mericans. Rugby is like alien football. F1's like alien car-racing. We seem to like our own versions of globally-accepted games, and we're gleefully ignorant of any variation.

So anyway, I plan on scanning this FPP because cricket is so... exotic. Like alien baseball. Thanks, hadjiboy!

(Disclaimer: this comment written under the influence of cold medicine)
posted by not_on_display at 9:41 AM on March 20, 2008

This is cool. I don't think I'll ever really "get" cricket, but as someone who happily spends hours in front of the TV or at the ballpark during baseball season, I've got no right to call cricket "boring".

I had some friends in college (here in the U.S.) who would get together to play cricket - they were Brits and Indians and Trinidadians and so on - on the Green. They didn't wear whites (well, there was one guy who would sometimes show up in whites), but they played with instensity. It was fun to watch them, even though I had no idea what was happening - we spectators would cheer when someone hit the ball, or caught it, or threw it. It all seemed weird and cool and puzzling (in a good way) to us.

My mom worked with a Swedish guy whose English was....idiosyncratic. One of his stock phrases, when a difficult situation reared its head, was "Ja, ja, this is a sticky forest." Eventually my mom figured out that sticky forest came from sticky thicket which came from sticky wicket.

Thanks for the post, hadjiboy.
posted by rtha at 9:59 AM on March 20, 2008

Cricket isn't any more difficult to understand than any other sport, really

I lived in cricket-mad South Asia for a year. I watched numerous big games on TV amid big public crowds. I huddled with friends and colleagues in their living rooms as they meticulously explained what was happening on the screen. I watched Sachin Tendulkar hit at least two centuries, and a cherished family photo depicts mrs gompa and Imran Khan standing together at a function where both were guest speakers. A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to play a game of friendly club cricket on a village pitch in Surrey, and I even made an out. It says most of what I'm trying to say about cricket that I still don't even know if "made an out" is the proper term for what I did.

I respectfully disagree that it's no trickier than any other sport to fully grok. It is the most wilfully obscure, jargon-ridden, bewildering major team sport I've ever had close association with. It takes, at most, a minute and a half bellowing over the crowd at a pub to explain what's happening on a (non-US) football pitch, and you can easily explain the key differences between US football and rugby between downs. Granted, understanding why the crowd cheers an elegant cross in (non-US) football or a well-placed punt downed inside the five yard line in US football takes time, but by comparison I still don't feel entirely confident in saying what the score is when I'm watching a cricket match. Nor what, exactly, "overs" are, not even to begin to unlock the mystery of how they differ from "innings" and "all out."

Baseball is the only thing that comes close to cricket in terms of absurd complexity - I say this as a lifelong baseball fan who's tried to explain it to complete neophytes enough to recognize that there's simply no comparing it to any game built around the simple scoring of goals. In fact, the similarity of baseball and cricket terminology might be part of what's so confusing about it, because the same words mean such different things.

That said, hadjiboy's first link (particularly the straightforward compare-and-contrast with baseball) is the best short explanation I've ever encountered. So, you know, good show, hadjiboy. Or whatever the cricket version of he-shoots-he-scores is.

*shakes head, returns to close study of recent wing pairings on the Flames' maddeningly streaky second line*
posted by gompa at 10:23 AM on March 20, 2008

Majorly disappointed this thread is not about darts.
posted by Eideteker at 10:42 AM on March 20, 2008

gompa - 'made an out' = very wrong! I'm guessing you 'took a wicket'?
posted by gravelshoes at 12:24 PM on March 20, 2008

gompa - 'made an out' = very wrong! I'm guessing you 'took a wicket'?

Yeah, I expected as much. What I did was I caught what us baseball-reared colonials would call a routine pop-fly. Is it still taking a wicket even if the wicket isn't involved?

And isn't this really underscoring my point?
posted by gompa at 12:28 PM on March 20, 2008

I see there's a lot of dislike towards Twenty20 here, but a lot of people here have said that it's good to bring new people in. I totally agree. As someone who grew up in a strong baseball town, St. Louis, Five Day Tests are completely alien. But, by getting into Twenty20, I can start to see how you could stretch a match over a day. And if I can make that leap, five day tests aren't far behind. Watching Lagan in college didn't hurt, either.

