Cricket Explained For President Bush
Said the Telegraph, a right-leaning UK newspaper, rather snobbily of this proposed pastime:
[...] Indian journalist who asked him in Washington which he would prefer to watch: a Bollywood movie or a game of cricket.
Apparently foxed by the meaning of Bollywood [ed.- And how would they know that?], he replied: "I'm a cricket match person," to laughter from his aides. "As I understand it, I may have a little chance to learn something about cricket," the former owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team said. "It's a great pastime."
He may have gotten some knowledge of cricket during his years at Phillips-Andover since I believe I once read the school offered it as part of their sporting programme, back then.
Many years ago, I wrote a post on cricket on a forum, as explained to a bunch of American acquaintances who were curious about this most English of England's many games.
So in the spirit of this sporting Entente Cordiale, and on the off-off-chance President Bush or his aides read this post by tomorrow, I offer my explanation of cricket below.
Come on now, Mr. Prez! It's not that difficult. Not for a baseball man like you are.
(P.S.: Why'd you sell Sammy Sosa?? Loser!)
CRICKET EXPLAINED TO NORTH AMERICANS
Cricket is a bat-ball game whose object is to score more runs than the other side.
There are 11 players each per team (called "sides"), during two innings of play played on an oval ground. The object is for the fielding team to get out the batting team before they themselves can come up to bat.
That would be 2 batsmen, if one is out, bring another on in batting order because in cricket one must have 2 batsmen at a time. After 10 men are out, since there cannot be one batsmen alone, that side's innings is over, and it's the other side's turn to bat. When each side has been up twice, the match is over.
Except for the recent invention of "one-day cricket", cricket has no specific length and can go on for DAYS.
(Yes, trust me, it can get involved and people don't lose interest...even during the Ashes, which England usually lose versus Australia, sigh)
The scores are frequently in the HUNDREDS for each side, since the type of run scored as the batsmen run from wicket to wicket before the fieldsmen return the ball to the area (the "pitch") is based on where you hit the ball.
By the way, there are no bases in cricket, since what I just explained covers how you score.
One thing is that if there is no definitive winner, and the score is even as time has run out (depending on what format), a draw -- or tie in American parlance -- can be called.
Yes, draws aren't evil in cricket.
If you are trailing but the last side to bat, and score more runs than the other team, you win automatically (think bottom of the ninth).
Cultural curiosity #1:
Innings is singular.
"He had a good innings". The superlative statement in cricket. Perhaps in life itself.
This means a batsman probably scored a "century" (or 100 runs, imagine that Barry Bonds!) or more.
The game begins with 2 batsmen.
Pay attention to the names, as they differ from American terminology, though in concept they are the same.
2 batsmen from one side side of the pitch come up to bat. There are 2 umpires involved to call the plays.
There is also a "wicketkeeper", usually shortened to WK, similar to a catcher and he is directly behind the wicket (a wooden object in the ground whose 3 vertical pieces are called stumps, and whose 2 crosspieces are called bails).
The batsman is out if "the wicket is taken" or dislodged.
Thus the batsman is also in reality protecting his wicket by his swings, or "strokes", as we say.
Whoever is up to bat is called the "striker" and is known as being "on strike".
The fielders are positioned based on what kind of striker is up, just like in baseball when the outfielders or infielders know if a batter tends to be a pop-out or ground out hitter.
The bat is made of willow and looks like this:
(Last time I wanted to buy a professional bat to bring over for a friend, I was stunned at the price. It was well over £100. How much are baseball bats?)
The ball is red and hard -- much harder than a baseball -- and has a seam around it, allowing for the bowler to grip to spin it to his liking.
Often a bowler rubs the balls (same idea as a pitcher rubbing it to get it pliable) on his white trousers and leaves a red stain near his crotch!
It was the case that only one ball was used the whole day, so you can imagine how wicked the curves can be with the lumps accrued.
Cultural curiosity #2:
For an American, the umpire looks a funny old chap.
He wears what was once described by an ex-boyfriend as a lab coat. "What the freak is Louis Pasteur doing out in left-field?!?".
It just wasn't going to work out.
How do you get a batsman out?
A batsman is out if the bowler (or pitcher, a bowler's "pitch" is called a bowl, ergo the name) hits the stumps with the ball.
That would be the equivalent of hitting a strike, but whereas in baseball you still need to get 2 more strikes to get a batsman out, in cricket that's it, the next batsman in the order replaces him.
Another way is if a batsman is "run out".
This means if he hits the ball, the fielders knock off the bails before a batsman has either a part of his body or his bat in the "safe" territory.
So you see, that's a bit like baseball base-running, run-scoring combined.
Yet another way to get a batsman out is if the ball was on target to hit the stumps but the batsman's leg prevented it (sneak!).
This is known as LBW or "Leg Before Wicket".
And the last way is if a player is "caught and bowled", which is like baseball, if a batsman hit the ball and an opposing player caught the ball without it bouncing on the ground, he is out.
Of course, if you yourself hit the wicket ("hit wicket"), you are out.
Say your cap is blown off your head and falls into the wicket, dislodging the bails...you are out my friend, booyeah!
Oh. Another crucial point.
The batsman is only out if the umpire is appealed to by the fielding team (obviously the opposite side).
The person usually says "(h)owzat?!" (how's that?) and if the umpire determines he is out, he raises one finger in the air to signal it.
If he is appealed to, but stands like a Guardsman at the gates of Buckingham Palace (at least they used to, now they shake their heads, sacrilege!) he's declined to call him out.
