It has been said that what you know of cricket is inversely proportionate to how much you understand the game. Indeed. It is game that is treated by most enthusiasts as an absorbing ceremonial ritual.
For those who are ‘looking in’ from the outside orbits, cricket is a puzzle. For those who are in and are ‘looking out’, this sport is a wonderful sport that has a dizzying variety of traits and qualities rarely found to be all compressed into one sport!
Not out at first
Along with the sporting abilities that cricket instills in players, it also creates the intangible characteristics of a feel of sportsmanship and fair play, builds personality of players, strategic and tactical thinking, good judgment of the opponent and lastly, a sense of discipline. Another noticeable aspect about cricket is that it is plausibly one of the fastest evolving sports in the world today, consistently modifying to suit the changing international audience. Nonetheless, this evolution has not taken away the ‘fair play’ attitude of this sport. So much so, that if any matter is taken to have an improper bias, the English language adopts the phrase – it’s not cricket! Due to this evolution, cricket has become largely complex in form and structure. The game is played under a set of laws and not rules. The International Cricket Council (ICC) is the global custodian along with the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) of England. So if it is a 20-20 or a 5-day Test match or a new game for starters called Kwik Cricket that is sans all complexities for the joy of a first timer, the rules are then spelt out to suit the form of cricket being played.
Bowled out historically
The earliest circumstantial evidence about this sport points out that it was invented by children in the Saxon or Norman times. There is also speculation that it could be derived from an assumable older game called bowls where the batsman prevents the ball from touching its target by hitting it away. The word cricket, in its earliest reference in 1598 was called ‘creckett’. The name was possibly derived from Middle Dutch – krick (e) meaning stick or Old English - cricc or cryce meaning staff or crutch. Furthermore, as per Heiner Gillmeister, a European language expert, cricket did come from the Middle Dutch – ‘met de (krik ket) sen’ meaning ‘with a stick chase’.
The bat and ball of it all
This sport is played by two teams comprising 11 players on each side. One team bats while the other team fields. It is played on a field with the main playing area called the ‘pitch’. One team bats and tries to score maximum runs possible whilst the second team bowls and fields, trying to prevent the opponent team from making runs and to get them ‘out’. Once, the batting team is all out or their batting has been completed as per the laws, the teams switch. The team that was batting, bowls and fields and the team that was bowling, bats. The team that score the maximum runs wins. To summarize, there are six vital components of this sport – batting, bowling, fielding, wicket keeping and last but not the least, scoring runs. Cricket is a game that can be played by all and anywhere. It is played in the streets, in the park, on the beach, in the local park, etc and loved by all and sundry.
Pitches and teams
There are various forms of cricket that has evolved over time. Some of the well known and established forms of cricket are - Test Cricket, One Day Internationals (ODIs), Twenty20, Indoor Cricket, Inter- Cricket and Kwik Cricket.
Test Cricket: It is the longest form of the sport. It is considered to be the litmus test for playing skills amongst cricketing nations. Test Cricket holds the position of the most prestigious format although the relatively new One Day International and Twenty20 formats are also gaining popularity. The first official Test Cricket was played on 15th March 1877 between England and Australia at the Melbourne Cricket ground, where Australia beat England by 45 runs.
Twenty20: This form of cricket lasts only for a maximum of 20 overs and is played over 3.5 hours. Each innings lasts up to 75 minutes thereby bringing the game in the time span and league of other popular sports. It has been a lively form of game which would be more attractive to spectators. The inaugural World Twenty20 match was played in South African in 2007 where India defeated Pakistan in the finals by a hairline but firm by 5 runs.
ODI: One Day International – This is a form of cricket wherein 50 overs play per side or team between two national teams. The Cricket World Cup is played in this form.
The international one: day game is a product of the 21st generation we live in. The first ODI was played on 5th January, 1971 between Australia and England!
Indoor cricket: This concept is similar to cricket. It involved two batsmen, a bowler and his team of soldiers. The bowler bowls the ball to the batsmen who must then score runs. Highest score wins.
Inter cricket: This form is made for boys and girls who for reasons cannot play hardball cricket. It covers the gap between Kwik Cricket and the traditional hardball game. The game is fun, fast, exciting and does reward skill.
Kwik Cricket: The game is played with a plastic bat and ball. Each team has eight players with at least one being a girl and bats for eight overs.
Cricket O Mania
There is an increasing and palpable growth in cricket. Some claim it is even growing faster than soccer. Afghanistan too has introduced its own team. Netherlands and Ireland have their own teams as does Zimbabwe - a young team. With more Indian Premier League formats, the game is encouraging to youngsters and old alike. Teams like Papua N. Guinea that is doing great, China loves the sport as do several African countries. It is the second most popular sport in Africa. Twenty20 was an experimental format that took off instantly. The cricket mania has spread far and wide.
This sport owes most of its appeal to the fact that it is played not only within the laws but also within the spirit of the game. The tiniest action that disrupts this spirit causes injury to the game itself. The prime responsibility to guarantee the spirit of fair play lies in the hands of the cricketers. It really isn’t the second most popular game in the world with close to 3 billion fans for no reason now, is it?