Wednesday, May 30, 2007

"Don't bother, I'm never going to understand cricket" - Ebren

The winter sports have passed us by. Football season over (everywhere except Spain), rugby season ended. Britons only ever pay attention to tennis for two weeks a year and cycling and athletics barely rate as a blip on the radar.

But there is one sport that is only just coming into its own, it's just that millions of people don't seem to rate it.

Cricket is "boring", you see. "How can you like a game that goes on for five days and is still a draw?" I am asked on a semi-regular basis.

It's a game only played in the commonwealth. By boring Brits. You stop to have lunch, and then a brief break for tea.

Perhaps the ultimate in-joke is that it is a sport that you cannot play in the rain invented by people in England. Other countries would appreciate the irony, if they understood irony.

But it is also a sport that dominates the imagination of huge swathes of the world's population. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh. All have populations bigger than anywhere in Europe. At least twice as big in fact.

It's a sport that is loved in places as culturally and geographically diverse as Australia and Pakistan. New Zealand and the West Indies. Holland and Zimbabwe.

So what's this cricket malarkey all about then?

Put simply, you have eleven men on each side. You score points (called "runs") by hitting a ball thrown at you (bowled) with a wooden bat. The team with the most points (runs) wins.

You get a run if you manage to reach the throwing area before the other team can get the ball to either the hitting zone or the throwing area (the creases). If you have time to make this run (20.12m) more than once then you get two points, and so on. If you hit the ball clean out of the playing area you get six points, if the ball bounces or touches the ground before it leaves the playing area you get four points.

Each of the players gets a go at hitting the ball. They have to leave the hitting zone (are "out") if one of the opposition players catches a ball they have hit before it touches the ground, or if the ball hits the three wooden sticks (stumps and bails individually, "the wicket" collectively) behind them.

To stop people being able to play all day by just standing in front of the wooden sticks and so stopping the other team hitting them, there is a rule that if you block a ball that looked like it was going to hit the wooden sticks with your leg then you have to stop as well (leg before wicket - known as LBW).

So that is how you score and how you get out (run out, if the ball reaches the hitting zone before you do. Caught out. Bowled - when the opposition hit your stumps. And LBW).

There are a couple of other things worth mentioning. You always have two batters playing at once. One standing where the ball is thrown from, and one waiting to hit the ball. That way if an odd number of points (runs) is scored, you do not have to wait for the batter to get back to the hitting zone (crease) to start again.

The second batter runs at the same time as the first, and can be knocked out if the ball reaches the crease (either the throwing end or hitting zone) before they do, just like with the person who hit the ball.

After six throws you switch which crease you throw from (they are both set up the same), and you can only throw the ball with a straight arm.

Because your arm has to be straight, the people throwing often (mainly, in fact) bounce the ball into the ground to confuse the batter. While this slows it down, it introduces an degree of uncertainty in the batter as the ball is not entirely round and has a fatter, rougher strip round the middle (the seam).

There are three main types of thrower (bowler), seam bowlers (who use the seam of the ball to introduce uncertainty), swing bowlers (who make the ball move in the air - normally by polishing one side of it), and spin bowlers (who throw the ball slower, but spin it so it darts off the pitch to the left or right).

Each team either gets one or two goes at scoring as many points (runs) as they can before they run out of time or are all "out", then the other team tries to beat that score. If they score exactly the same or run out of time before everyone is out it's a draw. To speed things up, some games are played over a limited number of balls (120 or 300 normally), so it's just who scores the most in that time (unless everyone on one team is out, then your turn is over). In this version there are strict rules on where the ball is thrown to stop teams cheating by simply not throwing the ball where it can be hit (called a "wide").

And that's cricket.

This is the game you see on beaches in the Caribbean, that is Christian Vieri's first love (and probably Dwight Yorke's, not to mention Phil Neville, no - please don't) .

Simple. One man throws, one hits. Biggest score wins. But limitlessly varied.

Subtle and brutal. Civilised and savage. A game I, and hundreds of millions of others love.

Get on board and enjoy the ride.

And if that doesn't convince you - games last anywhere up to five days, you can drink in the stands, and there are convenient breaks for food.


Ebren said...

Apologies right away if this sounds patronising or has belittled the game you love.

There had been some comments from some of our American (south and north) and French friends that they didn't get cricket - so (having had a reasnoble track record at converting our office yanks to the game) I thought I'd pen this.

Zeph said...

You forgot to mention that the ball is very very hard and hurts a lot if you get hit with it. And that a ball bowled by a good fast bowler can travel at 90 miles an hour. The game progresses slowly but individual critical moments can happen quickly and unexpectedly.

