If you ever see a bunch of men dressed in crisp white standing in a field appearing to be in some sort of trance, do not be alarmed. No occult phenomenon is in progress here. These men are mere intensely focused, ready to anticipate on any form of action that may materialise at any moment. Only this never happens, ever.
It is called cricket. And it is a sport. Not just any sport, but a sport followed by billions of cricket mad fans (largely due to India). It is a unique sport as it is the only sport with a guaranteed anti-climax. Matches can last for days, and continue even for hours or days when it is already long known who is going to win. Or there is no winner at all after 5 days, as matches often end in a draw.
Rather unusual for a sporting event, spectators thus have to entertain themselves, usually by getting drunk and get dressed up in Australiana outfits. For TV spectators, it is the only sport you can watch on Friday, go away for the weekend and then pick up where you left of on Monday, as if nothing happened. Chances are this is very close to the truth.
Because memorable events in cricket are that rare, commentators often have to talk about events predating their birth (and cricket commentators are no spring chickens) to prevent the crickets from chirping. When tuning into cricket you may well hear the following conversation:
“Beautifully batted, almost in the same style as the great Arthur Morris during his Test debut in 1940. Or even like a young Donald Bradman during his 1930 tour of England.”
For such an uneventful sport, it is ridiculously complicated. If you are unfamiliar with cricket it will take you years to get a good comprehension of the sport. Explaining cricket takes time and patience. Trying to explain the rules of cricket in a few hundred words is like teaching someone how to build the space shuttle through a two-day online course, but here goes.
There are two teams who take turns in batting and fielding. The batting team has two batsmen defending the little posts (bails and stumps) in the middle, called wickets. To make it confusing, the pitch itself and the dismissal of a batsman are called ‘wicket’ too. When the batsman hits the ball he has to run to the other side, scoring 1 run. The idea is to get as many runs as possible. When 10 out of the 11 batsmen are out the teams swap sides. It is now up to the other team to try to get more runs in order to win. These are just the basics are many variants, limited by overs (the number of balls bowled at the batsman, one over is 6 balls) or time (the longest variants lasts 5 days, with both teams batting and fielding twice).
There are almost a dozen ways to get dismissed as a batsman, which I started to summarise here but even when writing in telegraph-style Pidgin English this was turning into an essay. A summary of the summary: As a batsman, do not let the ball get caught or hit the wicket, otherwise you’re gone.
To understand who has actually won from the scorecard is even difficult. Therefore, the score actually states who has won. For example,
NZ 170/10(48) | AUS 172/8(40.4)
Australia won by 2 wkts.
Soon the Australian real estate market will receive a boost with the impending Ashes series in July 2013, as grown Australian men will sell their house and everything in it to fund a trip to the UK. All this to watch the Australian cricket team take on the English in a thrilling 7 week match.
This is called the Ashes because of a satirical obituary placed in the paper after Australia beat England in 1882.
In Affectionate Remembrance
which died at the Oval
29th AUGUST 1882,
Deeply lamented by a large circle of sorrowing
friends and acquaintances
N.B.—The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia.
To fight monotony, the Australian cricket team will first have a few warm up matches against England and then after the Ashes a few cool down matches, against England. Essentially, they will play England for three months.
For such a global sport there are only a few countries that actually play cricket, possibly because most fail to understand the rules. Or simply because they cannot be bothered and prefer watching grass grow (which is actually closely related to the sport of cricket).
This can be changed by a few simple rules adjustments. I would suggest making it into a contact sport, like other sports Australians enjoy playing. There is nothing more that draws crowd than a batsman being knocked out by a tackle called the coat hanger. Also, somehow involve fire to do the Ashes series truly justice.
And maybe a name change. Naming a sport after a bug simply does not sound that appealing.
Cricket is for dummies. Let’s play Fireball!