Blogs > Cliopatria > That's Cricket

Sep 7, 2004 9:39 pm

That's Cricket

Cricket is that beloved game that cements the colony to the empire. It has its murky origin in English pastures but, at least, since 1709, we have documented games of cricket being played. In the beginning, the rules were quite flexible. Some people showed up with huge bats, some bowled all day long. To put matters to a rest, and to ensure gentlemanly behavior, the Marylebone Cricket Club was founded in 1787. The club acquired a ground for play (Lord's) and the next year, in 1788, laid down the laws governing cricket. This was an attempt to unify and codify the various rules developed in playgrounds and masonic lodges all across England. Here, you can read some earlier versions. Four ball overs, eh?

The first change in cricket arrived just as it left the island for the colony. In 1861, a team from Surrey decided to visit the Australian colony. They were surprised to find cricket not only flourshing there but attracting a fair crowd. The Australian team (tagged the World) beat the English. This caused much consternation. English crickers decided to take concrete measures. The rules of the game must be streamlined. Perhaps they were at fault. So in 1876, England went to play the first official Test Match at Melbourne with new rules. The result was another loss. However, this test match did cement the laws of cricket. What it failed to do was teach the colonies some respect.

The colonial challenge to English cricketers continued in India. Oriental Cricket Club was established in Bombay by Parsees in 1848. By 1860s, Bombay natives (Hindu, Muslim all) were playing cricket around the Colonial gymkhana grounds. While the teams were segregated, the English cricketers took great umbrage at having to see the natives pretend-play. Starting in 1877, the natives gathered the competence to play against the Bombay Gymkhana. They didn't win their first match against the Europeans until 1878. The superhit movie Lagaan takes its inspiration for a native team beating the English not from this match but from a 1906 match in which Palwankar Baloo, an Untouchable from Poona, rose to prominence as a great bowler and defeated the English. As an aside, the resonance and popularity enjoyed by Lagaan among the South Asian diaspora shows that it hit some postcolonial nerve somewhere.

Cricket opened up to India, the Carribean, and South Africa by the early 1940s. But, it's next change came again from Australia. A form of cricket that could be played in one day (yes, the whole day) as opposed to five days developed in the 60s in England but it was the Australians who revolutionized the game. In 1977, Kerry Packer introduced a white ball, colored uniforms, shorter game-rules and captured the media market. The rest of the cricketing world had to take note of this"exciting brand". Most of the innovations were adopted to become the World Cup Cricket.

Which brings us to this latest great change facing Cricket. America. They don't seem to have the attention span of the rest of the known universe. So while everyone from Malaysia to Canada can play the ODI in the version that it stands, the Americans cannot be bothered. Hence, there is talk of a shorter version of test cricket. But the bigger lure for the Americans is an even shorter version of the ODI called Twenty20 [with cheerleaders and names like Tigers, Foxes and Dragons]. Greg Chappell wants to give cricket" a face-lift, or at least a dash of botox, to give it some freshness." Which means, shorter run-ups, funkier field placements and, maybe, more cheerleaders. W.G. Grace is spinning in his grave.

It will be interesting to see how Cricket survives this challenge.
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More Comments:

Chris King - 11/24/2009

Where can I find next seasons cricket shirts?

SANTHANAGOPAL s sanjai - 5/18/2006

Check out this introduction article on Cricket:
1.Cricketing nations
2.The game
4.Money spinning game

Ralph E. Luker - 9/11/2004

Nice reminder that you called me "a slackjawed lackwit." No apology, either. Congratulations. Anyway, I manage to absorb the generic "Republicans are," "Methodists are," "Southerners are," "Americans are," "Men are," "White people are," far more readily than I manage to absorb the "Ralph Luker is." I wonder why that would be. And I do wonder that anyone thinks 280,000,000 Amurikuns need spirited defense from a negative generalization. This one, at least, has a short attention span when it comes to spectator sports.

Derek Charles Catsam - 9/11/2004

Interesting that with the big international tournament in which America is partaking (it could be ugly for the Yanks, folks) all of the coverage I have seen has been positive and hopeful that this will mark a big inraoads in the States. My guess, like Manan's and Julie's, is that such talk is overly optimistic.
Ralph -- negative generalizations either are or are not ok. It doesn't matter if the group being generalized 'can take it.' By this time blacks 'can take' the 'N' word or Jews can handle being accused of wanting to run the world or Southerners can take being called slackjawed lackwits. One's ability to handle a smear does not suddenly make the smear acceptable. (I was referring to 280,000,000 Americans, a sizeable lump of whom are sports fans, but in any case the slander, I mean libel, was about Americans and not merely sports fans.)
cheers --