We need MotM on this, he's very good at explaining it, but - cricket has a unique way of testing both the team and the individual player.

Oh, look, it's just really good, OK?

bluedaddy said...

And nobody's out unless you ask the referee (umpire), usually by shouting Owzat or Owisee, and he agrees.

And if any of you are still stumped, ask about being stumped.

DoctorShoot said...

....yes ebren...put sweetly in terms of the normal human...

For six you have well and truly Loyed the old description:

"You have two sides, one out in the field and one in.
Each man that's in the side that's in, goes out, and when he's out, he comes in and the next man goes in until he's out.
When they are all out the side that's out comes in and the side that's been in goes out and tries to get those coming in out.
Sometimes you get men still in and not out.
When both sides have been in and out including the not-outs, that's the end of the game...." per

and Mancadded the:
"22 players are playing and 22 million fools are watching it(I am one of the fools in the 2 million LOL)" per:

I for one and with you not out on the grass after jugging freely from the bar on day three and sleeping through day four in the hope that rain stays away on day five and... it's a draw!!

greengrass said...

Ebren -
Let's keep it to ourselves!

Replace the article with Doc's "in and out" explanation and let the rest of the thread remain...

DoctorShoot said...

that might become
a case of "who's on first..?"

DoctorShoot said...

everyone knows it of course, but just in case:

out of the all-time top drawer....

guitougoal said...

I was at a cricket game once, in Hong Kong-
All i can say borrowing your telltale phrase:'Don't bother, I'm never going to understand cricket"-

file said...

funny and strangely useful tips, thanks Ebren

anyone who still doubts the impeccable pedigree of 'baseball on valium' might be surprised...

MotM said...

Excellent stuff from Lord Ebren, and I shall use it (GU-style, ie without attribution) for those as yet uninducted into the greatest of games.

As the teeming billions know, cricket isn't really played on the field at all, but in those spaces of the brain inhabited by hopes, fears, confidence and doubt. The two best books I have read on that element of the game are very different: Mike Brearley's "The Art of Captaincy" and Mike Marquesee's "Anyone but England". They say more about living than about cricket - but then, as this quote from an unknown writer claims, "Life is simply a cricket match, with temptation as the bowler".

Finally, readers unfamiliar with the game may be surprised to find that perfectly reasonable people will describe their version of heaven as: 2.00pm Lord's mid-June, a cold filled glass in one hand, three sandwiches eaten, three still wrapped for later, friends (long-standing and made just three hours earlier) in the seats around you, a soft murmur suffuses the ground. In the middle, KP is pulling up his shirt collar at the non-striker's end and Geoffrey Boycott is taking strike, their shadows standing out against the manicured surface. Glenn McGrath is chuntering to himself as he walks back to his mark - Shane Warne is flexing his fingers readying himself for the next over. Remarkably, Viv Richards is listed as next man in for England with VVS Laxman to follow. The scoreboard reads 1st Innings Australia 176, England 236-2, Boycott 66, Pietersen 121. Tilting your panama back just a little, you pause bantering for a moment as McGrath is now running in.

levremance said...

Mouth - that scorecard could only exist in a parallel universe, a very strange one too. I'd still be backing Australia to win though.

Thanks Ebren you took me back to my earliest memories of backyard cricket.

zeph said...

Oh, Mouth... not Boycott, please...

nesta said...

Cricket. I love it. Can it be explained. I'm not sure. Cricket is so much more than the actions of bowlers, batters and fielders.

Context is involved. And philosophy. The game is played on the field but also off it and as MOTM mentioned mostly by the illusions that inhabit the spaces between the ears.

It can be enjoyed by kids as soon as they are old enough to hold a bat or toss a ball and by old men who walk singles when there are threes (The Australian over 70's team embarks on its tour of India this week).

To the uninitiated it has an impenetrable jargon and I respect your attempts to educate the masses Eb.

The captain is all important and many a game can be won or lost by this man alone.

I could go on and on and on like Bradman in 1930 or SWaugh in 1989 but for now I will cease.

I think the best way to understand the game is to get a friend to throw you a ball and try and hit the bloody thing. Do that enough and if you have plenty of friends you'll pick it up in no time.

You can play in the street or at the park, in the hallway or on the Playstation. As they love to shout from the stands in Sydney 'Go on. Hava a go ya mug'.

levremance said...

One of my best ever innings was played in a hallway Nesta. A superb unbeaten century as I recall.

