Sunday, February 26, 2012

Theme and Variations for Willow Bat and Leather Ball, or there’s more than one way to play cricket

When I first started this blog, I contacted some of my friends to ask them what they know about cricket, and to find out why they don’t follow the sport. A few responded that they didn’t even know cricket is played in the United States. But most responses I received were variations on the theme of “I would be more interested if the games actually ended.”

Before wading any deeper into this subject, let me go ahead and say that I am a fan of Test cricket, and England County Cricket. I listen to or watch every match I can.

Right. Now that ye know the cut of me jib, mateys, I’ll sail ahead. As I sail, I will keep things simple, so bear with me, cricket veterans, if it feels like I’m leaving something out here and there. I will occasionally oversimplify in the name of education and to keep novices interested. (Hmmm—sounds like the blogging version of T20!-Sorry, all—inside joke.)

I understand my friends who feel like they don’t have time for a full-fledged Test match (international cricket match lasting a maximum of five days) or First Class match (up to four days). I myself have a three-year-old, a wife, a job, a dog and a house that all need seeing to.

The nature of my job is such that I can listen on headphones during the work day, and so I have the time and ability to follow the longer, more traditional forms of cricket. But for those who don’t have that kind of time or attention span, cricket offers alternatives.

For listening and viewing pleasure in a smaller, more digestible form, there is limited overs cricket. Limited overs cricket is simply cricket where there is a limited number of balls to be bowled. In cricket, a bowler bowls six balls, and then switches off with another bowler who bowls six balls. Each set of six balls is called an “over.”

If you have a day to kill, then there are 40- and 50-over matches. In other words, each team faces a maximum of 40 or 50 overs (sets of six balls). But even a day long match is too much for most people, at least at first. And so we come to the most popular form of cricket: Twenty/20. In T20 cricket, each team faces a maximum of 20 overs of six balls (for the arithmetically challenged, that is a maximum of 120 balls per team). These matches last roughly the same as a baseball game, and are packed with even more excitement than a typically baseball game—there are lots of runs scored (usually well over 100 or 200 per team) and lots of action.

I will discuss the ins and outs of the various forms of cricket in later posts. But let me keave you with this: All you really need to play a game of cricket is a couple of bats, a ball, and something to serve as the stumps on each end. The number of balls, overs, players, etc. is all totally up to you—much like baseball for me as a kid.

My friends and I would play ball with plastic bats and balls, rubber, tennis balls--anything. If there weren’t enough people per side, we would leave “ghost runners” on base and go back to bat again. If there weren’t players enough to have fielders, we would throw the ball up into the air and hit it ourselves, then place the bat on the ground. The fielder would throw the ball from wherever it was stopped, and try to hit the bat. If the fielder hit the bat, or caught the ball in the air, then it was his or her turn to be the batter. That sounds nothing like baseball. But we called it baseball.

Cricket has the same advantages. The amount of balls and innings and players and runs are unimportant details. As long as a batter can run back and forth on the pitch, between the stumps, and score runs, that’s really all you need (and even that is debatable).

I’ve been fairly vague here, and I know that I still haven’t discussed muc of anything in depth. That is all coming soon. But before we got into it, I wanted to make sure you all know—cricket DOES NOT have to take any longer than a baseball game, or even an American football game. And to show you just how exciting limited overs cricket can be, here are a few links to short highlight clips on YouTube. Enjoy! And I’ll see you in the back alley for some cricket variations after supper!

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