Julie A Hofmann - 9/9/2004

Derek -- no offense was meant. I inferred your reaction from what you wrote -- you seemed disproportionately offended and I perhaps incorrectly inferred that you thought Mana's comments were a slap in the face of Americans and their national pastimes. My own point is that the perception of American audiences having short attention spans is not limited to the ICC or World Cricket -- I heard and read many such arguments before the 1994 World Cup. I also think we're talking about different animals -- my family and friends have no problem parking in front of the tube to watch football all day, but the huge number of breaks makes it easy to do other things as well. Going to a football game can be an all-day event, but that's part of the plan -- time is set aside for it. The last couple of times I've been to major sporting events in the US (a couple of Mariners games and the Chelsea-Celtic tour game, I really was struck by the fact that people get up and wander around. This is also true in movie theaters -- I'm old enough that I remember a time when people SAT THROUGH THE FILM (not to mention the cartoons beforehand and the trailers). Now, that's certainly not the case. It may also be something that, sadly, is happening outside the US.

Still, I would say that, fair or not, non-US people have a perception of us as being unable to pay attention for long periods of time, whether it's sports or listening to boring old briefings on possible terrorist activity.

Ralph E. Luker - 9/9/2004

As someone who has almost no interest in any sports whatsoever (I like the occasional lazy-man's volleyball, not serious play), it does seem odd somehow that it would occur to anyone to think that 280,000,000 sportsfans (that was the figure cited, wasn't it?) would need someone to leap to their defense. Are we _that_ threatened that it has come to this? As for this 1 of the 280,000,000, I tend to work up my lather over endnotes.

Derek Charles Catsam - 9/9/2004

Julie --
Perhaps you ought not to try to divine from comments that I am or am not getting worked up about something. I am simply counteracting someone I think is wrong and is doing so in a way that daftly generalizes about a whole lot of folks, me included. As for "all the other things going on," it strikes me as an odd criticism since in my own blog, Rebunk, right here on HNN, I have been writing rather extensively about terrorism, as well as other things, and yet "with all the other things going on" you have chosen to expend your energies worrying about how worked up I am getting. Strange.
No one is addressing my point about the myth of the ubiquitous fast bowler, in any case.

Richard Henry Morgan - 9/9/2004

My info is decades old (that's how long it's been since I've played -- you know, back when giants walked the earth, and batting helmets and facemasks were just some pervert's dream), but as Manan says, the speed of concrete pitches has its downside -- there's little grip for spin bowlers. I imagine it's possible to get an artificial surface that does allow for grip, though, and would be easier and cheaper to maintain than a regular pitch, and more consistent too.

BTW, if you or Manan are ever in the Big Apple and get a cricket Jones, you can usually find a pickup game in Van Cortland Park on weekends.

Julie A Hofmann - 9/9/2004

Don't artificial pitches take away some of the advantages of having good spin bowlers? I haven't asked my husband or father-in-law what they think of artificial pitches, but I doubt they'd like them. My father-in-law was head groundskeeper at Lords' at one time, and is a bit picky about pitches, whatever the sport ;-)

Manan Ahmed - 9/8/2004

That reminds me of my first match on a concrete pitch. We have good pitches in Lahore so, I had never played on artificial pitch. The team was one we had played against and I knew the bowlers. Except I couldn't get my timing right and everything got nicked behind. I scored a respectable 23 but I don't remember getting anything like a drive.
The next time, I had it figured out that while the speed off the pitch was amazing, the bounce and turn off the was not. It pitched and came where it should. Boy, that was fun.

Derek Charles Catsam - 9/8/2004

First off, the ICC's views on American sports fans and our attentions spans hardly seems authoritative to me, so why you would cite them as an authority on them is beyond me. Your argument appears to be that a governing body whose sport cannot get into the US in any meaningful way nonetheless has great insights as to our tendencies as fans. Peculiar use of evidence.
Second, your argument about football taking all day does not speak to the hiundreds of thousands actually at games on NFL and NCAA weekends. Cricket matches on tv manage to get commercials in too, so i guess it is not merely Madison Avenue at fault on this front.
Third, yes, Americans will not watch all day sporting events. Oh, wait. I guess I was a bit blinded by the heat when I attended what appeared to be all-day sellouts at the US Olympic Trials for track and field in 1996, or when I have attended other all-day sports festivals, such as a little thing I like to call "The Olympics." Or, say, the all-day, all weekend NCAA hoops tournament that gets such scant and overlooked coverage. Yes, I know, different games over the day and days. Still, the attention span of we addled American fans manages to keep pace.
Fourth, oh, yes, the myth of the profligate 104 mph fast bowler. The myth that he represents some norm. Except that the average bowl in the India-England matches this past week was a slightly more pedestrian 60 mph. There are more guys in the American League East throwing 95 miles per hour or above than there are fast bowlers doing the same, AND the speed of a bowl is accounted for at impact with the ground, not when it crosses the batsman. Sorry. Nice try. Wrong, though, and I'll assume these ommissions were not intentional, but just oddly forgotten.
In any case, I am looking forward to watching three straight games of football every Sunday, even if the good folks at ICC claim that to be an ADD-driven impossibility here in our pitiable little country.

