It’s Just Not Cricket

Ah yes, I am writing about the game of cricket and not about the insect, though I am equally ignorant of both. While the insect does not interest me in the least, the game of cricket (or, to be completely honest, my husband’s obsession with cricket) has piqued my curiosity. After all these years, I thought it was high time that I learnt a little bit about this game. Sure, I have sat through some games with my crossword puzzle at hand and mindlessly enjoyed “watching” it. What was there not to enjoy? The well-kept green fields, the roar of excitement from the crowd, and the handsome athletes in their white uniforms would occasionally cause me to look up from filling in the squares of my crossword! However, try as he might, my husband’s earnest attempts to explain the intricacies of the game were often met with limited enthusiasm and even less attention.
Image by Prescott Pym [https://www.flickr.com/photos/ppym1/87330394/] (copyright-free)
As per the definition from Wikipedia, “Cricket is a bat and ball game, played between two teams of eleven players each. One team bats, attempting to score runs, while the other bowls and fields the ball, attempting to restrict the scoring and dismiss the batsmen. The objective of the game is for a team to score more runs than its opponent.” It is similar to baseball in that it has [out]fielders, a batter, known as batsman, a pitcher, known as bowler, and a home plate known as stumps. A “Twenty-20” cricket match lasts for approximately four hours, but is not for purists. The traditional cricket test match, with breaks for lunch and tea, typically lasts for five days! And the terminology of the game is bewildering, almost Dickensian. In cricket parlance, a Bouncer and/or Bumper is the way a ball is pitched and sails over the batsman, and Bunny is the cricketer who is selected as a specialist bowler. Then there are the Dibbly-dobbly bowlers (medium pace bowlers), Corridor of uncertainty (I will not go there), Googly (a deceptively bowled ball), Grubber (a ball that does not bounce), Nurdle (something about the batsman nudging the ball), Trundler (a slow bowler who was once quick and probably still thinks he is quick but needs to retire), Shirtfront (no, not at all what you are thinking but a terrible wicket), Wicket (could mean the stumps or the 22 yards between the stumps or the act of hitting the stumps, just take a guess), Yorker and Zooter (the way a ball is delivered) and this is just the tip of the iceberg. You can find more of this mind-boggling terminology here.

As per journalist and author James Astill, the present form of the game materialized in the 16th century among the peasants of south-west England. But as it became more popular in the 17th century, it captured the interest of the British aristocracy who liked to bet on the games and support talented players. A quintessentially English game, it was “…at once popular and elite. It was exclusive yet, as a rare form for gentry and commoners to interact, a source of social cohesion”Note 1 Astill, J. (2013). Chapter One: Mastering the Game. In The Great Tamasha: Cricket, Corruption and The Turbulent Rise Of Modern India (p. 10). New York: Bloomsbury..

Of course, now, cricket is played by millions of people in most of the commonwealth, and former commonwealth, countries from Africa and South Asia to Europe and the Caribbean. But did you know that the first official International cricket game was played in the United States? In 1844 a cricket match between the United States and Canada took place at the St. George’s Cricket Club in Bloomingdale Park, New YorkNote 2 The oldest international contest of them all. (2016, September 28). Retrieved April 16, 2017, from http://www.espncricinfo.com/usa/content/story/141170.html. Simon Worrall, in an article in the Smithsonian Magazine, writes that the first public record of a cricket match in North America was in 1751, when the New York Gazette and the Weekly Post Boy wrote about a match between teams comprised of New York residents. As per Worrall, Philadelphia was, and still remains, “the crucible of North American cricket”Note 3 The History of Cricket in the United States. (2006, October 01). Retrieved April 16, 2017, from http://www.smithsonianmag.com/people-places/the-history-of-cricket-in-the-united-states-132185661/. And, did you know that Pennsylvania’s Haverford College is the only college that still has a varsity cricket team? Furthermore, Haverford’s C.C Morris Cricket Library has the largest collection of cricket literature and memorabilia in the Western Hemisphere. Who knew?
Cricket titles
If you are a cricket aficionado then our own Mercer County Library System has quite a few items to offer. Well-illustrated and written by professional coach Luke Sellers, Cricket: Complete Skills is a little book with a lot of information on how to play the game. The ubiquitous Dummies series offers Cricket for Dummies, the ultimate guide to cricket for a novice or a fan. Typical of this series, the layout is easy for anyone to follow with clearly laid out rules and regulations of the game, various techniques and methods, and plenty of helpful tips on ways to improve one’s game. Written by a cricketer and a former youth coach Julian Knight, it also offers inside stories of great global rivalries and player profiles.