I find Twenty20 fast and exciting, and the matches I've been able to find on the Internet have been extremely well attended and the energy in the crowd was fantastic. I imagine, though, for someone who grew up with Cricket, Twenty20 is to International Test Cricket like TeeBall is to Baseball.

The thing is, I think I could do at least One Day Tests. I think most of us could. I grew up with the Indy 500, which isn't something you watch actively. You get together with your friends and extended family, barbeque, make sure the beer is flowing, and generally have a good time. You check in every so often to see what's going on, why there's a yellow flag out, etc. When it gets down to the last 15 laps, you pay attention. So, on preview, what gaspod said.

In short, give us a chance, here. We're learning.
posted by gc at 12:57 PM on March 20, 2008

Thanks for the post; I will now spend some time looking at your links to see whether I can at last make sense of this mysterious game, and in particular try to discover how fans can stick around for even a "one-day" match; when our American baseball games can get pretty tedious if they drag on into a fourth or fifth hour in scoreless extra innings.
posted by beagle at 1:08 PM on March 20, 2008

Oh come on, gompa... are you just being willfully obtuse here? I spent not even six months living in London and had an Indian friend who loved cricket, and actively watched perhaps one test in the pub with him (I believe it was Australia v. England, but I could be wrong) and I understand and fully grok the rules of cricket. They're no more complex than those of baseball (in fact in major ways they mirror those rules) and the jargon, while somewhat confusing, has fairly straightforward US-ian counterparts.
posted by Inkoate at 2:07 PM on March 20, 2008

so you caught someone out, goompa? The wicket isn't credited to you anyway, it's credited to the bowler.

(bonus point: where were you fielding? testing the fielding positions is my favourite all-day quiz with people learning the game)
posted by gaspode at 2:16 PM on March 20, 2008

I'm with Inkote, I'm an American, born and raised. I played baseball, football and basketball growing up, but I couldn't explain half of the seemingly endless rules of the sports popular in America. I'm definitely a nerd, but I at least can tolerate sports. I certainly don't get all the rules on jersey numbers in football. I'm not really sure what a balk is fully. I couldn't tell you what the hell is going on during a basketball game. Fuck all if I could give even a basic explaination of what the offside rules are in hockey (can anyone?). But I pretty much understand cricket. It's got rules, but they just aren't all that complex. They don't seem any more arbitrary than any other sport. Sure, they're no soccer rules, but they are sure as heck not football.
posted by Pollomacho at 2:18 PM on March 20, 2008

I don't see what's so hard about a five-day test, really. I mean, a golf tournament lasts four days, a tennis tournament lasts more. Same with poker. As others have said, you can dip in and out, drink beer in the sun, listen to the radio commentary while doing something else, read a book in between overs, discuss the finer points of the game or the lyrics of the English fans''s a perfect sport in some ways.

And the subtleties of test cricket make it more rewarding. The way that a batsman and bowler can battle for hours, trying to dominate each other - the way a batsman can play perfectly for three or four hours and then throw it all away with one lapse of concentration. Every ball is potentially crucial. The game can swing back and forth for days, with the result in doubt right till the end.

Going back to the softball/cricket fielding issue: I submit that cricketers don't have too much to be smug about: witness Monty Panesar (I just watched him make three or four mistakes like this in one match).
posted by Infinite Jest at 3:17 PM on March 20, 2008

I reckon this is one of the best catches of all time.
posted by meech at 3:36 PM on March 20, 2008

It's amazing how much money grown men can get paid to play a child's game.

I'm off to play Starcraft now.

Sigh ...
posted by aeschenkarnos at 5:53 PM on March 20, 2008

Partial to Sinclair vs Australia, myself.
posted by Infinite Jest at 5:54 PM on March 20, 2008

I don't see what's so hard about a five-day test, really. I mean, a golf tournament lasts four days, a tennis tournament lasts more. Same with poker. As others have said, you can dip in and out, drink beer in the sun, listen to the radio commentary while doing something else, read a book in between overs, discuss the finer points of the game or the lyrics of the English fans''s a perfect sport in some ways.

