An American's Guide to Cricket
May 03, 2000
"What the hell is a wicket?"
At first the game seems very strange and foreign. The terminology is strange - batsman and bowlers, wickets, and overs?
However, an American can quickly gain an appreciation of the game as much of it is similar to baseball. Games last between 10 hour and 5 days. Too long? That's what I thought at first. Then it was explained to me that it's really an extended excuse to drink. Five days of BBQ's and beer, while occasionally watching the game. Cricket is starting to make more sense.
Rules and Terminology
The "batsman" is the batter.
The "bowler" is the pitcher. However, the pitcher takes a running start, winds up like a propeller and bounces the ball at 70 miles an hour at the batter.
A "wicket" makes an interesting strike zone and home plate in one. The wicket is a couple pieces of wood balanced on some stakes in the ground. If the pitch hits the wicket the batter is out. One strike and you are out! Even if the ball was going to hit the wicket and the batter gets in the way and gets hit by the ball, he is still out.
An "over" is a set of 6 pitches. A one-day cricket match has 50 overs per team. There is only one inning. The 2nd team is up when either everyone is out, or the 50 overs have been pitched (bowled).
"Out" is much the same as baseball. You can get pitched out, thrown out, or caught out when someone on the opposing team catches the ball in the air. But getting out is a big deal in cricket. Once a player is out, he is out! He does not get to bat again. If all 10 players get out, the very lengthy inning ends early.
Instead of a wall, in cricket there is a rope on the ground and a 360-degree field. If the ball is hit straight over the rope at the edge of the field 6 runs are scored. If it bounces over the rope, then 4 runs. There are actually two batters up at once. If the ball is hit and the batters managed to switch places, a point is scored. If they are in the middle of switching places and the wicket is knocked over by the ball, equivalent to tagging a bag, the batter is out. If they manage to switch twice with the same hit, 2 points are scored. The strangest bit is if they switch once, then there is a new batter up at the plate. The batter that has been standing around bored for the last 45 minutes gets his turn to bat, and the most recent batter gets his turn to stand around bored.
The umpire does his job as he would in any American sport. However, in addition to making rulings on play, he also politely holds the coat for the batsman while he is batting. I don't think that Americans will ever get quite used to the umpire/butler combination. But my Indian and South African friends assure me it really is quite reasonable.
It is a game with some strategy. You can't afford to get out, so you bat conservatively at first later on taking more risks and batting for some points. It does not seem like a very athletic sport. The biggest challenge seems to be avoiding boredom. You have to keep your focus standing out in a field for 5 hours straight.
Overall, I've got to appreciate any sport that leads to 10 hours of drinking - and I give it 2 thumbs up!
Final Bit of Advice for Americans
If you're anywhere in the world, see a game of cricket on TV and want to fit in with the crowd, just say "Ah, Cricket, 10 hours of drinking, a great game." You'll fit right in.