The many nuances of the sport of cricket can be summed up for me in one, powerful word: unknown.
I have been both aware of and ignorant of cricket for years, since I first saw Casey Jones (a hockey mask-wearing vigilante with a bag of sports equipment) smack Raphael (a giant, walking, talking turtle with skills in ninjitsu) upside the head with a cricket bat in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This is mostly due to the astonishingly lack of televised games in the United States. Or games, period.
Luckily, I was recently able to find a satellite feed of two legendary cricket rivals, in order to highlight the game for your better understanding, as well as my own, of a sport that is all but understood.
Well, here we are, sports fans, at the ICC World T20 Championship between Sri Lanka and the West Indies! We may not know exactly what that means, but at least we know the words “cricket” and “championship.” Put those two together, and it spells excitement. Or, something like it that can’t be broadcasted publicly.
(CRICKET NOTE: ICC stands for International Cricket Council. T20 stands for a manner of cricket that allows for a maximum of 20 overs, or set of six balls bowled/thrown, in one inning. Those six balls must be the equivalent of “strikes” in baseball. This was done to make a game of cricket that was faster and more exciting than the 3 to 5 day matches that cricket is begrudgingly known for.)
The weapons of choice for the sport seem to be a huge helmet that Giants quarterback Eli Manning would laugh at, a croquet ball (another sport that is lost on us), and a boat oar. I surmise that the croquet ball is hit with the boat oar in order to score runs. Or hits. Eventually, we will learn even these basics.
(CRICKET NOTE: The cricket ball is a bit softer than a croquet ball, since it is made of condensed cork and leather. However, the ball is hard enough to warrant the batter wearing a caged helmet since getting hit in the head with one at 87 miles an hour could hurt. The cricket bat is made of willow-wood, and used to be as thin as a hockey stick. Now it is a bit smaller than a boat oar.)
Sri Lanka bowls first with Angelo Mathews, with Johnson Charles of the West Indies at bat. Besides the bowler and batter at opposite ends of the track, there seems to be another batter hanging out with the bowler, a guy with pads and gloves hanging out with the original batter and some sticks stuck in the ground, along with another 9 guys hanging out in a circular field around the track. Maybe they’re the grounds crew.
(CRICKET NOTE: The field of play consists of two batters from one team, each at different ends of the “pitch,” the track of ground between the batter and the bowler, and 11 fielders from the opposite team that include a bowler and a wicket-keeper. The pile of sticks in the ground is the wicket, which is what the batter is protecting by hitting the balls. The fielder next to him is the wicket-keeper, or “catcher” in baseball terminology. The batter next to the bowler is there to run to the other side of the pitch if his batting partner hits the ball, so that they can score a run.)
Charles lines up to bat. First ball passes by him. Apparently, that counted as a ball. The next two are smacked with the cricket bat, but only dribble to the first ring of fielders. The 5th pitch gets walloped, and is driven to the outer ring of the field. A fielder catches the ball in the air like a routine fly ball. The fielding team goes ecstatic, and earns a run. Wait, what?
(CRICKET NOTE: A batter is at bat until he is out. One of the ways that this happens is if the ball is caught on the fly. In this instance, Sri Lanka got a batter out while not giving up any runs, a huge play. An out like this also scores a run for the fielding team, which is why the fielders didn’t act like Torii Hunter catching a routine fly ball.)
After about 5 replays of that routine fly ball, Marlon Samuels comes up to replace Charles. It looks like this match is under way…but no! We need 2 more replays of that catch. Now Sri Lanka’s bowler is set, and hurls to Samuels. It’s outside, counts as a strike, and… the pitcher leaves the mound? Usually pitchers that are doing well pitch for more than a batter and a 1/3.
(CRICKET NOTE: A bowler cannot hurl for two consecutive overs. An over is a series of 6 legal pitches.)
Nuwan Kulasekara is next up to hurl. (See? I’m getting the lingo now. I think.) The batters have switched as well, as Samuels must have become tired standing around after one pitch.
(CRICKET NOTE: After an over, the pair of batters switch. That’s just how it goes.)
Chris Gayle is up to bat, and looks as big as three of anyone else on the field. This may mean we’ll get to see some hits. Four pitches later, the West Indies get a run by a stunning throw from Kulasekara that went behind Gayle. The umpire signals “wide.”
(CRICKET NOTE: If a hurl is deemed unplayable by the umpire, the throw is not counted towards the over and the batting team scores a run. It’s like if balls counted as runs in baseball.)
After some replays from Gayle’s last match against Australia where we was smacking the hell out of the cricket ball, Gayle whiffs on a hurl. Apparently, he was prepping that grand-slam stroke he’s used many times before. And that’s the over for Gayle, as they switch batch to Samuels.
Samuels’ 4th pitch hits him in the groin, and Sri Lanka goes ballistic! Why, I have no idea.
(CRICKET NOTE: In cricket, the batter is protecting the wicket behind him by hitting the ball as much as he is trying to hit the ball as far as possible. If the batter’s body blocks the ball from hitting the wicket without use of the cricket bat, the batter is out. So, Sri Lanka thought they had just retired a batter. They did not.)