Pool cricket is another favourite variant of mine. For the uninitiated the bowler pitches the ball off the surface of a backyard swimming pool to the batsman standing at the the far end.

The wave action makes for some fearsome rising deliveries which are ideal for developing reflexes and a sound back foot technique.

Not so good for cover drives though.

andrewm said...

If you catch someone and you don't immediately throw the ball miles into the air, they're not out.

Also, BD where I played as a lad it was acceptable - indeed, almost mandatory - to shout "Aaaaaaargh!!!!!!" when you thought someone was out, ideally while running towards your teammates and looking at the umpire as if he'd be mad not to give it.

Great days, great days. I still remember a friend of my older brother helping me to overcome my fear of pace bowling by hurling terrifying deliveries at me all afternoon. It was pouring with rain on that day - you see, some of us can play in all conditions.

MotM said...

Zeph - rarely in sport these days, people of all shapes and sizes, all kinds of attitudes and approaches and regardless of social class, can find a home in the game. McGrath to Boycott might not move the scoreboard on, but what a battle that would be! KP and Warne at the other end would provide the light to go with that shade.

To see Geoffrey make 89 not out from a first day score of 278 - 5 against the great Oz attack of 06 - 07 would have been bliss.

MotM said...

I played in a small back garden with a piece of wood shaped as a bat, a tennis ball and a bin for stumps. 33 years on, my own kids are visiting my mother for half-term and are doing exactly the same thing in the same garden.

Zeph said...

For the benefit of Guitou and other francophones, we should add that there is a game called 'French cricket', which is a simple and non-dangerous form for beginners.

Well, possibly dangerous to windows.

greengrass said...

For the uninitiated:

Q: What is a "googly"?

A: Well...

greeengrass said...

For the benefit of Guitou and other francophones, we should add that there something called 'French letters', simple and non-dangerous for beginners.

Well, possibly dangerous to widows.

pipita said...

Thanks Ebren
As much as I prefer British sporting culture to US sporting culture, if you put me against the sword and the wall as we say here, must confess I prefer beisball......There is actually a Cricket league in Buenos Aires. I think average attendance is 44 , and you can only read the scores in local newspaper The Buenos Aires Herald

bluedaddy said...

Mouth, Boycs would have already run KP out before the young whippersnapper had passed his own score.

Our pitch was the drive down the side of our house, with a mattress up against the garage door. Boundaries could only be definitively scored by straight driving past the bowler, across the road and hitting the walls of the houses opposite (anything cut, pulled, hooked or swept - are you getting all this guitou? - had to be discussed with the bowler as the ball had actually hit the fence or house 3 ft from the bat). Even now the only stroke I am competent at is the drive.

This is definitely making me want to find a team of duffers to join. Mrs BD will not be happy about this development.

PS. Anyone know why 'French' cricket, as opposed to Norwegian or Bolivian etc?

zeph said...

BD: "It seems likely, as the game is a lesser version of regular cricket, that the name is intended to mock both the game and the French." Wikipedia.

Though I suspect that all the cricket stuff on Wikipedia was written by Mouth, Ebren and Leeroycal anyway.

Ebren said...

I always assumed French cricket was called that because you used a tennis racket and ball. And tennis is French.

And I believe a googly is something to used to improve the search engine optimisation of your site.

guitougoal said...

-Jeu de Paume- is the origin of tennis in France. in the 16th century they used the hands palm (fr:paume) to hit the ball above the net-
There is the Hotel du Jeu de Paume in Paris nice boutique hotel on l'ile st louis where it used to be a play ground.
"The 50 Greatest love letters of all Time" by David H. Lowenherz-Passionate prose,painful separation, crazy love, everything,- Frida Kahlo to Diego Rivera, Anais Nin to Henry Miller, Lewis caroll to Clara Cunnynghame , Napoleon to Josephine etc...-
never tell a Brit. you prefer baseball to cricket, he'll tell you to go f'Ack yourself with a cup of tea in his hand.

guitougoal said...

and a smileon his face,

ericverschoor said...