I mentioned in an earlier post on how, as a child, I played with a cheap plastic cricket game bought in any store, mine at Hamley's.
They cost less than a quid each.
This plastic dice game is called Howzat and if you're ever in Britain, buy it. Great fun still today on rainy days.
Phew, almost done for now.
On to the runs...
The bowler bowls six balls, which is called an "Over".
Then another bowler gets to bowl 6 more balls immediately after (can't be the same person).
After that 6 ball-over, the first bowler (but doesn't have to be, could be someone else -- this is a game of strategy after all) bowls again.
The Aussies used to do 8-ball overs, but the international community put a stop to that by looking at them cross-eyed.
Now, imagine this as an American baseball fan.
In baseball you have to deal with one pitcher at a time, and say that is Curt Schilling.
Well, that's pretty hard since he's so good.
But fancy if you had to deal with Curt first, then after six balls, you had Randy Johnson to cope with, back to Curt, or whomever the other team sent your way.
(Kinda reminds me of a Gallagher skit I once heard, where the mound has a spring trap and out pops a pitcher, hurls the ball, and down he pops again)
Cultural Curiosity #3:
We also have names for the types of pitches, or bowls.
A "Googly" is like the curve ball in baseball since you throw it down and it spirals confusingly for the batsman to hit.
This can be very embarrassing if he misses, which is great.
Also the ball is not thrown at the batsman (though it can be, and is called a "full toss" and believe it or not, is easy to hit, since you don't have to judge the bounce as well as keep your eye on the ball) but bowled to him by hitting the ground in front of him first.
The difference is that a pitcher can bend his elbow, whereas a bowler keeps it stiff or "round arm". The motion is obviously then that of an arc. He is also allowed to run up to bowl.
Can you imagine 6'10" Randy Johnson FRIKKIN running from centre-field to the mound to throw his pitch?
Well, that's how it is in cricket.
There is no foul territory in cricket, but there is such a thing as a "boundary".
This is the roped area crucial to scoring runs. If your ball flies over that boundary it nets six runs. If it rolls over it, you get 4.
If you hit the ball, you have to exchange places (crossover) with your teammate before the fielders get the ball back.
So, ball is hit far away but not over, you start running to the opposite end, and your partner does the same, you each touch the ground with your bat, and when that is done, you have scored a run.
Cultural Curiosity #4:
If you score no runs in your turn at bat, you are said to be "out for a duck". Very embarrassing, although it did happen to Sir Don Bradman, a cricketting GOD, during his last Ashes.
It depends how fast you both can run before the ball gets back to see how many runs you can score (usually maximum of 4, and that's at a very high level and unusual. 1-2-3 is more common).
As explained, if you or your bat are not in safe territory by the time the ball gets back, you are out!
The 9 fielders (who have names like silly-mid, slips, gully, and are thus apparently begging for a punch by a machoman American) barehand the ball.
Hah! Broken knuckles, take that Jim Edmonds!
Cultural Curiosity #5:
Wicketkeepers wear two gloves.
For some reason this really caught my ex-boyfriend's imagination -- "Awww, doesn't want to ruin his manicure...".
I told you it wasn't going to work out.
Have I forgotten anything?
The tea interval. You heard me.
Grown men in immaculate white gear drinking tea during the break. Any man who is laughing on reading this, doesn't know squat about real he-manness!
Either way, as you can see, cricket is an involved sport, one where stats play a huge role (as in baseball), where batsmen and bowlers get most of the attention (as in baseball), and where to the uninitiated spectator nothing really happens or takes so long to happen that they've dropped off in the meantime.
I'm sure Dubya will be just fine.
UPDATE: Hey, whaddayaknow. I was still up at 2:53 AM EST, listening to the live press conference held by both Presidents Musharraf and Bush.
Suddenly, the American President said:
"Apparently, I will be taking in a game of cricket today. Maybe I'll take the bat, I don't know."
That we gotta see.
LATEST UPDATE: Well, he did it.
He batted first, then tried his hand at bowling (pitching), with specially selected boys and girls from various colleges (high schools) around Karachi.
Reuters reported that he was asked by a journalist if he preferred American baseball or cricket best.
The president tilted his head to answer, and then said laughingly, "I don't have the skills yet."
Adding, that he'll always be a baseball man, but that he likes cricket a lot.
This was obviously what any visiting official would have said, to be polite, to be a diplomat (just like his measured reactions versus the provocations of President Chavez during the Summit of the Americas).
But guess what the lead headline was, in many newspapers online just now?
"Bush says his heart is with baseball"
You can't win.
ADDENDUM: Try this Antigua Sun piece on Bush and cricket on for size.
Antigua, of course, is a venerable cricketting nation. As are other countries, like Trinidad & Tobago, where this article also appeared.
An excerpt, to whet your whistle.
It is true that for American Presidents, as Ronald Reagan said in 1988, “Facts are stupid things”. He also said, about Latin America, “I didn’t get there with any plan for the Americas, or anything. I went down to find out from them and (learn) their views. You’d be surprised. They’re all individual countries.” And the inimitable George W. after being shown a map of Brazil by Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Brasilia, Brazil, 6 Nov. “Wow! Brazil is big.”
What a big surprise George W. has coming to him when he hits Asia and finds out that Pakistan and India are two very big and completely different countries.
I have no idea why Tony Deyal mentioned this in the middle of his "Bush and cricket" piece.
But this is typical of newspaper opinion-pieces, who, though they may be talking about something completely unrelated, like to take their pot-shots whenever they can, no matter how much of a non-sequitur to the actual story at hand, it is.