To many people first exposed to British culture, one of the most striking oddities is the game of cricket. It has a Byzantine set of Laws is at once both very gentle and very cruel, matches can last for days, and there are often lengthy debates over who is even winning. This article describes a simple method for the casual watcher to enjoy a match of cricket based on the same principles that one might watch other team sports.
The first thing is not to worn/ about the Laws One would need to study them for years Cricket works in the .me way as most other competitive team sports in that the contest is essentially between order and chaos. Just like in baseball, rugby union, soccer, American Football and others one team tries to maintain order and the other team tries to disrupt it.
Usually the team in possession of the ball is considered the attacking team. This is no different in cricket, and when a bowler is Oven the ball he is said to have come “into the attack.” The batsman, therefore, is the defender, and the three linked poles sticking out of the ground behind him (collectively the “stumps” or, as a unit, the “wicket”) is what he most defend.
The batsman is then like the goalkeeper in soccer or ice hockey, or the fullback in rugby union. His purpose is to stifle or nullify the opposition’s attack. In cricket the batsman doesthis by blocking the ball when it is on a path to strike the stumps.
The bowler is like most other players in possession of a ball – his purpose is to either to overpower or to deceive the defender. Because cricket is not a contact sport, and because the batsman can defend his stumps with the bat, the bowler most deceive the batsman as to the path of the ball. This is either done by bowling it so quickly that the batsman cannot read its path very well or by bowling it in a manner that causes it to deviate from its initial trajectory after it has left the bowler’s hand.
One of the first things a person new to cricket will notice is that there are two different bowling styles, and one is much more energetic than the other. The basic rule is that the more slowly the bowler runs in to bowl, the more he is trying to deceive the batsman by spinning, swinging, drifting or dipping the ball rather than with speed.
So the basic contest involves the batsman trying to maintain the order in the stumps behind him by protecting them from the ball, and the bowler trying to introduce more chaos into the situation than the batsman is able to impose order upon, and thereby get him ‘out’.
If the stumps are thought of as a throne, then the batsman is the king trying to defend it. If he fails, he is said to be ‘out’, or ‘dismissed’. This is reflected in his long walk off the field, like a king deposed from his office and dismissed into exile. There are a variety of ways to go out, and they all relate to a failure to defend the stumps correctly. If the ball hits the stumps then the batsman is out bowled. If the ball hits the batsman’s pads and the umpire raises a finger (having judged that the ball would have hit the stumps had the batsman not interfered) then the batsman is out leg before wicket. If the batsman hits the ball with the bat, but in an uncontrolled manner so that a member of the fielding team can catch it before it hits the ground, the batsman is out caught.
There are several other ways to go out, but in general if the batsman survives a ball it is a minor victory for him, and if he does not it is a major victory for the bowler.
In cricket the batsman, even in the role of defender, is not limited to trying to survive. He must also try and score, which necessitates a riskier style of play. He therefore counterattacks. If bowling a ball can be thought of as a challenge to the king’s authority, the stroke played by the batsman represents the degree of authority with which that challenge was repelled. The harder and further away from the fielders he hits the ball, the more chance he has of crossing to the other end of the pitch (where the second batsman, who must also cross to the first batsman’s end, beggings). This is called a run, and whichever side scores the most runs before ten of their batsman are out wins the match.
In terms of order and chaos, every ball that is bowled follows a basic pattem. The batsman represents order, and the bowler chaos If the bowler can inflict sufficient chaos upon the batsman’s defences the batsman will be dismissed. If the batsman can impose enough order upon the ball to hit it far enough away to have time to run to the other end of the pitch before it is fielded and returned, he scores a run. In many cases the batsman neither goes out nor scores a run. This is called a dot ball, and is like a push in blackjack in that no-one benefits much, if at all.
The winning side, then, is essentially the side that was able to impose the most order upon the opposition’s chaos, as measured by the total time they created to run safely between the two ends of the pitch before ten of their players were dismissed. The basic concepts of raiding enemy territory while they are in a vulnerable position or in disarray, and that the winning team is the one that does so the most incisively over the course of a match, makes it possible to watch and enjoy cricket from a similar perspective to a number of other sports.