Cricket is that beloved game that cements the colony to the empire. It has a murky origin in English pastures but, at least, since 1709, we have documented games of cricket being played. In the beginning, the rules were quite flexible. Some people showed up with huge bats, some bowled all day long. To put matters to a rest, and to ensure gentlemanly behavior, the Marylebone Cricket Club was founded in 1787. The club acquired a ground for play (Lord’s) and the next year, in 1788, laid down the laws governing cricket. This was an attempt to unify and codify the various rules developed in playgrounds and masonic lodges all across England. Here, you can read some earlier versions. Four ball overs, eh?

The first change in cricket arrived just as it left the island for the colony. In 1861, a team from Surrey decided to visit the Australian colony. They were surprised to find cricket not only flourshing there but attracting a fair crowd. The Australian team (tagged the World) beat the English. This caused much consternation. English crickers decided to take concrete measures. The rules of the game must be streamlined. Perhaps they were at fault. So in 1876, England went to play the first official Test Match at Melbourne with new rules. The result was another loss. However, this test match did cement the laws of cricket. What it failed to do was teach the colonies some respect.

The colonial challenge to English cricketers continued in India. Oriental Cricket Club was established in Bombay by Parsees in 1848. By 1860s, Bombay natives (Hindu, Muslim all) were playing cricket around the Colonial gymkhana grounds. While the teams were segregated, the English cricketers took great umbrage at having to see the natives pretend-play. Starting in 1877, the natives gathered the competence to play against the Bombay Gymkhana. They didn’t win their first match against the Europeans until 1878. The superhit movie Lagaan takes its inspiration for a native team beating the English not from this match but from a 1906 match in which Palwankar Baloo, an Untouchable from Poona, rose to prominence as a great bowler and defeated the English. As an aside, the resonance and popularity enjoyed by Lagaan among the South Asian diaspora shows that it hit some postcolonial nerve somewhere.

Cricket opened up to India, the Carribean, and South Africa by the early 1940s. But, it’s next change came again from Australia. A form of cricket that could be played in one day (yes, the whole day) as opposed to five days developed in the 60s in England but it was the Australians who revolutionized the game. In 1977, Kerry Packer introduced a white ball, colored uniforms, shorter game-rules and captured the media market. The rest of the cricketing world had to take note of this “exciting brand”. Most of the innovations were adopted to become the World Cup Cricket.

Which brings us to this latest great change facing Cricket. America. They don’t seem to have the attention span of the rest of the known universe. So while everyone from Malaysia to Canada can play the ODI in the version that it stands, the Americans cannot be bothered. Hence, there is talk of a shorter version of test cricket. But the bigger lure for the Americans is an even shorter version of the ODI called Twenty20 [with cheerleaders and names like Tigers, Foxes and Dragons]. Greg Chappell wants to give cricket ” a face-lift, or at least a dash of botox, to give it some freshness.” Which means, shorter run-ups, funkier field placements and, maybe, more cheerleaders. W.G. Grace is spinning in his grave.

It will be interesting to see how Cricket survives this challenge.
update: As if cricket wasn’t enough, they went after mangoes too!?

8 thoughts on “That’s Cricket

  1. Hello,
    I am playing cricket for the last 12 years. I want to play cricket on a good level.

    I am an opening batsman of my local team and a best medium-fast bowler. I have been player of the year for 3 consecutive years. I have given so many match winning performances. Australian and New Zealand cricket academy also invited me last year,

    This season I will join New Zealand cricket academy.

    If u wants to invite me to play cricket with you I would love to be with you as a player. And I will be able to gain more experience.
    I hope you will reply to my mail.
    Anxiously waiting for your reply.
    Sami ullah khan
    Pakistan

  2. Well the american team is finally coming for their first intl. appearence at the ICC champions trophy in england..so we get to see Cheerleaders jumping around the pitch during the lunch break=??? And the squad, is it gora+desi or just gora ??

  3. The monster mango is a sign that Jesus/Kalki/EVR is about to make an appearance. Why do Americans get off on making gigantic and flavorless fruit?