If you do not necessarily want to learn about the game, but are a fan who likes stories where cricket serves as a backdrop, there are plenty of books and DVDs in which the game serves as an analogy or is used as a metaphor. Booker Prize winner Aravind Adiga’s new novel Selection Day, a book that illuminates the existing cricket hierarchy in India, is a story about two brothers in a Mumbai slum who are raised by a tyrannical, cricket-obsessed father to become cricket stars as a way out of the slums. In popular fiction, author Colin Dexter used the game in his Inspector Morse mystery, Deceived by Flight; Elizabeth George in her Inspector Lynley mysteries used the game as a backdrop in Playing for the Ashes and Caroline Graham in her crime novel Midsomer Murders wrote about the Dead Man’s Eleven. All of the above titles are also available on DVD.

Cricket serves as a leitmotif in the movie The Crying Game, where the cricket term googly is used very effectively. Watch the movie and you will see what I mean! Cricket plays a big role in movies such as Wondrous Oblivion, Lagaan, Azhar, and Hattrick. And available on hoopla digital, there is I Know How Many Runs You Scored Last Summer, all about eleven cricketers, razor-fingered cricket gloves, sharpened stumps and a serial killer.
Netherland by Joseph O'Neill

In his pensive, intelligent and ruminative book, Netherland, Joseph O'Neill uses cricket as a metaphor “…it is an immigrant’s imagined community, a game that unites, in a Brooklyn park, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans, Indians, West Indians, and so on, even as the game’s un-Americanness accentuates their singularity. Most poignantly, for one of the characters in the novel, cricket is an American dream, or perhaps a dream of America…”Note 4Wood, J. (2008, May 26). Beyond a Boundary. The New Yorker. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2008/05/26/beyond-a-boundary. Beautifully written, Netherland is a story about a man, Hans van den Broek who has been abandoned by his wife and son. All alone in New York, Hans joins a league of cricketers and consoles himself by indulging in his childhood love of cricket.

James Wood writes in The New Yorker that "Cricket, like every sport, is an activity and the dream of an activity, badged with random ideals, aspirations, and memories. It popularly evokes long English summers, newly mown grass, and the causeless boredom of childhood. Its combat is so temperate that, more explicitly than other sports, it encodes an ethics (as in the reproving British expression 'It’s not cricket')", an expression that means something is wrong, unfair or unjustNote 5Wood, J. (2008, May 26). Beyond a Boundary. The New Yorker. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2008/05/26/beyond-a-boundary.

—Rina B.

Footnotes
Note 1: Astill, J. (2013). Chapter One: Mastering the Game. In The Great Tamasha: Cricket, Corruption and The Turbulent Rise Of Modern India (p. 10). New York: Bloomsbury.

Note 2: The oldest international contest of them all. (2016, September 28). Retrieved April 16, 2017.

Note 3: The History of Cricket in the United States. (2006, October 01). Retrieved April 16, 2017.

Note 4: Wood, J. (2008, May 26). Beyond a Boundary. The New Yorker.

Note 5: Wood, J. (2008, May 26). Beyond a BoundaryThe New Yorker.

Comments

  1. Wonderful blog! Do you have any suggestions for aspiring writers?
    I'm hoping to start my own blog soon but I'm a little lost on everything.
    Would you recommend starting with a free platform like Wordpress or go for a paid option? There are so many choices
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