That’s how Wikipedia describes cricket – as a bat and ball game. Since the Cricket World Cup is currently being staged in Australia and New Zealand, I thought that I would choose cricket as the topic for the week.
The roots of cricket are in England, though it so happens that the mother country of cricket has been eliminated from the Cricket World Cup (CWC). Cricket has spread to a number of other countries as a result of colonial and other influences and 14 teams have been taking part in the 2015 CWC.
Cricket playing nations are either full members of the International Cricket Council or associate or affiliate members. The CWC contestants are the 10 full members and 4 other members who are required to qualify for the tournament. The ‘minnows’ as the associates and affiliates are often referred to rarely trouble the full members in matches, but upsets are not unknown.
Of the bat and ball games, cricket is of the class where a batsman defends a target from a ball thrown (“pitched” or “bowled”) by a player from the other team. Points (referred to as runs) are scored by running from one end of the pitch to the other, or by hitting the ball out of bounds.
Cricket is similar to baseball and softball and the informal game of rounders in the sense that the members of the batting team take turns ‘at bat’. The target area is a physical target in cricket (“stumps” and “bails”) but is a virtual box in baseball and softball. There is no specific target in rounders, where the ball just has to be hittable by the batter.
Cricket has two “targets” or wickets, and I can’t think of any other bat and ball sport that has two wickets or the equivalent. The wickets are one chain apart in the old Imperial measures, and the person who delivers the ball to the batsman throws or bowls the ball from one wicket to the other. The game switches around after every 6 balls, with a second bowler bowling at the batsman at the other end of the pitch. This is termed an “over” as the supervising official, the umpire, calls “Over” when six balls have be bowled.
In informal or backyard cricket it is common to have just one wicket and a single pole (or stump) for the bowler to deliver the ball from. Other rules are ignored or modified as appropriate from the much smaller space available. In recent years, there has been a move to formalise at least some games of backyard or beach cricket and to institute competitions in the formalised code. These are still considered “fun” games though.
There are variants of cricket played in some Pacific Islands, The rules of these variants are also informal, team sizes are variable, and the bat often resembles a war weapon. Teams can contain both men and women and people of all ages. The Wikipedia article mentions that there have been attempts to formalize the rules of this variant of the sport.
The original format of the formal game of cricket is multi-day, multi-innings. Even the Island form of the game runs to several days, but that may be related more to the social nature of island cricket than anything else. As in any formal game the equipment and the uniform is closely specified and in particular the uniform is white – known as “cricket whites”.
The multi-day format is unusual in sports and arises from the fact that each team has eleven players and each may have to have their time at bat twice in a game. Shorter forms are often played at a semi-formal or provincial level, many being completed in one innings in one day. Cricket is not a quick game in terms of time taken, as each batsman may face upwards of one hundred balls. The semi-formal “village green” cricket is a leisurely affair, in spite of the fact that the ball may be bowled at speeds of up to 150kph.
A new form of cricket has developed where the number of overs or sets of six balls is restricted to 50 for each team. The uniforms are not restricted to white and some other minor changes have been made to the rules. These changes have led to a more exciting, quicker form of the game and the matches are over in one day. This is the form that is being played for the Cricket World Cup.
There is an even shorter version of the game called Twenty20, which is a fast paced version with only 20 overs per side. Both the 20 over and (slightly less so) 50 over versions of the game result in fast scoring and more excitement than the standard version of the game as teams, both fielders and batsman take a more highly charged attitude.
The sport is professional at the top level, and the top players are treated as celebrities. Since the sport is international these days players get to play in many countries. In particular many overseas players play in the Indian Premier League, a very rich Twenty20 competition based, as the name implies, in the Indian sub-continent.
The stance of a batsman in cricket is side on, with the bat grounded before the bowler start his delivery and raised backwards in preparation for the stroke. Consequently there are left hand and right batsmen (and bowlers). Since the game has been around there are unique terms for various matters to do with the game.
For example, the field positions have traditional names which might seem whimsical. “Silly Mid On” is one of them. It certainly is “silly” as it is close to the batsman in the natural line of a stroke on the on or leg side. The position is intended for a close in catch and is obviously dangerous as the ball is hard, much like a baseball. Some Silly Mid On fielders wear protective helmets and other gear.
One field position that I had not heard of until recently is “Cow Corner”. A fielder at Cow Corner is in much the same line from the bat as Silly Mid On, but much further away, almost on the edge of the field (the “boundary”). The name seemly relates to the rustic roots of the game where the field was indeed a field or paddock that had to be cleared of livestock before a game could commence.
Of course, the cattle would most likely have left deposits behind them which could trouble the fielders during the game.