“Hey, Wayne-O, you interested in seeing some Cricket? There is a match while you are in Australia…”
Someone had once told me that it is more exciting to watch paint dry. I have never seen Cricket before and have no idea how to play the game. All I know is that there is a famous match between England and Australia called the Ashes and it lasts five days. Yeah, FIVE whole days! Hundreds of points, gentlemanly game, tea breaks, bathroom breaks, you name it breaks. Really?!?
“I am not sure I have that much time to invest in the game…”
“This is a special version, no longer than 4 hours, 20 overs, 1 inning,” my friend James assured me.
“OK, I will check it out.” Unfortunately, I had no idea what he just told me….
I will never be mistaken for a sports enthusiast. There are, however, a few key sports words that I know:
- Pitch – Ball thrown from the Pitcher’s mound by the Pitcher in American baseball, and something that celebrities, or those being honored, get to throw out the first one.
- Striker – A forward, scoring position in Soccer, which is dimly remembered from my camp days.
- Bowler – A person that engages in Bowling; as a child, my brothers and I used to watch one of the greats in his field, Earl Anthony on TV.
- Century = 100 years
Now it was time to learn some new meanings for old word:
- Pitch – The field that Cricket is played on, consisting of the Wicket area, some circle, and the boundary.
- Striker – The batsman that is “up” and trying to score the runs; Incidentally, there is also a non-striker, which is the player at the other end of the Wicket that is waiting to run (also holding his bat in hand)
- Bowler – The person that “delivers” the ball. There are two basic types, the fast bowler and the curve bowler.
- Century – Player that scores 100 runs when at bat.
- Over – series of 6 “pitches”
- Wicket – the three sticks (or stumps) with a small crossbeam sitting gingerly across the top. The bowler tries to knock the top off, while the striker tries to block (i.e., hit the ball). An “out” is a wicker.
The version of the game I went to was called Twenty20, and part of the Big Bash League (sponsored by KFC). Each team came out wearing their bright team colors. Each team had their own mascots that walk around the pitch interacting with fans. There was a small cheerleader contingency with the smallest female member being tossed spectacularly in the air. Music played between the overs to get the crowd going. When the home team got the away team out (wicker), fireworks went off and flames shot high into the air. When the home team batted, and they got a four or six hit, there was pyrotechnic galore. Between the teams switching sides, during this one inning game, there were contests. Some of the contestants are chosen only if they are wearing a KFC bucket on their heads. In one contest, you had to catch the ball for money; one of the contestants missed the ball and got bonked on the head. The audience laughed, as did the on field announcer. As the home team was catching up on the runs, suspenseful music filled the air. Uniforms, cheerleaders, music and fire – what’s not to like; It was great fun.
“This isn’t real Cricket,” one of James’ friend blurted out.
“In real Cricket, there is no fireworks, no music, no hoopla, and everyone wears white!”
I am an American who is a Yankee fan, seen a big deal made over the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders and has been to sports with tackling, or, cross-checking, or bone-crushing, blood producing upper cuts. Before today, I knew of cricket as a small insect, or a back up member of Buddy Holly’s band (the name which inspired another insect named band – the Beatles), or a boring sport. I saw excitement, I saw fire, I cheered. Most importantly, I had the chance to learn an international sport (usually portrayed to the unknowing as similar to baseball), enjoy an exciting game (1 point difference) and can say that I was in one of the top 10 sized stadiums in the world (the MCG). Not bad for a non-sports follower from New Jersey!