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Saturday, March 04, 2006

Cricket Explained For President Bush

Seems that the 43rd President of these United States, George W. Bush, will be attending a cricket match during his official visit to Pakistan.

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?

Several ways.

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.

Cool, huh?

(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?

Oh yes!

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.

Eye on the ball, Mr. Prez!

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.

18 Comments:

  • Douglas Adams in Life, the Universe and Everything offers a different explanation for the reason behind cricket and its rules (from the Wiki summary)

    On Slartibartfast's ship, powered by the awe-inspiring Bistromathic drive, Arthur learns the history of Krikkit. Centuries ago, the inhabitants of Krikkit were a quaint, peaceful people. Their planet and sun had been encircled by an immense dust cloud as long as they could remember; since they couldn't see the stars, they had never considered the possibility of life outside their home. When a spaceship screamed through the dust cloud and crash-landed on Krikkit, the Krikkiters were traumatised beyond words. After confirming the existence of a universe outside of their dust cloud, the only course of action, they decided, was to build a fleet with which to destroy the universe beyond their homeworld. They launched a fleet of warships and robots to slaughter every other species; they were defeated after a long and bloody war and the people of Krikkit were sentenced by galactic judge Judiciary Pag to be sealed within a Slo-Time envelope until the rest of the universe died out naturally. (The British sport of cricket, as it turns out, came about as the result of a vague interspecies collective unconscious memory; everyone else in the universe with knowledge of the Krikkit Wars is quite disgusted by how the humans turned it into a sport.)

    As always, your illuminating writing lights the way to better relations across the Atlantic.

    Cheerio.

    (and a top of the line baseball bat will exceed $250)

    By Blogger XWL, at Sat Mar 04, 03:34:00 am GMT-5  

  • Ah, cricket. Very good.

    ZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.....

    (of course, I'm liable to do the same thing at a baseball game, too)

    By Blogger I R A Darth Aggie, at Sat Mar 04, 09:45:00 am GMT-5  

  • Thanks for that wonderful explanation of Cricket Victoria!!!

    Are the Australians the World Champs?

    By Blogger Jose Aguirre, at Sat Mar 04, 11:29:00 am GMT-5  

  • ummm...even after the explanation, my eyes doth glaze over! It's like certain forms of jazz; at some point my brain goes --gleep!-- and everything sounds like Urdu to me!

    I think Dubya got the draft rights to Condi Rice (did he think it was Jim Rice?) when he dealt Sosa, so it all worked out in the end...

    By Blogger Ron, at Sat Mar 04, 12:22:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Amazing post, this. Almost as long as a test match on its own.

    Have copy pasted it for later reference, because, to be honest, I tried reading it twice and just began laughing. I mean, it's well written, understandable, funny, but it's just so... strange. I simply have no words for it.

    I like watching the sport though. It calms me enourmously (maybe that's the doze-off effect as well, but I try!).

    By Anonymous Napfisk, at Sat Mar 04, 01:44:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Everything I know about cricket I learned from "Tommy Tricker and the Stamp Traveller".

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Mar 04, 03:25:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Victoria- your last two posts have been ab fab.

    Everything I know about cricket, I learned by watching Bertie's friends at the Drones Club play with dinner rolls and an ash shovel from the fender.

    Baseball, like Cricket, strikes me as a languid game, and is really as much an exhibition as a sport.

    I always enjoyed listening to the BBC news and hearing them talk about "not outs" and having not a clue what they were talking about.

    Great pictures (Everyone must Samba!) great writing and great topics.

    By Blogger SippicanCottage, at Sat Mar 04, 05:22:00 pm GMT-5  

  • I've been busy as the proverbial bee today, but I will respond by tomorrow!

    But having said that, let me just say, that I have gotten some really nice feedback about this post (and the Samba one, as Sippican so generously mentioned), so I am very, very gratified they were well received. :)

    Thanks guys!

    Anything for you.

    Except my crevice tattoo pics, obviously.

    P.S.: I am off to watch Mrs. Henderson Presents -- the only major Oscar flick I haven't checked out yet. I saw North Country the other day, and was not exactly blown away...

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Sat Mar 04, 07:38:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Good googley-moogly! What a sticky wicket!

    Very interesting. We played a modified version of cricket in my gym classes in the 70s [Wisconsin has a very progressive curriculum.] We had the box, three pins and a wiffle bat and ball. We played inside. The game lasted only one class period and we'd start again next class.

    By Blogger Ruth Anne Adams, at Sat Mar 04, 11:24:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Snip excellent barmy quote.

    As always, your illuminating writing lights the way to better relations across the Atlantic.

    As if it needed work. ;)

    Cheerio.

    Fruit Loops!

    (and a top of the line baseball bat will exceed $250)

    No way. You've got to be kidding me!

    You mean every one of those Louisville Sluggers I see in the dugouts, is over $250 or nearabouts?

