This Game Called Cricket

Krishna KumarContributor IFebruary 16, 2008

Cricket is a funny game, called as slow by several non-cricketing people - both players as well as sports followers - and worshipped as the greatest game that pits both brains and brawns (the latter thanks to the invention of the shorter version called One Day Internationals or Limited Overs game and the shortest recent cousing of the ODI called T20 or Twenty20). What makes it a game so divided in opinion that even angling or chess or billiards doesn't make so? Well... to the uninitiated, this is how the game of cricket is played:

Two teams comprising 11 players each take to field to play a match. The playing strip - the cricketing equivalent of let's say a baseball diamond - is 22 yards in length, and at both ends of the 22 yards stand 3 stumps (in a row), facing each set of stumps. Both sets of stumps are adorned on top with bails. Two bails connect each set of 3 stumps. Now-a-days there are stump-vision cameras and microphones fitted to the middle stump so that the television replay angles are made that much richer.

Now, speaking from a purist angle, cricket is to be played in White flannels. Considering flannel is a colour by its own right, I wonder why they call it white flannels! There are two umpires: one behind the bowling end stumps and one at the position called Square Leg. The latter position is on the Leg Side or the left-hand side of the batting end and is at slightly off-right angle position to the batsman. The exact location of the Square Leg Umpire varies from field to field, but invariably at about 10 plus feet from the batsman. The position is slightly square off the batsman, which explains the name.

A batsman from the batting side takes position in front of one end of the stumps and a bowler from the bowling side takes position at the other end. A wicket keeper stands behind the stumps (the distance from the stumps is relative, like in baseball, depending on the type of bowler or thrower and the pace at which a delivery is delivered). He is of the bowling side. There are 9 other players of the bowling side spread all over the field strategically.

The umpires are traditionally dressed in White coat, black trousers, shoes and a hat. Originally they used to carry six little pellets or such like to keep count of the number of balls each bowler bowled. Each bowler in his turn is entitled to an over that comprises of six balls. There is no restriction to the number of overs each side bowled. They bowled as long or as short a span as it took to bowl all the players of the team batting out. When 10 batsmen were bowled out and with only the last or the eleventh man remained unbeaten, the batting side's innings came to an end. Both teams, in a typical Test match (bi-lateral) played two innings.

Each team normally play the innings in alteration, much like baseball. If the team batting second falls short of 199 runs below the target they are chasing, the team that batted first and established the lead could ask the team that batted second to follow-on or have its second inning immediately. If the team batting second follows on and could still not best the first innings total of the first batting team, then the second team is described to have lost the match by an Innings. It is called Innings Defeat.

The ways in which a batsman could be bowled out: 1) the bowler bowls at the stumps and the batsman misses the ball and his stump(s) is/are shattered - he is CLEAN BOWLED. But this is effective only if the bails are dislodged. If the ball hits the stump(s) and the bails do not fall, the batsman survives.

2) the batsman hits the ball with his bat, the ball goes up in the air and a fielder or the wicket keeper or the bowler himself catches the ball before it hits the ground, the batsman is said to be OUT CAUGHT. If the bowler is the catcher as well, then the batsman is caught and bowled by the bowler.

3) the batsman hits the ball, the ball rolls on the field, the batsmen (both should run towards each other's end) run and the stumps at either of the end are being brought down by a fielder who has caught the ball and thrown it on to the stumps, the batsman closer to the end of the shattered stumps is RUN OUT. The fielder either throws the stumps straight down or throws the ball to the bowler or the wicket keeper or another fielder who gets behind the stumps and dislodges the bails and stumps.

4) the batsman receives the ball, misses to connect, the ball doesn't hit the stump and goes behind the stumps, the batsman by mistake has either hit the stumps with his legs, body or the bat, the batsman is OUT HIT WICKET

5) Typically, both the stump ends are marked by a rectangular crease. The Crease is typically foot and half or thereabouts from the stumps. The batsman stands inside of the crease, on the crease or outside to welcome the on-coming ball and goes for a hit. If the batsman misses the ball, the ball doesn't hit the stumps, the wicket keeper (aka keeper) collects the ball and dislodges the bails and stumps before the batsman regains his ground inside the crease, he is out STUMPED.

6) Occasionally, the bowler may notice that the non-playing batsman at the bowling end - called the non-striking batsman or non-striker, hence the bowling end is also called non-striker's end - may be restless and is trying to give a lead by running ahead even before the bowler completes his delivery. If the bowler checks himself before delivering, on time to catch the non-striker off-guard outside his end of the crease and connects the ball in his hand with the stumps at his end and dislodges the bails, with the non-striker still outside the crease, the non-striker is OUT, RUN OUT.

7) Freakishly, the ball is delivered, the striker strikes the ball with his bat, the ball travels in the direction of the bowler, the non-striker is giving a lead run and is outside the crease, the ball makes contact or vice-versa with the bowler and drifts on to the stumps, the non-striker is outside the crease still... the non-striker is OUT, RUN OUT.

About the different type of bowlers, balls bowled, methods of runs scored and different type of field placement terminologies... watch out for THIS GAME CALLED CRICKET - Part 2.