You’d expect any American’s take on their first cricket match to sound more like Bill Bryson’s take on the sport:“After years of patient study (and with cricket there can be no other kind) I have decided that there is nothing wrong with the game that the introduction of golf carts wouldn’t fix in a hurry. It is not true that the English invented cricket as a way of making all other human endeavors look interesting and lively; that was merely an unintended side effect. I don’t wish to denigrate a sport that is enjoyed by millions, some of them awake and facing the right way, but it is an odd game. It is the only sport that incorporates meal breaks. It is the only sport that shares its name with an insect. It is the only sport in which spectators burn as many calories as players — more if they are moderately restless. It is the only competitive activity of any type, other than perhaps baking, in which you can dress in white from head to toe and be as clean at the end of the day as you were at the beginning.”
Falling for Cricket
I, however, can say with 100% honesty that Cricket is the first thing in Australia that I truly love. The English will chuckle since of course it’s original an English sport, but the Aussies have changed cricket enough over the last 30 years to have the right to say that cricket is as much theirs as anyone, and India and other countries can make similar claims.
Now, my first match was only a 20/20, which lasts about 3 hours, so just 37 hours short of the potential playing time involved in a 5 day test match. 20/20 was designed to make a match faster, higher scoring, and generally more entertaining. So a real cricket fan might say I’m not a real cricket fan yet.
The intricacies of the rules, a small event causing an explosion of celebration on the field by the bowling team, and the bowler versus batsman duels all make it a sport I can easily love. I will have a hard time with all day test matches, simply because I am not a fan of the #1 Aussie sport, alcoholism, which is usually the main event that the crowd is participating in while gents in white are swinging wooden bats at red balls on a green field.
Scoring my first innings
I decided that the best way to have to learn the game would be to score the game. In baseball, scoring a game takes concentration and quick thinking – remembering that the play was a 6-4-3, shifting to the next batter, etc. In cricket, it is easily 10x harder, which of course makes me love it even more. My heart rate stayed high the entire first 90 minutes of the match while I was scoring at Brisbane was batting, just trying to keep up with the action on the field and make sure I was recording it in the score book. You can check out more details of the scorecards. When the Sydney 6ers picked up the bat, I stopped scoring just so I could pay attention to what was actually happening.
The match ended with Sydney winning with just a couple of overs to go, which seemed close to me but not to the cricket fans sitting around me. One of the most interesting parts of cricket is how aggressive or conservative the batters get depending on the score, time left, overs left, etc.
So, it is like baseball?
It has all of the romantic elements of baseball – the grassy field, the bowler embattled with the batsman, diving catches, and in some matches no specific limit on the time. However, it’s very easy to see that baseball emerged specifically from someone taking a look at cricket and saying “How could we make this better?” I’m not saying here that baseball is better than cricket (though of course I feel that way since I was raised loving baseball and nothing would change the fact that it’s my favorite sport. But it’s easy to understand that someone saw the flaws of cricket as the same parts of the game that cricket fans love – there is no limit to balls or strikes, a batter can “carry the bat” and never leave the field for the entire match. Thus outs are very common and more likely than hits in baseball, and just the opposite in cricket – it’s more likely that you’ll score runs during an over of batting than lose a wicket.
The only painful part of the match is that the 6ers wear hot pink. The Big Bash 20/20 league is sponsored by KFC, features hard rock concert fireworks, and is largely a commercially manufactured league where it’s clear that team names and unis were chosen by marketing teams rather than players. The 6ers are named because hitting the ball over the boundary (the closest relative of a “home run”) gives you six runs, thus the 6ers. Sigh. I thought maybe a great historical event had happened in ’06, like a day when no one in Australia was publicly intoxicated.
I have been looking for a long part of my life to support a local team – the AFL Swans, I can cheer for. I cheered for the 6ers, but just can’t wear that ridiculous color. Or most of the league colors for that matter.