As an emigrant of a cricket playing country, trapped in heathenous America, I am often asked “Cricket? urgh, that’s like baseball right?”. I am here clear up this idea and to officially bring the gentlemanly sport of cricket to the potential audiences at Wellesley College. It pains me that American audiences labour under the misapprehension that this game is arcane and difficult to understand. Like any great and popular sport, you don’t have to be born into it to be a fan. Cricket is easy to follow and thrilling. There is a reason why millions upon millions of people eagerly follow cricket, even when games can be up to 7 days long: cricket is the ultimate spectator sport.
Cricket is a team sport where the team that scores the most runs and gets the other team out, wins. I admit I see the familiarity to baseball. If comparisons to the most American sport of all is what it takes, then I am happy to start there. There are two forms of the game- test and pyjama. Test cricket takes place over 5 days. An excellent comparison is to your favorite HBO drama: there are running drama, climaxes, intrigues and counter intrigues. Over 5 days the suspense runs high and builds and builds. Test cricket is the original form of cricket. However, cricket fans also love the explosions of say an action movie. For fans of the more spirited “Wham! Bam! Thank you Ma’am!” type of play, there is pyjama or one-day cricket. For those who prefer analyzing strategy and team dynamics, test cricket would be preferable. For baseball fans who prefer seeing home run after home run, one-day cricket will provide the thrills you desire.
Cricket is played on an oval of green grass surrounded by a white picket fence. In the center of the oval is a strip of lighter grass called a “pitch”. At both ends of the pitch are three wooden stakes, impaled in the ground called stumps. Balanced between the stumps are two smaller piece of wood called bails. In front of these stumps is a white painted line called the crease. Two teams of twelve play, taking turns fielding and batting. In test, teams have two innings, while in pyjama, they each have one.
Runs are scored by hitting a ball with a bat and running up and down the pitch. In baseball, the player runs from base to base while in cricket a batsman runs from an end of the pitch to the other. Even though only one batsman hits the balls at any one time, both batsman have to run to their opposite crease. This dynamic actually leads to a certain amount of thrill and strategy in cricket much like in baseball when fielders will try to get someone running to home plate out before the batter reaches first base.If a ball is hit to the ends of the boundary, it is counted as four runs. If a ball is hit beyond the boundary it is counted as six. In these occasions the batsman don’t have to run in order to conserve their energy- almost a reward for hitting the ball so strongly. Getting fifty runs is considered great but hitting one hundred runs or a century is even better. The most runs ever scored was Brian Lara with 400 completed runs and the highest batting average ever is 99.94 from Australian Donald Bradman. The equivalent in baseball would be a batting average of 0.9994, which is unheard of in major league baseball.
The fielder’s job is to get the batsman out and prevent them from scoring runs. This is achieved by standing in positions where the team captain thinks they are most likely to get a catch or prevent runs. Only one of the fielders, the wicket keeper, wears gloves to help catch the ball,unlike in baseball where all of the players in the field wear gloves. The wicket keeper stands behind the wicket.
When a batsman gets out, he or she leaves the field and the next batsman comes up to bat. The batting order usually runs from best batsman to worst. There are specialty bowlers,like pitchers, specialty batsman and the rare all-rounder. Regardless of ability, everyone on the team must bat.
Test cricket play typically starts at 11AM and continues until 6PM, with several breaks. It continues for five days, or less if there is a result sooner. Like any other games there can be wins, loses or draws which are incredibly rare they’ve only happened twice in test cricket history. The score is demonstrated thus: the number of wickers followed by a forward slash followed by the runs scored. A score of 3/75 means that 75 runs were scored and three wickets have fallen, meaning three batsman are out.
There is an incredible amount of strategy in cricket regarding the environment. Because the game is so long, the environment changes the conditions of the pitch and the ball. Once the game starts, no changes can be made to the field.
The pitch might deteriorate and the grass might go but the players must keep playing. This leads to an interesting dynamic in type of fielding, bowlers and the order of batsman. The cricket ball is cork covered in leather, which means it gets scratched up when hitting the ground and the wood of the bat and wickets. This also changed the speed, curve and bounce of the ball when it is bowled. This means different speciality bowlers bowl depending on the timeline of the game. Any miscalculation in any of these factors could lead to a disaster for a team.
Cricket is traditionally a male dominated sport. The international women’s league only played 71 matches in 2015 as opposed to hundreds of matches played by men. Wellesley College itself does not have a cricket team but Harvard has a club men’s cricket team founded in 2012 and plays against other club teams in the Ivy League including MIT’s club, founded in 2008. For those interested, games are often streamed on ESPN’s cricket website cricinfo.com.