Sunday, 24 July 2011

The Joy of Cricket


Ok, this one's going to be a tough sell. Cricket is probably the least known and understood of the major games played internationally. And those who play it are only countries with long ties to Britain such as India and Australia (though not the US or Canada) and as with football and rugby, it is a game which owes its development and spread to being part of the unvarying curriculum of the the British public schools.

I have just been lucky enough to be asked by a member of the MCC to visit Lords for the third day of the Test Match between England and India. It was an enthralling spectacle for one who understands the game; a crashing bore for anyone that doesn't. For one, each game is played over five days and a single innings by one side can last two or three days. And a single innings by one batsman can also last as long, though it rarely does.

Hurstbourne Priors Cricket Ground, Hampshire
By chance, I grew up a few miles away from the ground where cricket was supposed to have first been played in about 1750 - Broadhapenny Down in Hampshire, beside which is a pub, The Bat and Ball, dedicated to the game. And when young my brother and I played endless games of cricket on the lawn at home, with straw bales behind the wicket to stop the ball.

Its appeal has been endlessly evoked in literature; from the classic description of a village cricket match in 'England Their England' to the dry prose of the almanack of cricket, Wisden. But this short piece from an Australian summarises its appeal concisely:

'Cricket invokes passion among the one billion people who play it. And Test cricket is the most passionate of all, with national pride bubbling close to the surface of the match.
International relations can be soured by controversy; in the 1930's Bodyline Test, the English captain's tactic to play the man led directly to serious calls for Australia's secession from the Commonwealth. Prime ministers and the king intervened.
The passion grows from the spirit of the game, its beauty, complexity and subtlety. One has to plan, to have a sense of strategy and exercise skill. It is not about might, but about psychological confrontation and domination.'

See also John Updike on Baseball


  1. Wow! Who knew??? sounds like it can be really long!!! I have a hard enough time with baseball.

  2. Anonymous2:23 am

    We might have ben a Republic by now if it hadn't been for cricket!! I do miss John Arlott! Von