Nice read ebren. It reminded me of the time my house mates in London (ozzies and Kiwis mostly) called me "What If".
I would bombard them with questions about the game whilst they sat hours infront of C4 and SKY watching games.
In my experience, there is a big difference between a football and a cricket fan when they find themselves sitting beside someone who knows little (or squat) about the game. Football fans usually give you a bad eye (I always did with girlfriends, mother, World Cup swallows, etc). A cricket fan usually is enthused about explaining all the variables and complexities of their game. I would love to know if this is usualy this way.
Having a knockabout is very helpful too. I was thown into the deep end when asked to take part in a Sunday league game, just to fill in the numbers. It was absolutely fantastic.
Great memories of games in Gladston(ed) Park, London, Dollis Hill where we played in the tennis courts (3, one beside the other, no nets, net pillars used as stumps).
Regarding the jargon...glad to see ebren didnt attempt to list the approx. 43256 meanings of "wicket". the biggest difference is what goes in a players mind. A pitcher has 3 or 4 balls to set up the batsman. In cricket, sometimes a bowler is working on a batsman for several overs (6 balls each). As others pointed out, much of the sport tkes place in the mind.
Fantastic sport.

pipita said...

I know, I know....but Ive lived for so many years in that country that it just amazes me that I never managed to develop the slightest level of empathy with that game, and that on the other hand once, just that once in 1986 to be precise, I found myself in the States actually hooked with a World Series beisball game.
Please dont make me explain the motives why I prefer beisball to cricket, I dont think I could...My cricket experiences are much less "romantic" than yours, they were only at school level and I detested evey single moment of them

Zeph said...

Pipita, I sympathise - I will never be able to understand or enjoy any aspect of hockey, which for me will always mean standing about in mud turning gradually mauve.

mimi said...

I will return and abuse ebren at a later point. The lower eyelid is twitching and I feel the need to release the killer fish.

pipita said...

Which hockey would that be?? Ice hockey, grass hockey, or Hockey on roller-skates?? latter very popular in Spain and north-west Argentina

guitougoal said...

hockey on ice is not o.k on

bluedaddy said...

That's it exactly Zeph.

While I may try my hardest to think of rugby being about a Phil Bennett sidestep or Gareth Edwards flying through the air into touch for the Barbarians, it's always gonna be about some big boned bastard knocking me over with a hand off aged nine (or thereabouts) in the only rugby PE lesson we ever had. It was freezing, raining, and from that precise moment rugby sucked for all time.

Hockey, on the other hand, rules. I used to play at school and took to it immediately. I went to extra training, playing indoors with Lancashire players and got a hat trick. Then the temporary teacher who had introduced hockey (most people hated it) moved on and that was that.

pipita said...

Apologies, didnt see the mud reference. However think its a bit more exciting than cricket, just a bit

zeph said...

Pipita, it was school hockey, ie on grass. The one where the sleet falls, the mud spreads, the teacher is wearing a tracksuit and two sweaters and you aren't, your socks fall down and the teacher's pet whizzes past you and hacks your shins with impunity - stop, stop, it's all too painful, talk to me about cricket somebody...

BD, you played hockey indoors?? Well. I rest my case.

DoctorShoot said...

the comfort is that cricket is defined by crazy terms, rules, and myths, including:
"no balls"
"short fine leg"
"caught out in slips"
"the penetrometer scandal (keys in the wicket)"
"gone middle stump"
"six and out"
"bat for ball"
"running fifteen whilst the fielder foxes the ball from a rabbit burrow"
"snake emerges from stump hole"
and the classic of all time
"the bowler's holding the batsman's willie"
now what other sport apart from curling and horseshoes can hope to equal that?

nesta said...

The Argentinian national cricket squad is currently in Darwin. Playing in a tournament to try and qualify for the 2011 World Cup. The names within the squad show how love has no cultural boundaries. Estaban McDermott is the captain and other great names include Carlos Ryan, Diego McEwan, Alejandro and Pablo Ferguson and Alastair and Martin Paterlini.

Argentina have qualified for the final against Uganda after spanking the Cayman Islands by 5 wkts with 15 overs to spare in the semi-final yesterday. Both finalists go onto the next phase in Namibia in November.

Argentina topped their group after the first round with wins against Papua New Guinea and Fiji. Their only defeat was by 1 wkt against Italy in a last ball thriller.

Uganda are currently undefeated in the tournament but all my mates are supporting the Argentinians and we will be watching the match tomorrow afternoon while we have a barbie and a few cold ones.

We have no idea what to yell when a wicket is taken or a boundary hit so we will stick with what we yelling at the TV last match.

C'Mon the Bargies. (That's short for bloody Argies)

bluedaddy said...

Zeph, indoors just that one time honest.

The rest of the time it was on the 'all weather' pitch ie whatever the weather you could be sure that any skin-to-ground contact would mean you'd be picking gravel from the bloody mess that was your knee/elbow/face for the rest of the day.

MotM said...

Nesta - I hope that first para of yours will be the seed of a longer piece.

Great to hear of it all.

pipita said...