You forgot to mention the thrilling halftime shows!
posted by Pollomacho at 6:00 PM on March 20, 2008

On gloves: If it was legal every single fielder would be wearing a baseball glove, because it makes it vastly easier and pretty much eliminates dropped catches. But it isn't legal, and that makes catching and fielding ability far more important to the game.
posted by markr at 8:37 PM on March 20, 2008

Bill Bryson on cricket (from "In A Sunburned Country", by Bill Bryson, first edition, hardcover, pages 105 - 108):

"After years of patient study (and with cricket there can be no other kind) I have decided that there is nothing wrong with the game that the introduction of golf carts wouldn't fix in a hurry. It is not true that the English invented cricket as a way of making all other human endeavors look interesting and lively; that was merely an unintended side effect. I don't wish to denigrate a sport that is enjoyed by millions, some of them awake and facing the right way, but it is an odd game. It is the only sport that incorporates meal breaks. It is the only sport that shares its name with an insect. It is the only sport in which spectators burn as many calories as players -- more if they are moderately restless. It is the only competitive activity of any type, other than perhaps baking, in which you can dress in white from head to toe and be as clean at the end of the day as you were at the beginning.

Imagine a form of baseball in which the pitcher, after each delivery, collects the ball from the catcher and walks slowly with it to center field; and that there, after a minute's pause to collect himself, he turns and runs full tilt toward the pitcher's mound before hurling the ball at the ankles of a man who stands before him wearing a riding hat, heavy gloves of the sort used to to handle radio-active isotopes, and a mattress strapped to each leg. Imagine moreover that if this batsman fails to hit the ball in a way that heartens him sufficiently to try to waddle forty feet with mattress's strapped to his legs, he is under no formal compunction to run; he may stand there all day, and, as a rule, does. If by some miracle he is coaxed into making a misstroke that leads to his being put out, all the fielders throw up their arms in triumph and have a hug. Then tea is called and every one retires happily to a distant pavilion to fortify for the next siege. Now imagine all this going on for so long that by the time the match concludes autumn has crept in and all your library books are overdue. There you have cricket.

The mystery of cricket is not that Australians play it well, but that they play it at all. It has always seemed to me a game much too restrained for the rough-and-tumble Australian temperament. Australians much prefer games in which brawny men in scanty clothing bloody each other's noses. I am quite certain that if the rest of the world vanished over night and the development of cricket was left in Australian hands, within a generation the players would be wearing shorts and using the bats to hit each other. And the thing is, it would be a much better game for it."

posted by neuron at 8:56 PM on March 20, 2008

All sports have lots of complicated rules, but I do think that there is a fundamental difference between sports like baseball and cricket and sports like basketball and soccer. At the professional level, any sport is going to have a lot of rules that aren't needed for a primitive appreciation of the game. These are generally rules about what players are not allowed to do (e.g. going out of bounds, touching the ball with your hands, standing too close to the plate, icing in hockey, punching another player in the face, etc.) or what to do in special circumstances (e.g. the ball gets stuck in somebody's clothes, the ball bounces over the fence, someone bumps into the referee, free throws, free kicks, US football safeties, etc.). Then there are the rules that are essential to even a basic idea of what's going on. Most of these are rules about what players are required to do and they're often hard to list as individual rules because they don't separate from a description of the flow of gameplay well (e.g. the pattern of a single play from pitch/bowl to its conclusion, the progression of a US football down from hike to down, the main scoring methods in just about any game, etc.). The more of these rules you have, the more complicated the game will seem to a newbie. At the top of this list are games like baseball and cricket, with a fairly complex gameplay flow. (They're also naturally divided up into plays and there are lots of fixed positions on the field which makes them perfect for radio, but that's another story.) At the bottom (talking games with large teams here, so I'm ignoring racing, track-and-field, and the like) are games like non-US football (is "non-US" really the best non-Eurocentric alternative we have to "European football"?) and hockey. I think basketball is very slightly above this and only because dribbling is just a smidgen less intuitive than "don't use your hands". In the middle is US football (the ultimate goals are pretty straightforward, but the division of the play into downs gets a bit more complex). I don't know rugby well enough to place it, but I imagine that if it was as simple as hockey, I'd have figured it out by now.
posted by ErWenn at 11:46 PM on March 20, 2008

Oops! I used the dreaded s-word in that last comment. My sincerest apologies.
posted by ErWenn at 11:47 PM on March 20, 2008

When I was a kid (in USA) and wondered how cricket was played, I looked in the World Book and came away understanding nothing. I looked in the Encyclopædia Britannica (11th) and understood little. Because of this post I'm starting to understand. Thanks!
posted by MtDewd at 12:44 PM on March 21, 2008

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