Surviving London: Understanding the beauty of cricket - 30 April 2004

Cricket. A wonderful sport. So they say. A relaxing sport. So they say. A sport for gentlemen. So they say.
English Baseball. So I thought.

Cricket at Richmond Park

My first approach with cricket was in a book (the Douglas Adams' Life, Universe and Everything). The story was about an immensely xenophobic planet called Krikkit :  "It has been said that on Earth alone in our galaxy is Krikkit (or cricket) treated as a fit subject for a game, and that for this reason the Earth has been shunned; this only applies to our Galaxy, and more specifically to our dimension.".  I originally read the book in Italian, and for 200 pages I just didn't get the joke about the wicket, the cricket and all that stuff. The Oval? (link) Never heard about it? Ashes? As above.
Then I came to England. If you exclude football and rugby, the rest of the sport shown on the television is a quite amazing mixture of : snooker (boring), darts (incredibly boring) and cricket.

Working with natives, and watching the cricket on small screens around different offices ("the best background sport"), I desperately tried to understand the rules. Initially, I realized that Cricket is not Croquet (apparently, the Croquet is a French  - gay - version of golf played by old people in small and nice green gardens), and, for a while, I thought that was pretty much a even slower version of baseball, just without the hotdog and with tea instead of coke. It wasn't. But for at least 2 years, when friends asked me about this mysterious sport, I've always, to cut short the long story, said "Baseball, just for gentlemen drinking tea. Not worth it".
You have to understand me. In how many countries is Cricket actually played in a professional way? England (not Scotland, not Wales, not Ireland, just England!), Australia (they're the world champions, aren't they?), some Asian country like India and Pakistan, South Africa and the West Indies (somewhere around Barbados). Not too many, uh?
The rules , at a first glance, are easy: one throws the ball, someone else tries to hit it. If he hits the ball, then he can run up and down, scoring a point for every run (6 for a homerun, 4 if the ball bounces before going out) and having some glory. The bowler tries to hit the wicket behind the batsman to bowl him out. Or the batsman hits the ball and the defence players catch it before it bounces. After 10 outs, the team who's attacking swap to defence and vice versa. And so on. For 5 days, by the way. I know, it sounds simple. But there are million of rules that I still didn't get. You can read all the rules somewhere on internet.

Anyway, for 2 long years I just tried to avoid contact with cricket. Commonwealth sport, nothing more. Few weeks ago I had the chance to read the complete works of Douglas Adams again, this time in the language was originally created. And then, only 7 days ago, for the first time in my life, I played it, and, even more amazingly, I (almost) enjoyed it.

Ok, maybe the conditions were just better than the average cricket match: first of all, I played it with girls. Second, I played in the nice Richmond Park under a unusual hot April sun. And third, I played it with girls. Did I just say that?
As a batman, I probably scored a century before being bowled out. Ad a bowler, I'm just crap. Throwing that little bastard and hit the wicket has been a trauma. The most relaxing position is "field": you're miles away from the action, and all you have to do is just catch the ball (or try to) once in a while. In the meanwhile, you just sit there and enjoy the sun and the drinks, and girls running up and down. Not too bad.

By the way, at the end of the day I discovered a new sport: Netball. Never heard of it. Another commonwealth game. One day I would eventually try it. I like sports.