First off, we are not talking about the bug. Sorry if I misled any of you insect enthusiasts.
I'm talking about Cricket, the 3rd most popular game in the world after Soccer and Tennis.
All you need for a proper game are a bat...
...two sets of three sticks each, also known as stumps.....
..and, voila, you are ready for a game of cricket!
For a game to take place there needs to be 11 players on each team. Though, at any given time, there will only be a maximum of 13 players on the field – 11 from one side (9 fielders +1 bowler + 1 keeper) and 2 batsmen from the other side. The whole objective of the game is that the team which scores more runs (points) than the other, wins the game.
Confused yet? First of all, here is a batsman...
His job is to score as many runs (points) as he can for the team.He can do this through three means - running between the stumps after hitting the ball to any part of the field, hitting the ball along the ground to the boundary rope (4 runs), and hitting the ball out of the field (6 runs).
Here is a batsman in full flow:
Now, here is a bowler..
The bowler's job is two-fold: restrict the number of runs and get the opposing batsmen out. Depending on the format of the game, he either gets an unlimited or a specific number of overs (a set of six tries) to do this. He can get the batsmen out by knocking down the stumps, hitting the batsman on the pads if it is in line with the stumps, inducing the batsman to hit the ball straight to a player who catches it, etc.
There are mainly two different kinds of bowlers. This is a fast bowler.....
..and this is a spin bowler...
A key member of the supporting cast is the fielder.
His job is to help the bowler in restricting the number of runs, and also help in getting the batsmen out by catching a ball hit to him or by throwing the ball at the stumps when the batsmen are running between the wickets.
Here's a demo..
There is also the keeper, whose position behind the stumps at one end is more than just catching the ball or effecting a stumping (knocking the stumps out of the ground when the batsman is out of his crease); he plays the main cheerleader for his team too.
Lastly, the umpires. Two on-field umpires make the calls, while a third TV umpire adjudicates on the tougher ones.
Now on to the three major formats of the game...
First, there is the 5 day version known as Test cricket. It is considered the premier form of the game and it has been around since the late 1800s. The teams get two innings each to bat; and they can bat till the opposition get them all out or till they feel like they have enough runs. Also, they get to play in spiffy whites and a red ball, while having breaks for lunch and tea. Oh, the charm!
Then, there is the One Day International (a game that gets over in a day..duh!). Colored clothes, white ball and a solitary break between innings (boo!); each team gets one innings each and the game is done and dusted within 8 hours. Provided there is no rain delay (don't even get me started on that one...).
The Cricket World Cup is held in this format (the third most watched sporting event in the world) every four years and the defending champions are India.
Finally, the newest kid on the block - Twenty20 aka T20. This is the shortened form of an One Day International; game is of roughly 4 hours duration and each team gets 20 overs to get as many runs as they can. The World T20 championship is held every two years and the defending champions are West Indies. This is also the format in which the cash-rich Indian Premier League is played.
Now to the top eight teams that dominate the international cricket calendar.
There is England, the country that invented the sport, and who are one of the better international sides around. They have been ranked number 1 in Tests before and have also won the T20 World Championship once; but a major global trophy in One Day Internationals eludes them, as five runners-up positions will attest. Star players are bowler James Anderson and batsman Kevin Pietersen.
Australia. The team that lorded over others for nearly two decades; now toiling in the middle of the rankings table.Currently, they are in a state of turmoil, but their history points to a long stint as the number 1 side in Tests and they have won the World Cup a record 4 times. Current star player is their skipper Michael Clarke.
The Indian team has the biggest star players in the game and command a huge fan following around the world. Not being partial or anything, but they play the most exciting cricket in the international arena (OK, I was kidding..I'm being totally partial!). They are currently ranked the number one side in One Day Internationals, as their status as defending World Champions attest; and they do just alright in Tests and T20s. Current star players are the legendary Sachin Tendulkar, MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja....and the list goes on.
Unpredictable. Mercurial. Volatile. These are some of the words that the Pakistan team has been associated with for a long time; but now under their rock-steady captain Misbah ul Haq, they have kind of plateaued. They remain one of the most exciting teams in international cricket despite not fully performing to their potential recently. Current stars are Misbah and Saeed Ajmal.
The South African team are the most well coached and disciplined set of players in international cricket. They are also very boringly effective. Currently the number one side in Tests; but their mysterious inability to win a global trophy in the shorter forms has given them the unfortunate tag of 'chokers'. Current stars are Dale Steyn, AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla.
New Zealand aka Black Caps are perennial dark horses.They don't have a clutch of big names like other teams but always seem to punch above their weight. Now that I have got that oft-used cliche in cricket out of the way, let me add that they have won at least one global trophy in One Day Internationals unlike some of the big boys. Current stars are Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor.
The Sri Lankan team has a fine assortment of players in their side. They have class in the form of Kumar Sangakarra and Mahela Jayawardene, unorthodox style in Lasith Malinga and flair in Tillakaratne Dilshan. They are consistently one of the better sides in international cricket despite developing an unwelcome tendency to come short in crunch encounters. Current star players are the ones mentioned above.
Lastly, the men from the Caribbean islands. Collectively known as the West Indies, they were the best side in the 1970s and 80s, but now have fallen way short of their glory days. They still play an exuberant brand of cricket, complete with wild celebrations and unbridled joy which they showcased during the heart-warming win in the World T20 Championship last year. Current stars are Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Bravo and Sunil Narine.
Apart from the World Cup and World T20 Championship, these teams play each other in bilateral series throughout the year. There are two rivalries worth mentioning here.
One is of course, the Ashes - a 5 Test series contest between Australia and England held every other year. This rivalry has lasted for more than a hundred years now, and England have been dominating it in recent years. Yet, there is a timeless romanticism to their contests. Take a look at the following montage.....
Then there is the mother of all sporting rivals - India vs Pakistan. Political hostilities aside, when these two teams take the field against each other, time stands still across both sides of the border. Players can be deified or vilified in the span of a few hours and reputations can be built or crushed in an instant. There is a tremendous amount of pressure on the players and sometimes passions can bubble over as seen in the following clip. More often than not, it makes for some thrilling cricket.
Oh, lest I forget, there is women's cricket too. Same countries, same rules, albeit without the money and coverage that men's cricket enjoys. On a promising note, that seems to be changing in recent years.
Lastly, a mention about the United States cricket team. Currently, they are ranked 26th in the world, well below teams like Afghanistan and Canada(!).
Currently, the team comprises of mostly expatriates turned citizens who are doing a decent job given the circumstances of which I'm not going to get into now. There is also a substantial cricket culture throughout the country, though one wouldn't know by reading the papers or watching the news. There are plenty of cricket leagues and clubs around, and hopefully that will produce a stronger national team in the future.
There you go. That's the basic stuff about cricket. Now break out the jigs and let your hair down. You now know a brand new game!