Richard Henry Morgan - 9/8/2004

The cricket ball can also be made to do tricks in the air, not just off the pitch. After the ball has been roughed up a bit, but can still be shined up on one hemisphere (the telltale pink splotch on the bowler's thigh), it can do a nasty curve either way. And you had better be awake when playing slip -- a mere tip of the bat and the ball is coming at your face at 80mph and you're just maybe 10 or 15 yards away. It takes a certain amount of balls to stand in there against either a good pace bowler or a fast pitcher. I remember playing against Shore High (I think) on a concrete pitch, with a rubberized cricket ball, and it was so fast, if you had put a lump of coal up my ... well you get the idea. I scored 54 not out without hitting a single one forward of the wicket -- just kept lifting it over the slips and watching it run to the out of bounds line. Cheap runs every single one, but I walked away intact.

Julie A Hofmann - 9/8/2004

Derek -- I was the one who said I thought Cricket was more interesting and ballsier. It's my opinion and I'm entitled to it. I didn't say baseball was bad, but I don't find it much fun unless I'm there. Cricket, on the other hand, I like watching on tv because the ads cover up a lot of the time spent repositioning players. In terms of ballsiness, though, Manan's and Richard's examples are pretty much what I'm talking about. A cricket ball is very like a baseball -- but harder. It's bowled either at incredibly fast speeds where, depending on the pitch, it can take really dangerous and fast bounces at people who don't really wear too much in the way of protective gear. Slower bgowling depends even more on using the pitch to make the ball bounce up in unpredictable ways. The ball, when hit, can easily travel as fast as a baseball, but the fielders often stand very close to the batsman (for example, in the 'silly' positions). NO matter where the fielders stand, they (with the exception of the wicket keeper) will be catching that baseball (for all intents and purposes) barehanded. Not to mention that a good batsman may spend hours standing in the hot sun defending his wicket (yes, I saw Lara's 502). In terms of risk of injury and physical demand, cricket is just plain harder on humans than baseball (although NL pitchers do work pretty hard).

I think it's more interesting because the scoring requires a lot more in the way of strategic thinking. I realize there's a lot of strategy in baseball, but again, the variables in cricket make for a less predictable game.

As for soccer versus American football, it's a fluid game with no annoying starts and stops and the switching of offense and defense. A person can get into it. Brute force has little to do with winning, and players risk major injuries without resorting to all that padding. Individual plays in AF can be great (and there are certainly soccer games that can be dire from start to finish), but soccer doesn't involve all that faffing around and on a regular basis offers much more in terms of pure athleticism.

FInally, I'll reiterate what Manan said -- it isn't necessarily true that American audiences have shorter attention spans, but it is true that that is the perception outside the US. I would also argue it's true in the US, where much of our programming, sports or otherwise, seems to cater to the sound byte over the bigger picture.

With all the other crap going on all over, though, you might think about how worked up you're getting. It's only a game.

Manan Ahmed - 9/8/2004

There IS something as ballsy as a 99 mph brushback pitch and that is a 104 mph bouncer to your face. Legal, i might add.
But that is neither here nor there. What you continue to miss, while equating me with Fox News, is that selling Cricket as a 8hr/day game in America is impossible BECAUSE American sports fan will not accept anything that long. I call it, facetiously, "lack of attention span"; you can call it "denying Man's right to Tailgate". Whatever. Why do I say "attention span"? Because, ICC - the Governing Body of International Cricket, not me - says so. Repeatedly. We need to make Cricket shorter because the American fan will not pay attention all day, they claim. Not, we need to have taller cricket players because Yao Ming is a big hit in Texas. Shorter Game. In the meantime, a football game lasts all day long with "analysis" and "commercials", not in "gametime". You know what they are talking about in Madison Avenue (allow me some more generalization, please)? How to keep those eyeballs wandering during the 1 million breaks. If there was pure baseball game for 4 hrs in the morning, a lunch break, and 4 hrs in the afternoon, how many sports fan will keep their fannies in the stadium? If you claim all or a majority, then I will stand corrected.
In anycase, if I really wanted to insult the "good and passionate sports fans" of America, I would say something like, oh, baseball SUX. right? But I didn't. I actually love baseball. And Cricket. And football ( gooner). And I have not watched an entire game of Cricket in 12 years. Why? I don't have the attention span.
cheers, mate.