    And every time one is sawed off because of a pitch, they lose 250?!

    Wow.

    And they say gridiron is a costly sport for high school and college programmes to maintain.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Tue Mar 07, 04:37:00 am GMT-5  

  • Ah, cricket. Very good.

    ZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.....


    HEY!

    (of course, I'm liable to do the same thing at a baseball game, too)

    Oh that's all right then.

    No, wait, it's not.

    There is SOMETHING very dubious about a person who dislikes baseball and/or cricket.

    I have my eye on you IRA Darth Aggie! ;)

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Tue Mar 07, 04:38:00 am GMT-5  

  • Thanks for that wonderful explanation of Cricket Victoria!!!

    I'm happy to have shared it with you, Jose! :)

    Do you like baseball? Don't laugh if you do.

    I know lots of Cuban-American guys who told me, they don't.

    Are the Australians the World Champs?

    Sure are.

    They have won it 3 times now, and last time in 2003, they CRUSHED India, by over 125 runs.

    They are just too good, but England are getting better.

    We actually won our last Ashes!

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Tue Mar 07, 04:40:00 am GMT-5  

  • ummm...even after the explanation, my eyes doth glaze over! It's like certain forms of jazz; at some point my brain goes --gleep!-- and everything sounds like Urdu to me!

    In your defence, it is A LOT of explanation to digest.

    Like baseball, it's a simple sport, once you understand the rules.

    But the rules are intricate. :)

    I think Dubya got the draft rights to Condi Rice (did he think it was Jim Rice?) when he dealt Sosa, so it all worked out in the end...

    LOL!!

    That's hilarious. I get a visual of Condi grabbing her duffle bag, and heading out with a bang out of the locker room. :)

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Tue Mar 07, 04:42:00 am GMT-5  

  • Amazing post, this. Almost as long as a test match on its own.

    Thank you, Napfisk. :)

    I am so sorry I didn't reply earlier, as I am usually very good about that.

    I got lazy I guess.

    Have copy pasted it for later reference, because, to be honest, I tried reading it twice and just began laughing.

    Ball and stick sports have a way of doing that to one.

    I mean, it's well written, understandable, funny, but it's just so... strange. I simply have no words for it.

    It's very un-American. :)

    It's truly the quintessential English sport, with everything that usually suggests about us: idiosyncratic, not to say eccentric.

    I like watching the sport though. It calms me enourmously (maybe that's the doze-off effect as well, but I try!).

    Well, as long as you watch, on Fox Sport Channel yes? That's fine. :)

    Thanks for posting, Napfisk!

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Tue Mar 07, 04:45:00 am GMT-5  

  • hing I know about cricket I learned from "Tommy Tricker and the Stamp Traveller".

    Thanks for posting the link, Anonymous!

    I didn't see it until now, but I shall click on it, as long as you can promise me my IP won't be stolen by the Russian mob. ;)

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Tue Mar 07, 04:46:00 am GMT-5  

  • Victoria- your last two posts have been ab fab.

    Everything I know about cricket, I learned by watching Bertie's friends at the Drones Club play with dinner rolls and an ash shovel from the fender.

    Baseball, like Cricket, strikes me as a languid game, and is really as much an exhibition as a sport.

    I always enjoyed listening to the BBC news and hearing them talk about "not outs" and having not a clue what they were talking about.

    Great pictures (Everyone must Samba!) great writing and great topics.


    Sippican, you made my day when I read what you wrote.

    Thank you so much for your generous commentary. :)

    And I am surely glad that at least, this time, I didn't harsh your mellow. *g*

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Tue Mar 07, 04:47:00 am GMT-5  

  • Good googley-moogly! What a sticky wicket!

    See above for baby talk post. ;)

    Very interesting. We played a modified version of cricket in my gym classes in the 70s [Wisconsin has a very progressive curriculum.]

    Whoa. No way. That is very impressive, Ruth Anne.

    And yes, progressive, in the very best sense of the word.

    We had the box, three pins and a wiffle bat and ball.

    Ah, once someone told me about wiffle ball, so I think I know what it is. :)

    We played inside. The game lasted only one class period and we'd start again next class.

    What position did you play, or liked to play best of all? :)

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Tue Mar 07, 04:49:00 am GMT-5  

  • We used to play a version of "Keep Away" where two lads would throw a ball from one base to another. The runners would wait for the ball to drop, or get past, and dash to the opposite base. Thus scoring.

    We played on the street, so the bases were usually our own baseball gloves. You had to have the bases far enough away to make it interesting, otherwise the ball was never dropped! LOL

    I learned a bit about cricket reading, then watching, "All Creatures Great And Small". I came away thinking they must use the nastiest humans they could find as bowlers! Poor James had the ball thrown at him!

    I'm guessing 'Sticky Wicket' comes from attempts to cheat?

    By Blogger benning, at Thu Mar 09, 10:55:00 am GMT-5  

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