Amazing Nesta!!!!!!Off course, thanks to your info, I must be one of the few argies who has any knowledge of the current success of the Argentine national cricket team. Probably their remains a 96 per cent of the popoulation that remains ignorant about this fact. Their's these mates of mine who are members of a mainly rugby and tennis English club called Belgrano Athletic here, where Bowl├▒s and cricket are played in the summer. So my estimation of crowd attendances for this sport here is actually based on my witnessing cricket matches every now and then in that club. All the best to the bargies then

ericverschoor said...

Thanks for the tip. No news about that here (I dont get the BA Herald).
I have checked the cricketargentina web page. They have posted some emails sent by the staff in Darwin. A nice read.
I have also checked the ICC page to get a notion of how far they are from the 2011 WC. If someone thought cricket rules are complicated...dont even think about understanding the WC qualification system...Its unbelievably labyrinthian. They are not too far though. They have 2 chances to make it to the last qualifying tournament now.

As for what to shout when a wicket is taken...Id say "Vamos CARAJO!" is applicable. "Vamos" means "c´mon". "Carajo" I believe is untranslatable. Maybe pipita or marcela can help with this.
LBW appeal...I would go for "Que taaaaaal?". Literaly "Howzaaat?", and it sounds OK too.

November its Division 2 in Namibia.

I have spotted a guy in the squad (Donald Forrester), with whom I played in my School´s Rugby 1st XV. He is 2 or 3 years older than myself, though. Has talent for all sports. He even represented Argentina in rollerblade hockey (?) cometitions. His father has several rugby records down here.

ericverschoor said...

pipita...96 percent...uo are a generous person. Id say 99.5 ingnorance.

Didnt see your comment until I posted mine. You will know the Forresters then. B.A.C. legends, I understand.

ericverschoor said...

Sorry Donald Forrester is 4 years older than me. I didnt play with him at school. I did in the Old Boys club.

pipita said...


"Common bollocks" would be literal translation for "vamos carajo" but it doesen't sound half as good, I think latter sounds better even with the brit accent. No, Im afraid I have no clue about the Forrester's, just a surname that rings a bell from those anglo-argie sporting environements. My friends at the BAC are not at all involved in any of the social or sporting activities of that place. We just meet to have a meal on weekends in the sun and the very nice surroundings of that club

Nesta Quin said...

More for the BARGIES.

You guys should be proud ao your team. They were complete underdogs in this tournament and they weren't expected to win a match.

THat they won their group and then beat the Favourites easily in the semi was sensational.

Tomorrow night Australia play Uruguay (football) in Sydney and I was hoping that the Argentinian pseuds could cast a few curses (salt crosses etc) at those dastardly Urugayans.

Australia v Uruguay has developed into quite a rivalry in the last decade especially after we prevented them from attending the last World Cup.

And Tim Cahill is playing despite the begging from the Everton management. Country before club. THat's the Aussie way!

Que taaaaaal !!!

MotM said...

Here's more on the Bargie Army

I don't like the sound of Tim Cahill up against Uruguyan "defenders" in a grudge match.

Club before country - that's the Evertonian way!!

pipita said...

Argentines are usually quite sympathetic towards Uruguayans in spite of recent political tensions. Not the other way around though, uruguayans tend to despise argies especially when they invade their country during summer time. We call tham either "botijas" or the more simplistic but also more familiar "yoruguas". So you can use any of these two terms and add the words "de Mierda" at tommorrow's game
Couldnt find any mention to the Bargies on that cricket page

nesta said...


If I may give myself a plug I'll be writing an article on the Bargies at the place that pays next Tuesday. I'll email you with a link when it is up. Thanks for the language lesson I wonder if the Uruguayn fans will know what I'm talking about when I yell them in my broad Australian accent. I hpoe it surprises them.
My salty tip
Australia 2-0

pipita said...

Fantastic, please let me know as soon as your article appears. Good luck at tommorrows game, as much as I like Uruguay I dont really care much about their football fortunes. Plus Im an Everton fan...

MotM said...

Pipita - strange. It worked for me.

The good news is that Nesta will be favouring us with a piece, so I shan't post the salient info.

mimi said...

it'a late. I've only just found this and will have to come back to it tomorrow, but great stuff Lord Ebren. BTW Zeph: I think the great fast bowlers go at more that 90 mph. And that sure would hurt.

file said...



There are 33 designs now and all at:

Please leave your vote for the final design in the comments under the t-shirt you like. The votes will be counted on June 10 ’07.

offsideintahiti said...

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