Derek Charles Catsam - 9/8/2004

First off, cricket is neither "more interesting" nor "ballsier" than baseball. I've no idea what those things even mean, but I know that if you really think a Barry Bonds at bat is uninteresting your definition of interesting is rather esoteric, or that if cricketers have something as ballsy as a 99 mph brushback pitch, I'd like to know what it is.
Second, that something is perceived to take too long does not prima facie mean that those who levy those criticisms have too short an attention span -- basic rules of causality, Manan, come on. That people think something is too long does not of necessity mean that they are the ones at fault. As I said, Americans have complained that baseball and football now take too long as well, and not because their attention span have waned, but rather because the lengthening has led to a weakening of the experience of watching a game. Let's leave stupid generalizations about people numbering in the hundreds of millions to Fox News.
In any case, again, there is a tiny number of poeple trying top get cricket into the US. There are meanwhile 280,000,000 Americans, a sizeable number of whom are good and passionate sports fans, who don't need to be slandered just because we happen to love our sports and so not love others as we could or should. A snarky and smartassed argument is one thing, and more power to it. A bad one is quite another. It is not necessarily the fault of Americans that we like baseball better than cricket. But again, insulting us is probably not the way to go about getting an audience.

Richard Henry Morgan - 9/8/2004

I remember well the bodyline bowling controversy where the English tried to teach the Aussies their colonial concept of respect. I miss the old days and the old ways -- long leisurely games, interupted by breaks for tea. I turned on the tv a few years back and saw all these psychedelic colors in uniforms, and face masks on batting helmets. I knew the introduction of the DH in baseball was just a portent of the end of the world.

Julie A Hofmann - 9/8/2004

Oh -- I forgot about that. That's definitely the reason for the change of format and some of the rules, Derek. Manan is simply stating what's been the prevailing attitude among the people trying to popularize cricket here -- and even in places where test cricket is played, like Australia, where cricket has to compete with so many other sports. Here, it's the shorter game, "American style" teams and team names, and a bit of rule simplification.

Again, you can compare this with the changes made to soccer to make it more palatable in the US (although it is, IIRC, overall the amateur sport with the most players here). Still, the tournament and league systems are much more comparable to Baseball and football than to soccer elsewhere in the world. Plus, Americans have to squeeze a short season in between more established commercial sports to get any YV coverage -- something cricket is no doubt trying to combat as well.

No worries for this Gooner, though. We pay a fortune for it, but get most of the decent games. Money in Murdoch's pocket, but that's how it goes.

Manan Ahmed - 9/7/2004

I might agree with you that I was taking cheap shot, only if all the "improvements" mentioned to make Cricket more palatable to Americans not involve time. I fail to gather why "games are too long" not an argument for attention span? This complaint is not coming from players (that is, not a stamina issue) but from viewers (an attention span issue). Whether similair arguments can be made about football or baseball - yet is not made - seriously reflects more on the commercialization of the sport than the nature of the games.
The 280 million Americans can relax from my ad hominem attack by knowing that time is on their side.

Julie A Hofmann - 9/7/2004

I like cricket. I especially like test matches. It's definitely a more interesting and ballsier sport than baseball. I don't actually like the one-day stuff, though, and would much rather spend my money elsewhere. I think cricket in the US will fail, or become no more popular than football (the real kind) as a professional sport simply because the nature of all sport in the US is so different. There is unfortunately no tradition of sports teams being truly local teams (with the exception of the Packers). There is no youth system.

Much of the reason for the continued success of cricket and football outside the US is fan loyalty -- loyalty that is at its roots very much tied into community. There's county cricket (go Kent!) and football leagues that allow movement between the different divisions. Yes, the bigger teams have support that crosses local lines, but even there (and I'm clearly talking football here), there are community ties that go beyond locale and into traditional religious- and class affiliations (Liverpool v. Everton, for example). The last time a team tried to break free from its local community, a huge number of locals made it clear they'd rather follow a new, non-professional team, rather than pretend that Wimbledon had any business in Milton Keynes.

Anyway, all I'm saying is that there's a lot more to it than length of games -- but I still think that cricket and football are awfully good.

Derek Charles Catsam - 9/7/2004

Manand --
I wrote a bit about cricket on Rebunk the other day. Let's be fair with this "attention span" nonsense. Given that non-Amereicans have an equally hard time following baseball and American football, largely because of what is perceived as the stop-and-start nature of the games, and the fact that the games are perceived as taking too long (ask any rugby fan about American football and length of games will come up) I do not buy this attention span ad hominem -- it's a nice cheap shot. It just has no bearing in reality. There may be lots of reasons why Americans have not embraced cricket. Length of games may be one, though length of games may not necessarily mean that it is an attention span question, but rather that the games are too long -- Americans who want to curb the length of our own sports do not necessarily do so because of attention spans. But so may simple unfamiliarity when we have baseball, which we love and which is itself a wonderful sport. Cheap generalizations about 280 million people might make you feel good about cricket, I guess. But they are not exactly what I would call a formula for convincing those same 280,000,000 people that you have an argument worth taking seriously.

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