Better Know A Sport

Better Know A Sport: Cricket for Dummies

March Madness is going on in my house right now and it started around mid-February. No, I’m not talking about college basketball (I’m sure there will be plenty of blogging about that in the coming weeks). I am talking about the Cricket World Cup. Like other World Cups, this one happens every four years and, right now, it’s taking place in New Zealand and Australia. Fourteen teams are competing. Next week, it will be down to 8 in the elimination round and, by the end of the month, we should have a champion.

But before we get into the winners, losers, and all those harbored post-colonial sentiments, let’s get to what actually happens on the field. Cricket is certainly not an obscure sport. Millions of people play and follow it, but with the tournament going on, this is a perfect opportunity to gain a better understanding of the game.  Let’s see… there’s a pitch, wickets, and some bowlers, right?

In an effort to get a more rigorous and detailed explanation of the rules and what’s going on, I consulted “Cricket for Dummies” and also partook in the live, theatrical version of Cricket for Dummies — me watching World Cup matches with my dad and pestering him with questions.

A festivus for the rest of us.

Quick Breakdown of the Rules:

So here is a little crash course and, in an effort to better understand things, I like to make the comparison to baseball. After all, there is a ball and a bat involved, right?

Pitch: That’s field the guys are playing on.

Bowlers: “The pitchers” in this game. They are the guys throwing the ball to the batsman. Much like curve balls and fastballs in baseball, there are bowlers known for being spinners and fast bowlers. Yet, unlike baseball, the ball bounces on the ground and is probably going no faster than 70 mph.

Wicket: This is basically an out.  Either a player fielding can directly catch the ball, or catch the ball and hit the stump when the player is, essentially, away from them.

Basic Rules: So, you try to hit the ball and run between the stumps. You’re on the field with another player from your team, so whoever is in the batting position ends up batting. If it is hit hard enough to hit the boundary, the batter is awarded 4 runs. If it goes over the boundary without touching the grounds the batter is awarded 6 runs.

I mean, I could go on, but this guy does a much better job explaining it, with the added bonus of fun background music.

Who plays this and so what?  

Of the fourteen teams competing, most were part of the British Empire. The game is often viewed as a leftover relic of British colonialism but, in many ways, each nation has made cricket the working man’s game instead of one just for the elites. Played in tiny villages and huge stadiums, the game is no longer reserved for just pristine cricket club grounds.

Nowhere is this more evident than in Bangladesh’s scrappy win over England. England, the nation that invented the sport, is eliminated, not even making it out of round-robin play and onto the knockout phase that starts next week. Bangladesh, however, makes it through. They will be joined by seven other teams. England remains without a World Cup title.

And there is always the discussion about “cricket diplomacy.” That no matter how bad tensions arise in the sub-continent, cricket is a game that has the potential to brings folks together, or at least helps them find a common thread.

I doubt that a complicated game that can take 6 hours to play and sometimes requires a math degree to figure out the score is going to gain mainstream success. In fact, over the years the game has had a hard time breaking into countries that were not part of Great Britain’s empire.

But hey, if kids in Compton can get behind it, and people can now watch it on ESPN pay-per-view, there may be hope for cricket to break into larger markets.

Look, I won’t say that I’m an expert. Hardly. I can’t say I’m truly a fan, because after this moment in time, cricket will just go back to being a bridge, a connection to my heritage without having to buy a plane ticket. As I finish up this post, India is playing Zimbabwe. Win or lose, there is something special about watching my dad root for a game and a team from a country he is now so removed from. It is because of that, in this moment, I most certainly have cricket fever.

LATA PANDYA | @LataPandya

Lata Pandya is an award-winning TV and radio journalist. Currently she works as a producer on the Los Angeles-based public television news magazine show SoCal Connected. She freelances with several news organizations in the LA Area. Lata holds an undergraduate degree from University of California, Santa Barbara and a graduate degree from the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. She is known to be notorious about watching sports  while researching public policy stories.

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