Wednesday, February 16, 2011

UG Sports - 11: Cricket!

Part 1 of a very audacious and charitable multi-part series explaining the game on the eve of the world cup.

What has eleven players a side, two batsmen on the field at a time, one bowler, one wicketkeeper, is generally awesome AND has a very exciting world cup just around the corner?

If you answered cricket, you get a klondike bar and a permanent place in my hall of legit people.

A very nice cricket brawl in progress[]

Most Every American gives me a blank look when I bring up the sport of cricket. I usually hear crickets chirping every time I mention anything remotely connected with this all-around badass sport. The brave ones usually manage to sputter something like "Isn't that kindaaa like baseball?" or "The one where games last for days, right?"

Well fear not. Before the cricket world cup fever gets crazy, I will give you a very pleasant crash course on cricket. By the time you are done reading this post, you will know the different between a wide-ball and a no-ball and between a silly point and a silly mid-on. And no I am not making these terms up, nor am I pulling them out of thin air.

First, what's all the fuss about the world cup? Unlike the superbowl, the cricket world cup is held every four years. This very scarcity makes it a high-demand good. The first edition of the world cup was held in 1975 and Australia has won the most - 4. They are the Pittsburgh Steelers of cricket. By that logic, the West Indies would be the Oakland Raiders, both because they were very very good in their prime but suck a colossal amount these days. This year's world cup is being hosted jointly by India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

This discussion of countries lets us segue into discussing the norms of the sport. Unlike the "big three" American sports, the most watched and prominent form of cricket is played between nations. As can be expected for a sport that originated in the land of the Queen, nations playing it are former colonies or dominions of the said land: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and the West Indies (you geography nerds may point out that West Indies is actually an artificial name foisted upon a group of islands, but in cricket these islands play as one "nation").

There are three forms of the game: Test, One-day and 20/20.

Test: The granddaddy of them all. This form lasts for five days, with about 9 hours of play each day. Two breaks a day, for lunch and tea. Yes you read that right. Cricket has a tea break. Outrageously enough, even after five days' worth of play, it is possible to have a draw game. You'd think spectators would throw bottles, bags full of worthless pennies or old cell-phones but no. Sometimes a draw is a moral victory for a side. Other times, it's just plain boring.

One-day: As its name suggests, this form takes a day - about 10 hours of play. The most popular form today, and the world cup is played in this form. Draws a lot of crowds and a ton of TV audience. Not possible to have draws, so no chances of riots. There have, however, been legendary riots because teams didn't perform to meet expectations of home crowds.

20/20: For those with the attention-span of a goldfish. The newest version of the game (which takes about 3 hours to finish) is also its loudest and the most controversial. The grumpy old fogies steadfastly cling to their romantic notions of the purity and the nobleness of the game - whatever the hell that means. Me? I like this version just fine. So do millions of other cricket-lovers, thank God.

I think I will stop here. As with all drugs, one must limit the dosage to avoid side effects.

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