The Game that ‘Bowls Over’!

An over­view of cricket in South Asia.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By S.G. Ji­la­nee

With Sri Lanka win­ning the T-20 World Cup in a thrilling fi­nal against In­dia, the frenzy ig­nited among cricket fans has ebbed. As usual, the play of­fered many nail-bit­ing mo­ments be­cause with 20-over limit, the play­ers have a hec­tic time within which to bring out their best. Even its sis­ter, the One Day In­ter­na­tional, (ODI) is a 50-over game that al­lows some respite.

Be­cause of their shorter du­ra­tion - just a few hours, of­ten from late af­ter­noons into the evenings - the ODI and Twenty-20 are very pop­u­lar be­cause people can throng to the sta­di­ums af­ter the day’s work. This fac­tor has also lent these an edge over test matches, which are played for five days dur­ing day­time and re­quire the fans to sac­ri­fice many work­ing hours.

Cricket started in Eng­land in the 16th century. It was a gen­tle­man’s game, played in a re­laxed fash­ion, with even old people some­times tak­ing part. By 1725 it had among its pa­trons some nobles and busi­ness­men such as the 2nd Duke of Richmond,

Sir Wil­liam Gage, Alan Bro­drick et al.

In­stantly pop­u­lar, by the end of the 18th century, cricket had be­come Eng­land’s na­tional sport. The Bri­tish in­tro­duced it in their colonies, - South Africa, Aus­tralia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, In­dia and the Caribbean is­lands (West Indies). How­ever, it never caught on in the United States and Canada.

The Laws of Cricket were cod­i­fied in 1744. Orig­i­nally it was played with a four ball over. The five-ball over was in­tro­duced in 1889 and the cur­rent six-ball over in 1900.

Some exclusive fea­tures set this game apart from any other. It even has its own id­ioms. For ex­am­ple, “hav­ing had a good in­nings” means hav­ing had a long and suc­cess­ful life. To be “hit for six,” means be­ing shocked. Be­ing “bowled over” stands for be­ing left speech­less; an awk­ward sit­u­a­tion is called a “sticky wicket.” To be “stumped” is to be clue­less about how to solve a prob­lem; to “catch out” means to out­wit and “hit­ting off one’s own bat” means act­ing in­de­pen­dently. And the piece de re­sis­tance that re­minds one of the game’s no­ble ori­gin is to call an un­fair deal­ing as “not cricket.”

Cricket is also a game of records. Who played how many matches, runs scored, in­clud­ing fours and sixes, num­ber of wick­ets taken when and where is all faith­fully chron­i­cled. Fur­ther de­tails in­clude the high­est num­ber of con­sec­u­tive wick­ets taken or con­sec­u­tive sixes or fours made, and much more. Some of the records in­clude Prince Ran­jit Singhji’s 2780 runs in a sea­son in 1899 - “which was the high­est ag­gre­gate ever made!”

Other fa­mous names are Don Brad­man of Aus­tralia and Sachin Ten­dulkar of In­dia. Brad­man had a Test aver­age of 99.94 and an over­all first-class aver­age of 95.14, records un­matched by any other player. Sachin Ten­dulkar was rated by Wis­den Crick­eters’ Almanac in 2002 as the “sec­ond great­est Test bats­man of all time, be­hind Don Brad­man.”

Gam­bling in cricket is noth­ing new. Only match-fix­ing and ball­tam­per­ing are new. Other­wise, even in the ear­li­est times there used to be heavy bet­ting on the game.

The tra­di­tions of lun­cheon and af­ter­noon tea in­tro­duced by the gen­tle­men crick­eters of 18th century Eng­land are still ob­served in Test cricket. The game is played be­tween 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. with a 40-minute lunch break from 1 p.m. and an­other 20-minute break for tea at 3:40 p.m. be­sides short breaks of about 5 min­utes for drinks, usu­ally af­ter an hour's play.

Though cricket started in In­dia in 1721 it was granted of­fi­cial sta­tus in 1932, in which year In­dia played its first Test cricket match from 25th to 28th June against Eng­land at Lords’ in Lon­don.

Prince Ran­jit Singhji a.k.a. Ranji was the first In­dian to play Test cricket with his Test de­but for Eng­land in 1896. In­dia’s most pres­ti­gious first­class cricket tour­na­ment – Ranji Tro­phy was named af­ter him. The com­pe­ti­tion was launched as " The Cricket Cham­pi­onship of In­dia" in 1934 and is still played in In­dia.

