I love cricket! Absolutely adore it! Why ? Because it is one of the biggest pleasures in life with your trousers on. It is a different game – much more relaxed as the players have time for tea and lunch but also a very intelligent and interesting one which is why it is often criticised for being a sport for lazy people and hypocrites. Absolute rubbish, isn’t it? Anyway, although I wouldn’t like to bore you with the weird rules of this magnificent game (if you already know it). However, just in case you haven’t a clue about the game: there are eleven players on each team and three main aspects of the game are dominating batting, busy bowling and laborious fielding – it is a big ask I tell you. Both sides have to bat and the team which gets the most runs wins the game. I know the sentence probably doesn’t make sense to you so I would explain in a bit more detail but not in my words but in the words of my cricket coach.
“Cricket is a game in which you have two sides, one out on the field, and the other in. Each man in the side that’s in goes out and when he is out, he comes in, and the next man goes out until he is out and then he comes in. When the side that’s in is all out, the side that has been out goes in, and the side that was in goes out and tries to get out the side that goes in. Sometimes you get men still in and not out when thw side that is in is finally out. When both sides have been in and out, including those not out yet no longer in, that is the end of the game.”
Bravo! Doesn’t that help in the understanding of the game ? Of course it doesn’t. You readers probably think I am some sort of a fool. I’ll make it a lot simpler this time, I promise. A cricket team consists of eleven players, or cricketers or simply lazy men as the game’s critics call them. At the start of a game, the decision over which of the two teams will get the right to choose to bat or to bowl and field is made at the flick of a coin. Whichever team bats is said to be “in” and the whole idea is to score runs in the process of defending the wicket while the other team attempts to get each of the team members “out” to get their turn to bat and go “in”. There are many ways bowlers of the bowling team can get the batters of the opposition team out. The batsman guards his wickets as the bowler attempts to hit them to get him out. When the batsman fails to guard his wicket and the ball knocks off the bail and if possible the set of stumps, the Batsman is rendered “bowled out” and obviously he is a dead duck. For a fast bowler, there can’t be a better site than that – the three pale willow sticks or stumps cadaverously shattered on the cinnamon brown cricket strip or pitch.
Nevertheless, there are several other ways that a batsman can be dismissed from the game. The most common way batsmen get out is by getting caught by the fielders of the opposition as he is in the process of hitting the ball in the gaps between them so he can run while they chase the ball like pet dogs. Many batsmen who are chubby and have problems in running often find themselves in a situation when they get run out. This method of dismissal is when the batsman fails to reach the other end of the pitch while running to score runs and the bails are knocked off by a member of the opposing team before he reaches. If a batsman tries to use his pads to deflect a bowl aimed to crash on to his waiting stumps, he can be given out LBW – leg before wicket.
The decision to declare him out or not out can only be made by the Umpire who stands directly in front of the batsman and judges whether the bowl was going to hit the stumps when it made contact with the batman’s leg, sorry, not the leg, his pads. A hit on the leg or thereabout would probably break the poor batman’s let as cricket ball is a very hard object. Unsurprisingly, a cricket umpire has to be as sober as a judge as there are many times when the bowler invariably appeals to him for a LBW decision or a “caught behind” by shouting at his face “HOWWSSSSSAATT” which means something like “How does that look to you Umpire – is he out”. These appeals are normally ignored by the umpires as they more often than not false and fake but are elements which make the game of cricket exciting to watch causing tension in the dressing room of the batting side, generating thrill and hope amongst the bowing side as well as providing sheer entertainment for the crowd and in international matches – for the millions glued to their television screens.
Nonetheless, if the umpire does think that the appeal is genuine and that the bowl would surely have bombarded the stumps had the batsman’s leg not been in the way, he would stick his finger up at the batsman to indicate, “sorry mate, that was going to hit your wickets”. In other words, he was out. Obviously, he wouldn’t stick up his middle finger up at the batsman to count as an offence and having his umpiring fee cancelled but his index finger which is how it has always been through the cricket tradition.
Finally, a very loser like way to get out is “hit wicket” when the batsman accidentally hits his own wickets while playing a shot and I can tell you having done it once myself, it is a horrible feeling. Yet, nothing can be more embarrassing as getting out without scoring any runs for your team – a duck or worse a golden duck when you miserably get out the first ball you face. The 50 yard shameful back to the pavilion feels like a 50 mile marathon being the worst site for a batsman.
Just like there are several ways by which you can be given out, you can score runs as well and lots of them if you are good enough. The cricket field is shape of the oval and the fielders of the bowling team are spread throughout the field where the bowler bowling wants them to. Conversely, a significant factor which has to be taken into account is that there are only nine fielders as there has to be bowler to bowl at the batsmen and a wicket keeper which works a bit like a backstop in rounders.
Because there are only nine fielders and not nine million on a cricket field, there are lots of gaps in the field. Intelligent batsmen unlike myself place the bowl in these gaps, let the fielders chase for the bowl to return to the bowler while they gingerly run up and down the pitch to score runs. However, an easier and more beneficial way to score runs is by hitting the bowl past the boundary line. If a batsmen hits the bowl past the boundary line on the bounce, he scores four runs for his team whereas hitting the bowl over the boundary in flight is signalled by the umpire as the optimum – six runs. However, hitting aerial shots are always risky as there is always a chance of being caught by a fielder if the shot is mistimed. This is what makes six hitting so hard for number 11s like me (the worst and hence the last batsmen to bat for the team).
On the other hand, an opening batsmen who start off the batting for the team would probably be gifted with amazing reflexes and great hand-eye coordination which allows them to do considerable damage to the opposition’s bowling figure. Accomplished batsmen who score hundred runs or over in a match are said to have scored a “century” and I believe that one day I will make one as well which my coach thinks is far too ambitious for me. The reason is that I simply can’t bat.
Fielders are placed at strategic positions (in order to both stop runs and to catch a batsman out if possible) and these positions have distinct names. For example, the long off position is near the boundary, far away from the batsman to his front and right, while silly mid-on represents a position of extreme danger, as the name might suggest, being as it is immediately to a batsman’s left. A square leg says more about where one umpire stands rather than how he is standing, while backward point or deep fine leg says nothing about any mental or physical ability at all. This was just a bad joke so if you didn’t get it then just ignore me.
I had said earlier on if you can probably remember that the team which scores the most runs wins the match. However, there are two distinct ways to say how exactly a team won a game of cricket. A team can either win by x wickets or lose by y number of runs. For instance, if there was a match going on between the flamboyant and the invincible Aussies who surprisingly had lost six of their world class batsmen but still exceeded the score the Indians made by two runs which they usually do, they would be declared winners by two runs and four wickets as they still had four of their batsmen who hadn’t got their turn to bat. This isn’t all that much confusing, is it?
So far I have only talked about the rules of the great game but not of its structure or the duration. The duration of a game of cricket depends on the type of match which will be played. There are two distinct forms of cricket – limited overs cricket and unlimited overs cricket. In limited overs cricket, there are a set number of overs – an over a series of six bowls bowled by a bowler at a time. For example, in a typical one day game, there would be 50 overs which the bowling side would have to bowl but this varies to about 20 overs. This type of cricket is played by most amateur cricket clubs as it is neither time consuming nor too expensive. Professional playing county cricket also play this. However, unlimited overs cricket requires cricketers of higher ability and technique – tough guys who can concentrate on a cricket field for up to five days without being distracted by the wandering birds, the critical spectators or the voluptuous ladies in the crowd if they are lucky.