General Non-Fiction posted May 20, 2016

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Five days of ecstasy

Just Like Baseball

by kiwisteveh

It has always puzzled me that folks in the US of A don't  understand cricket. The game is almost identical to your beloved baseball. It is highly likely that baseball evolved from cricket in much the same way as basketball evolved from some caveman crumpling up his electricity bill and tossing it towards the waste-paper basket.

The balls used in both games are of a similar size and hardness. Both will leave a sharp reminder if you fail to get out of the way of one travelling at 100mph.  Both sports also have at their heart that the winner is the side who scores the most runs over a number of innings.

Cricket has two bases instead of four. Already the game is simplified! A batsman (or batter, if you must) stands at each base, armed with a flatter and broader version of the baseball bat. To score one run, the two players must simply exchange ends - a little like the man at home plate rushing as far as the pitcher's mound, while his partner scampers from the mound to home plate. Oh, did I forget to mention that each base is marked by three pegs in the ground called stumps?

The bowler (pitcher) must attempt to hurl, fling, waddy or trickle (in the case of a certain Australian whose actions plumbed the absolute nadir of integrity and decency in the great game) the ball, with the aim of striking the stumps. I'm not absolutely certain that a nadir can be plumbed, but, if it can, this character would most certainly have done it.

The batsman, in his turn, must defend his stumps, while trying to hit the ball to a spot where there is no fielder, so he can run to the other base and have a rest while his partner takes strike. There is no 'three strikes and you're out' rule. If the ball is going to miss the stumps, the batsman may watch it go whistling by, with a practised nonchalance,  accompanied by a yawn and a snide remark about the bowler's antecedents or the whereabouts and habits of his wife.

This practice is called sledging and again it is the Australians who have brought it to its highest pitch of perfection. It is now taught as a graduate course in all of their universities.

Of course the boot is on the other foot if the batsman is so careless as to allow the ball to strike the stumps, or to lob it towards silly mid-on or deep third man (I kid you not - these are actual fielding positions.

Cricket is a more leisurely game than baseball. This is reflected in the time it takes to play a game. I am referring to the pinnacle of the sport, the test match. This contest is of such lofty status that it may only be played between the ten countries currently sanctioned to participate.

Do not despair that America is not on the list, while sporting giants  Zimbabwe and Bangla Desh are. Perhaps, when you have clambered past the might of Afghanistan, the luck of the Irish and the stamina (and stench) of the yak-herding tribesmen of Outer Mongolia, you too may be considered for admittance to this exclusive club.

A game of baseball can be all wrapped up in an afternoon. Test match cricket, with two innings allowed per team, takes place over the course of five days of unparalleled ecstasy for the cricket purist, who loves to follow the subtle nuances of the game, the abrupt swings of fortune, the satisfying smack of willow on leather, the sight of the umpire falling asleep and then pretending he knows what's going on ...

Alas, I must bring my essay to an end, even though I have yet to touch upon the mysteries of changing bowlers after every six balls, the intricacies of spin bowling and the idiosyncrasies of protective equipment such as the crotch-protector.  Perhaps, you may discover these things for yourself, if you are lucky enough to be visiting a cricket-playing country and you have five full days to spare in your itinerary.

Just remember to keep saying to yourself, 'It's just like baseball!'


How sporty are you? contest entry

Oh dear, I've had to prune this down from over 1200 words to meet the 700 word limit of this contest. Some of the chuckles have ended up being edited out.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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