Par­sis took to the game first, fol­lowed by Hin­dus and Mus­lims. Each es­tab­lished their cricket clubs in Bom­bay in the 19th century. At first, cricket matches were played among Euro­peans, Hin­dus and Par­sis, which was called the Tri­an­gu­lar tour­na­ment. When Mus­lims joined in 1912, it be­came “Quad­ran­gu­lar.” In 1937, with the ad­di­tion of a new team called the Rests, it be­came the Pen­tan­gu­lar Tour­na­ment but was aban­doned in 1946 due to po­lit­i­cal un­rest.

Some of past In­dian cricket leg­ends such as CK Nyudu, Lala Amar­nath, Mer­chant, Man­jerekar, Mankad, Um­ri­gar, Nawab of Pataudi and Ma­haraja of Viziana­gram, still stir happy mem­o­ries of first class cricket. Among the present lot are, Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Ten­dulkar, Rahul Dravid and Viren­der Se­hwag. Vi­rat Kohli is an­other promis­ing bats­man who gave some thrilling per­for­mances in this year’s T-20 cham­pi­onship.

Pak­istan has taken long strides in the game since its de­but with a five-match Test se­ries in In­dia in 1952, pro­duc­ing some fa­mous crick­eters. Ab­dul Hafeez Kar­dar, who had been play­ing test cricket in In­dia be­fore par­ti­tion, was the first cap­tain of the Pak­istani cricket team. In the 23 matches he cap­tained, Kar­dar won the distinc­tion of leading his team to vic­tory over all the Test play­ing coun­tries of the time, ex­cept South Africa with which Pak­istan did not play. It was un­der his cap­taincy that Pak­istan won a stun­ning vic­tory against Eng­land at the Oval in 1954 with Fazal Mah­mood, tak­ing 12 wick­ets at the Oval.

Javed Mian­dad is an­other player who made his­tory in 1986 in Aus­tralA­sia Cup fi­nal in Shar­jah, with his last-ball vic­tory when he hit for six - only four runs were re­quired off one ball.

Imran Khan led the Pak­istan team to World Cup vic­tory in 1992. Hanif Mo­ham­mad be­came the first Asian crick­eter to score a triple hun­dred in a match with 337 runs in 970 min­utes against the West Indies in 1958. This was also the long­est in­nings in Test his­tory. Shoaib Akhtar is re­puted as the fastest bowler in the his­tory of cricket and has bowled his fastest de­liv­ery of­fi­cially recorded at a speed of 161.3 kph. Za­heer Ab­bas, Waqar Yunus and Waseem Akram are among other well-known Pak­istani crick­eters. In the limited over games, Shahid Afridi has al­ready be­come a sort of a leg­end as a bats­man. Among oth­ers are Hafeez, Ak­mal and Aj­mal. But, alas, in­ter­na­tional matches are no more played within Pak­istan since the Sri Lanka team was phys­i­cally at­tacked in La­hore in 2009.

Bangladesh be­came an As­so­ciate Mem­ber of the ICC in 1977 and a reg­u­lar mem­ber in 1997. The same year it won the Sixth ICC Tro­phy in Malaysia. In 2000, it at­tained Test sta­tus. Within this short span, it has thrown up some promis­ing play­ers such as Mush­fiqur, Ashra­ful, Tamim and Habibul Bashar, while Shakib is re­garded as “the best crick­eter that Bangladesh have ever had.”

In Sri Lanka, the first recorded cricket match was played as far back as 1832. In 1905 it was play­ing first class cricket. Sri Lanka made its in­ter­na­tional de­but in the 1975 World Cup in­au­gu­ral. It won the ICC Tro­phy in 1979. On July 21, 1981, Sri Lanka was ad­mit­ted to full mem­ber­ship of the ICC and was awarded Test sta­tus. In 1996 it won the Cricket World Cup.

La­sith Malinga be­came the first bowler, ever, to take four wick­ets in four con­sec­u­tive balls in the 2007 World Cup match against South Africa. He also took six wick­ets in his very first match in 2004 against Aus­tralia. Among other fa­mous Sri Lankan crick­eters are Jaya­suriya, Mu­ralitha­ran, Dil­shan, San­gakara and Jayewar­dene. The writer is a se­nior po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst and for­mer edi­tor of SouthAsia

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