  4. I’m just sayin’, if those guys playing in Washington Park can bring friends and family to, um, Soldier Field (?), then something resembling a league might arise, though maybe the Wheaton arena, where the Fire were playing, might be better. Even the ticky-tack money of a small league in the US is better than no money, and it seems worthwhile to tap the huge cricket-loving diaspora in place–and it’s a diaspora that’s only getting bigger.

    As for cricket making the leap, I don’t think it will. People don’t seem eager to take on another sport (see soccer/ice hockey/etc.), and the ODI format, while awesome, doesn’t seem to fit into the idea of a sports outing—which is something you do for a mere afternoon. What I adore about cricket is that it repays your level of attention, no matter what it might be. You can scrutinise every ball, or only catch the wickets falling on the replay while chatting with friends and sucking down beers. When I tried to catch an Australia/Zimbabwe match in 2001 in Melbourne, my friends were all disinclined to take me, since after 30 days of partying non-stop, they didn’t think they could handle six+ hours of drinking at a cricket game. To me, that sounds fantastic, and though we can paint parallels to the all-day experience of an NFL game (remember, football games are only supposed to be 60 minutes), I don’t know that it’ll ever transfer.

    This is why I imagine there are rule changes, etc., but that will, again, alienate the only people for a generation who will come to the matches.

  5. so cricket just wants us for our money? not our personality? cricket is such a gold-digger…..

    like i said, good luck with that. comparing nike contracts, freddy adu (soccer) got $1 million while lebron james (basketball) got $90 million.

    on that note, with giant markets “from Malaysia to Canada”, the Great American Shoe Deal is still needed? how? soccer (and adidas) seem to get on quite well without us.

    following soccer’s model, cricket will have to start from the ground up in the States if it hopes to succeed. youth leagues are where it’s at. make the 2008 election about wooing the “cricket mom” or “bowler dad” vote.

  6. Your cheap shot at our Fearless Leader aside, the reason cricket wants Americans is, uh, MONEY! The biggest media market, yo.
    Even if cricket only gets a foothold in major media centers (LA, NY, CHI, MIA), it can make enough money from broadcast and advertising to make it worth the while.
    Places like Holland, while enthusiastically learning Cricket, just don’t pull in the Nike ad money like America does.

  7. ok, i’m probably going to take some flak for this, but i don’t think Americans will ever take cricket under their wings for the same reason that you title every cricket post: it is not baseball. Americans, thanks in no small part to beer, are only barely able to scrape together the attention span required to sit through an entire baseball game. and then there’s that pesky “America’s pastime” and whatnot (“why are they playing baseball with flat bats and weird pads?”). i find it interesting that morcy made the comparison to soccer. that’s a sport we’re actually good at (FIFA Top 10!!) internationally, and we still don’t care. given (i’m presuming) a lack of a good cricket national team here, good luck trying to get Americans to care, rule changes or no.

    personally, i like baseball better. and i have to ask, why is it necessary that the Americans care? i’m sure that there are a lot more countries that also show a lack of enthusiasm about cricket. i’m sure we could play it, but why do we need to? what’s the motivation for bringing cricket to the States?

    baseball, by the way, experienced its height of popularity when cheerleaders were more like George W. Bush and less like the T & A of today. and they still don’t have to use them. they use people in big muppet costumes.

  8. I wouldn’t worry too much. Americans always think they can improve upon a sport, but I think that they have yet to do that well. Remember that there is a huge-ass diaspora crowd that will make up the audience of any initial cricket league or whatever is being dreamt up here in the States, and that this crowd will not settle for watered-down cricket. It’s like it was with the MLS: their fan-base initially was soccer families and soccer freaks. It still is. But they’ve bent the rules to placate the soccer freaks (running time, ties) that they felt would have alienated the soccer families. Turns out, they were wrong. No one actually came to the matches for the excitement of the “shoot out” or whatever it was called. Despite its “innovations,” the MLS became indistinguishable from other leagues. Even the playoff format, iirc, now follows the international model (two legs).

    I think about niche sports in the US–like lacrosse–which have had the rules significantly altered to make the game “more interesting”–and it’s just sort of dumb and pathetic. Or, look at arena football for another example. That stuff will never really take off, since everyone always sez, “yeah, but it’s not real.” MLS learned you can’t hate on your insane fans. They buy season tickets. They create the carnival atmosphere. I imagine cricket will be the same way.

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